I had a nice Mother’s Day last weekend. My kids know the drill by now. They just need to show me appreciation. Hand written cards are the best.
This Mother’s Day I got a little greedy. I told my family I wanted a big, fat coffee mug. The Friday before Mother’s Day I changed my mind. I was looking out at our patio, and thinking how nice it would be to sit in a gliding rocker. I told Scott that I thought a rocker would be a nice addition to the back yard, and since it was Mother’s Day…
Scott said, “We never sit outside.”
I said, “YOU never sit outside. I sit outside all the time.”
He said, “So, if we get a glider, you’re just going to sit?”
“That’s the idea,” I told him.
Scott has a keen desire for efficiency. Sitting is not very efficient. He certainly sits. He just generally pairs sitting with something else. He grades paper or folds laundry while he watches TV. He reads the paper while he eats. He sits, but he doesn’t ever JUST sit. I do.
Scott aims to please though, so he started thinking about this glider. He asked if I wouldn’t rather have a patio table. He made a good point. The patio table we had could ALMOST be trusted not to collapse when you sat at it; really, it was a roll of the dice every time.
We rescued that patio table from my parent’s garbage many years ago. We’ve done the same with their lawn mower and their TV’s. When they think something is ready to retire, we bring it out of retirement, and give it another life. This patio table was about to meet its second death.
I said, “Okay. A table is a good idea too. How about a coffee mug AND a patio table?” We had a deal.
We started shopping for a patio table at an upscale store near Madison. We were naive. We loved the colors, and styles of everything we saw when we walked in that first store. We didn’t love the price tags. We searched and searched for something close to our budget. We couldn’t find anything for less than a thousand dollars. That’s where the prices started. We began to question our mission. Then we started getting philosophical.
Scott asked me if I thought we would behave differently, if he had chosen a career other than teaching and coaching. He wondered what would happen if our income was triple or quadruple what it is now. Would we walk into that store and think spending $3000 on a patio table and chairs was a good idea? Because he wasn’t sure he would. He said that seemed like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something you don’t need, no matter how much money you have. He pointed out that there are people who are hungry and who have real needs. Could we really forget that?
I told him it’s likely we could. We were doing that now. Sure, we were only spending $200 for something we didn’t technically need; we were still spending it. We weren’t giving it to people who were hungry. I said that it is all relative, right? Then, we started to get cold feet. Was this really a good idea? Why were we doing this?
And that’s just a small taste of the whoop-it-up, care-free fun you can have when you shop with the Smiths; indecisive and over-thinking. That’s how we roll.
In the end, we decided to ignore people who are hungry and keep shopping. We walked to the back of this fine store, and I got really excited. I found a table that was much closer to our budget than anything we’d seen. It was $320. The kids and Scott were taking a closer look. Then someone noticed the tag was coming from the middle of the table. $320 was the price of the UMBRELLA, not the table. Why were we in that store again?
We did find a nice little table at Costco that fit the budget. Scott’s going to practice sitting this summer. In my head I’m not sure how that looks. I don’t see it. He said he would try.
We also went to church on Mother’s Day morning. It was sweet. I love being with my whole family at church. There were a lot of people I didn’t recognize there.
I couldn’t help noticing how many women were wiping tears away that morning. I don’t know why, but I could guess: maybe they lost their mother, their mom failed them, their children failed them, they lost a child, they couldn’t have a child, they are utterly disappointed by their own motherhood, their lack of motherhood, or someone else’s motherhood. There are literally hundreds of reasons a person could be crying on Mother’s Day.
I try not to speak of things I have not experienced. That would be ignorant, arrogant and unkind. I have had positive and meaningful motherhood experiences. I’ve only brushed up against bad ones. Just being in proximity to bad mothering left me with sad and uncomfortable memories that I’d like to erase, but I can’t.
What if bad mothering was all I had experienced? How do you emerge from that with faith and optimism? I know some people do, but many don’t.
When I was 18 I rode a Greyhound bus from Georgia to Wisconsin. When we started out in downtown Atlanta, there was a mom on the bus with her children. This mom’s body was too thin, and her face looked old and tired. I’m sure she was overwhelmed and all that, but I guess I don’t care. I should care, but I don’t. I don’t care because she was an adult; adults can make their own choices in our country. Kids can’t.
