The dictionary defines a mother as "a female parent; one known for providing care and protection over someone else; a person who expresses maternal affection to others."
My definition of a mother goes beyond the simple terms in the dictionary. Mothers are the key component in binding a family together with love, generosity, compassion and insight. Their fierce loyalty and support is unmatched. A mother encourages her children to fly by putting her own dreams aside and building a safe platform to help launch the dreams of her children.
When I was a grumpy teenager, I never gave a second thought to the sacrifices my mother made to keep our family running smoothly. I took for granted every ride to band practice, every home cooked meal, the new clothes in my closet and the clean sheets I slept on each night. I never considered how she spent her time, whether she was happy or not, or if her feelings had been hurt by something I might have done. I was too deep in the throes of teenage angst to notice that I wasn't sitting alone on that bumpy ride through adolescence and anxiety.
None of it clicked until I had children of my own. Being a mother altered the lens I had previously viewed my life through, and I realized how skewed my perception of my own mother had been. It changed the way I thought about myself and my family, and taught me to look a little closer at the ideals that had been instilled in me since childhood. My role in the world had been redefined, and the only person to guide me through those times of uncertainty was my mother.
Patient, kind, wise and unselfish, my mother is everything a mother should be. We have disagreed, laughed, cried, and held hands through moments of unimaginable loss, yet she is always there for me, that safe harbor with its blinking light to guide me home during a storm.
I've learned my share of lessons over the years after raising four children. First and foremost, my mother really DID know what was best. But I've also learned that mothers are not perfect, and that we make mistakes just like everyone else. My standards may not always meet those of my children, and undoubtedly, they'll rebel when they feel they've been treated unfairly. What they don't realize yet is how much of my heart they own, and that unkind words and actions really do hurt, even though I may not always show it. Nothing swells my heart more than their love, and yet nothing has the power to wound me more than their stinging judgment and criticism when they're angry. Until they have children of their own, they cannot understand the level of profound and all-encompassing love that parenthood brings, as well as the difficult and often painful lessons that are learned along the way.
As much as I regret the days when I ignored my mother to pursue my own interests, I feel doubly blessed now to be able to spend time with her. The veil of youthful self-indulgence has been lifted, and I see my mother for who she really is; a woman of faith, wisdom, strength, compassion and abundant love. She is, and always has been, my shelter, my proudest supporter, and the one person who has loved me unconditionally, no matter how many times I let her down. When people say that I remind them of her, I'm honored. Being compared to the woman I'm so proud to call my mother is the best compliment I could ever receive.
I hope that one day my children will think of me in the same way, and no matter how many trials they may face in the future, that they'll always feel my love shining through them like a beacon in a storm.