Can I ask one thing of you this year? This Mother’s Day, please don’t try to fix it. Please don’t try to fix any of it.
It is our instinct when our children are suffering or struggling to want to make it better. In some ways, though the fatigue of those earliest days blinds us to it, parenting newborns and our youngest babies is the most satisfactory in that way. There is almost always an answer to every cry. They need a diaper change, or a bottle, or a snuggle. What they need, you can give in the most transactional way. Asked and answered. They struggled. You made it better. You fixed it.
But as our kids get older of course it doesn’t work quite so satisfactorily. And in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve been utterly bombarded by the deluge of messages from a myriad of well-meaning sources of ways that parents can make this better, less boring, more educational, and generally more entertaining for our kids. By nature of the economic set up of our family where my husband is the bread winner and I am the primary parent running everything else right now, the bulk of these messages, though in fairness directed at both moms and dads, are mostly consumed by me. Somehow, if I access enough websites, Zoom sessions and blog posts, I can design a day so utterly moving and mesmerizing for all of us that my children can momentarily forget that their entire lives as they’ve known it have dissolved before their very eyes in the past six weeks.
In other words, I feel like I’m supposed to fix this. I’m supposed to fix their sadness and frustration and boredom. I can make it better.
What’s interesting to me is that because my husband doesn’t consume most of these messages, I regularly find myself envying his connection to our children. He plays with them when he wants to, but not out of some need to artificially engage with them. He works on the puzzle or plays basketball and they join in, all of it in a way that feels natural and not contrived or artificially structured to achieve some pre-designed goal of educating or making them happy. There is a purity to his relationship with them. They are tethered to him out of love. They feel it in their bones. They don’t gravitate to him to make it better because he won’t necessarily. They exist in his world because they love him unendingly and he loves them right back, and he doesn’t need to back flip his way through life to prove that to them. I’m jealous.
This Mother’s Day, I’m going to honor my mother and all moms out there, by parenting as she did. My mother was not a fixer. When I was sad, when I struggled, she didn’t try to entertain me out of it. She left me there. Maybe that’s a birth order thing. Maybe by the time the third comes around you are just too tired to fix it or maybe she just realized that’s how it should be the third time around, or maybe that’s how she always was. But she didn’t play with me that much, or solve my problems. She listened. She left me alone when I needed it. And at some point, I learned on my own that I could get through whatever the moment was. And that my love for her wasn’t tethered to her making any of it better. I loved her just because. Because that’s how it is between mothers and children. We like to complicate things with all sorts of books and resources and solutions but the truth is, we loved them from the very first second we knew them and they loved us right back for no other reason than the fact that there is something so completely pure about a love that isn’t conditional on anything.
Always, purely so. That’s a mother’s love. She doesn’t have to do anything to unlock it or achieve it. It just is.
So I hope this morning, tomorrow, you’ll remember that no matter what kind of day or week or general season of life your kids are having right now, it isn’t your job to make it better. That they love you with every fiber of their being even when they don’t tell you. That you do right back even when you don’t say it. And that a mother’s love is entirely felt and never spoken. That you can’t fix it, whatever it is. It was never your job to anyway. Just lay that one down. This Mother’s Day, turn away from every person making you think it is, and give yourself the same thing you’ll always give them. Today, always, only unconditional love.