I never saw her oldest son make the tiniest sound. I just saw him keep his eyes on her. He looked scared. He was supposed to be helping her with the smaller children. He was doing his best, but it was too difficult. Those kids were squirmy. His mom kept screaming at him. She was berating him, humiliating him, and at one point slapped him across the face. She did that right there in front of everyone. I’m sure you’re wondering what she did when they were alone. That’s what I was wondering
I wish I could tell you I did something to stop this. I didn’t. I was scared and not courageous. I just sat there praying for that boy, and hating his mom. Many other things happened on that bus trip 24 years ago; that’s the only thing I remember.
Another brush with rotten motherhood was when our children were young. We were camping in Michigan. There was a camper next to us that housed a half dozen children and their parents. Scott and I became friendly with the kids and learned they were at the park with their foster parents.
I tried to offer a hello to the foster mom. She avoided eye contact. Something didn’t feel good about that family. Don’t you think most moms have some intuitive radar? We can just tell when something is “off”. There was definitely something “off” next door. I tried telling Scott that I had a bad feeling about our neighbors, but he thought I may be imagining things.
One morning my kids were chasing chipmunks and running around like rabid little monkeys. It was a typical day. I looked over at the family next door and they were eating together in perfect silence. No one was laughing, fighting or talking. It was not the natural way of kids.
At one point during their breakfast, I saw the foster mom reach across the table and pull her little girl’s hair very hard. The girl’s neck jerked awkwardly. The foster mom yelled, “What did I tell you about not letting your hair hang in your face while you’re eating?”
I felt sick. I was consumed by thoughts of this family. But again, I didn’t walk over there to help.
After we all went to bed that night I thought I heard yelling from that family’s camper. I laid in my sleeping bag worrying. We didn’t have a cell phone then, and we were staying in a tent. I got an idea that I would go to the camp store the next morning and call the police. If they couldn’t help, surely they would know someone who could. It felt better to have a plan. I was finally able to fall asleep. When we woke up the next morning, the family was gone.
It never occurred to me the day before to write down their license plate number; I didn’t know their last name. I didn’t help them at all.
I knew that foster mom was up to evil, and I didn’t do one thing to help. I started praying for that little girl that day, and I still do. That was 10 years ago. She’s an adult now. I hope God has answered my prayers, and that he protected her from more abuse. I hope she is optimistic and has faith. I guess that isn’t how things usually happen.
I have been a coward. I have lived to regret it. I wish I could apologize to those kids. I have told myself to be ready the next time, and not to be afraid.
God regularly hears me cry out for children (and pets) who are at the mercy of evil. I ask that my prayer will move God to protect the innocent. I also pray that He will make my feet move, and open my mouth to protect anyone who cannot protect themselves when the opportunity occurs.
You might think less of me now that I’ve shared my guilt with you. You should. I think less of myself.
I don’t know why people choose fear over courage, evil over good, hate over love, cruelty over kindness. Some people assume this fact makes a case for the absence of God. I believe the opposite is true.
I’m actually not very sold on humans. I haven’t seen much evidence to convince me that we’re not born flawed; that we don’t need divine intervention. We’ve been in existence a long time. If we had any ability to save ourselves and to overcome evil, I would think that we would have done it by now. Instead, we just keep making the same mistakes over, and over, and over again. There are times that the magnitude of evil in this world just takes my breath away.
Over time, humans have developed technology and infrastructure that were once inconceivable. Human’s souls have stayed the same. We still hate, murder, rape, lie and gossip. We are jealous, arrogant, angry, and apathetic. We promote ourselves and we critisize. We fight with our friends and family. We fight over religion and politics. We fight other countries. We judge. We dislike people who don’t look and act like us. We don’t root for others. We cheat on each other. We cheat. We don’t keep our promises. Our inability to deny evil is exhausting; the consequences are soul crushing.
I see a need for a Savior. A Savior makes perfect sense to me.
There can be a lot to cry about; on Mother’s Day, or any day you choose. I find comfort in a Savior. I wish that was a comfort to everyone.
I pray peace, comfort and protection for all those who cannot protect themselves. I also pray that some how the broken will know that somewhere there are people who’s hearts are burdened for them. I pray that that through all the weight of evil, the broken-hearted will hear the voice and feel the love of their Savior. I pray that if God ever again gives me a moment’s notice to offer protection, that He will make me brave.