‘What is wrong with you?’
A simple question asked by a small, simple child.
I smile to myself at the horror on his mother’s face. With a quick aside to let her know that all is well, I choose my words carefully.
‘Some of the parts of my body don’t work very well. My tummy and my lungs don’t do what they’re meant to do and so I have to take tablets.’
The little boy’s eyes open wider. Perhaps in amazement, perhaps in understanding, perhaps because he enjoys shocking his mother. I guess I’ll never know.
‘And the tablets will make you better?’
I smile again, this time a slightly sadder smile. Oh, to have the faith of a child.
‘They’ll help. They help my body to work properly.’
‘So you’ll be ok then?’
Yes, small child, I’ll be ok. Maybe not in the way you meant. But I’ll be ok.
Thanks for asking.
Usually, mothers’ (mothers, mother’s?) day comes around and I celebrate one mother. She’s worth celebrating, my Mum. And I have no idea just how much she is worth celebrating. I remember lots about my childhood. I remember simple things. Birthday parties, bedtime stories, Sundays, pretty dresses, school days, picking flowers in the garden. I remember hard things. I remember trips to the hospital, day after day being ill and tired. And in nearly every memory, Mum is there. She’s there planning the parties, reading the stories, cooking the lunches, making the dresses and arranging the flowers. She’s with me at every hospital visit, holding my hand through the blood tests and hugging me when I cry. I simply can’t imagine life without her. She is a child of God and lives it out beautifully and wholeheartedly. I know no woman I respect more, love more, cherish more or would be more proud to call Mum. She is kind, generous, funny, wise, skilled and beautiful.
I love you Mum. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.
This year, I get to see and celebrate another mother who is close to me as well. Sarah, my big sister is all grown up with a baby of her own. It’s been a privilege watching her become a new person, learn new lessons, take on a new role. I didn’t realise the sacrifices that a Mum makes for her child until I saw it up close in the next generation. And I’m seeing it. I get to watch and marvel at motherhood in the trenches. It’s a hard, dirty thing. And it commands my respect. I’ve seen in a tiny way the sheer beauty of a mother loving her child. And it’s awesome. I’ve seen a bit of the pain of motherhood and shared in some of the delights. It makes my heart glad to watch Sarah loving her son and to watch him loving her back. The moment I walked into the bedroom and saw a 3 hour old Charlie, I knew that I’d never get my sister back in the same way. But I got a new woman, transformed in beautiful and wonderful ways. She is perfectly suited to the role of mother and takes it on to the glory of her King.
I love you Sarah. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.
I know, I know. I’m a young girl who’s been married for all of 5 months and I have zero children and therefore know nothing about parenting. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’ve almost got it. I certainly don’t claim to know much about being a parent. But I know an awful lot about not being one. I’ve had 22 years experience. 6 of those have been in the knowledge that in all likelihood I’ll never know about being a parent from first hand experience. And, to be honest, that stinks. I’m not talking about a little bad smell here. I’m talking gut-twisting stink. Since I was 16 I’ve had to face up to the fact that I’ll probably never hold my own child, never hear anyone call me Mummy, never be able to make my husband a Dad, never get to use the list of favourite baby names I’ve had stored up for years and all the rest.
Since getting married it’s got both harder and easier. Easier because I never thought I would be married and so being given this gift is good enough for me – I certainly don’t expect any more. Easier because I’ve been a lot more ill and so the reality of how I simply couldn’t care for a baby hits home more. Harder because I have a real, great person to add into the sentence ‘never be able to make my husband a Dad’. Harder because having babies is what married people do. Harder because people make comments about it now.
There’s not many situations I like less than the one in which I’m having a conversation with a parent and they’re trying to make me feel better by telling me how much money or time or energy or effort their children cost them. It’s not fun for me and it’s not fun for the child standing beside them.
I suppose one of the biggest things about being a mother is the giving love. I suppose that in every woman/person there’s a desire to give giving love. There are ways to live giving love to other people but in no way are those comparable to the way in which you live giving love to your child. Maybe that’s why there’s an emptiness in childlessness. They say that you have to love to feel pain. Maybe giving love hurts as much when you can’t express it.
I don’t know. I don’t have solutions. I don’t have answers. I know there’s hard things about being a parent and hard things about not being a parent. I can’t sort those out. Stuff hurts sometimes. But I guess the important thing to remember is that it’s ok for stuff to hurt. We can be sad. We can cry. As long as we do it with Jesus in sight. But the best thing is that he doesn’t let us be sad and cry on our own. He’s there with us. And he knows what it’s really like for stuff to hurt.