I have made no secret here that I was not born to a very good mother. A lot of the experiences I had as this woman’s child, in fact, have informed much more of what kind of person I DON’T want to be, and though I rarely think of her in the course of my everyday life, I do pause to remember her on Mother’s Day.
As I grow and change as the mother of my beautiful daughters (and as the de facto mother to a number of my students, as well), I come more and more to understand that “mother” is a verb far more than it is a noun. Mothering is a particular brand of loving-kindness that anyone, male or female, young or old, parent or not, can give. Mothering involves attentive nurture; it is a kind of care and concern that blends gentle compassion with the stern insistence that the recipients of this care strive ever toward autonomy. It is that particular kind of energy that I work so hard to channel every day; a kind of love that tells my “babies” that I am their greatest support and their greatest cheerleader, but that I expect and insist that they work toward the goal of no longer needing the care that I give them.
I have been fortunate to have been loved by a number of mothers. I have been cared for and nurtured and kicked in the ass by a few very special people, and it’s those people whom I credit with teaching me how to be a good mother myself; without them, I’m not certain I would have been able, given my primary example, to find my way to the kind of mothering that I really needed to be able to do. Some of those mothers have been lost to me, but some are still around, and I am grateful, every day, for their care. Because of them, I am able to be a good mother to a lot of people who need the care that I offer. Because they loved me well – and taught me how to love well – I am able to offer those gifts. That nurturing loving kindness ripples out far beyond any of us. Nothing could matter more.