A bit of background:
As part of our “About Me” unit, Joy school focused on families this week. For our Wednesday lesson I set up a role play activity. Each child drew a family member that they were to dress up as and portray. When one boy drew “mother” he grumped, “but mother’s are BORING!” The Dad was most popular. On Friday we read a book about Mother’s and afterwards I asked the kids “What do you love about your Mother?” A few mumbled a little something, but they quickly started talking about their Dads.
Two weeks ago after pulling Scotland on my lap and saying “Scotland, do you know how much I love you? -SOOOO much!” He responded: “I love you zero. I only love Daddy.” A girlfriend says she has to “close her heart” at dinner time as her two boys argue over who gets to sit by Dad- no one wants to sit by Mom.
I guess I was ignorant in thinking I could be a “fun Mom.” I aspired to be a Mom that my children would adore, while also being a Mom that challenged my kids and pushed them to achieve and be more. But Scotland has made it abundantly clear that I am the lesser loved parent. He’s absolutely head over heals for his Dad, and I’m an after thought. Take today, I invited him chipperly to join me in cutting flowers for a bouquet for our Mother’s Day meal. He refused until I said, “Okay, I can do it myself.” Then he came out. As soon as he was out there he was excited about the prospects of making bouquets for everyone. I quickly clipped a vase full of rhododendrons. He went about for a while after picking wild flowers and clipping a BUNCH more rhododendron blooms. He brought them in, happily, announcing that the large bouquet was for him. He looked at my pretty vase of flowers on the table and pronounced “Those are for Dad,” then looking at a straggling vase of wilting ferns he said, “Those are for you.”
This mother’s day has felt much different than my past few. Before I felt elated with motherhood. I felt honored and blessed to be called Mother. I felt so loved. This year, I feel mostly, unappreciated. In my attempts to honor motherhood and teach my boys the importance of showing gratitude we had a few conversations about what I do for them, and how important mothers are. Scotter didn’t seem to care, and they ended with me feeling embarrassed, like I was begging for appreciation. He would always just turn the conversation to talk of how wonderful his father is. (Which he is!)
So, naturally for me, I’ve asked myself: Is this how it should be? Am I doing something wrong? Should I change things up so that I’m more likable? The answer I’ve received, is by and large, No. Yes I could be better about really focusing on Scotland, giving him at least 15 minutes a day to totally rule the roost, and being more selective about how often I offer helpful hints and pointers. But as is shown by an incident the other day when I asked him to clean up his room and he yelled back “I’m not going to love you any more if you ask me to do that.” The very core of my role as mother is to nurture, and nurture is by definition “To care for and encourage the growth and development of.” Growth and development don’t come easily, there are growing pains associated. Research shows how integral women are to progress in a multiplicity of ways. I”m reminded of this story:
A salesman walked down a street past a group of boys playing baseball. No one answered the door at the house where he was to call. Through a side door, he saw a boy the age of those playing in the street, dutifully practicing the piano. Baseball gear leaned against the wall. He called, “Excuse me, sonny, is your mother home?” The boy glanced at his baseball gear and said glumly from the keyboard, “What do you think?”
I think often of this section from Hafen’s article:
Consider now, in summary, a true story from Australian history that illustrates the power of women’s moral influence as mothers of hope, women of fidelity, wives of commitment, and nurturers of human ties. In its early decades as a British colony, Australia was a vast wilderness designated as a jail for exiled convicts. Until 1850, six of every seven people who went “down under” from Britain were men. And the few women who went were often convicts or social outcasts themselves. The men ruthlessly exploited them, sexually and in other ways. With few exceptions, these women without hope were powerless to change their conditions.
In about 1840, a reformer named Caroline Chisholm urged that more women would stabilize the culture. She told the British government the best way to establish a community of “great and good people” in Australia: “For all the clergy you can dispatch, all the schoolmasters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good without . . . ‘God’s police’– wives and little children–good and virtuous women.”
Chisholm searched for women who would raise “the moral standard of the people.” She spent twenty years traveling to England, recruiting young women and young couples who believed in the common sense principles of family life. Over time, these women tamed the men who were taming the wild land; and civil society in Australia gradually emerged. Also, the colonial governments enacted policies that elevated women’s status and reinforced family life. As one historian said, “the initial reluctance of the wild colonial boys to marry was eroded fairly quickly.” Eventually, thousands of new immigrants who shared the vision of these “good and virtuous women” established stable families as the basic unit of Australian society more quickly than had occurred “anywhere else in the Western world.”
This striking story of women’s moral influence grew from a conscious design to replace “the penal colony’s rough and wild ways” with “a more moral civilization.” The reformers intentionally capitalized on women’s innate “civilizing” capacity.  These women made Australia a promised land that flowed with a healthy ecosystem of milk and honey. And the milk, literally and figuratively, was mother’s milk–the milk of human kindness. That milk nurtures those habits of the heart without which no civil society can sustain itself.
Scotland doesn’t appreciate it when I remind him to sit back on his chair and pull his torso off the table while he eats. He gets frustrated when I tell him he needs to clean his room. He grumbles when I remind him to leave the bathroom clean after he’s used it. But if I didn’t teach him these things, I would be doing him a huge disservice. Someone has to do it. Refinement must be learned. And I’m the one home all day, so it falls to me. I’m to be the nag. I didn’t want to be a naggy Mom. But I really see no other way. Children need constant reminders. And while I really work hard to be encouraging, supportive, and creative in my helpful hinting, in the end, I’m telling him what to do, and he doesn’t like it. As a pleaser, the role of motherhood is hard for me. I want so badly to be a loving, caring attentive mother. A mother worthy of admiration. But most of the time, as I look into my sons disgruntled eyes I feel like I’ll never measure up.
Today, as I made my own Mother’s day meal- determined to “celebrate motherhood” I pondered this topic. (Tom worked a 24 hour shift yesterday- so I’m not complaining about him.) A scripture came to mind “For they loved the praise of men more then the praise of God.” (John 12:43) It took on new meaning today. I’ve always thought of the “praise of men” being the secular world, but today, it was my son, my children. I need to focus on pleasing God, and worry less about pleasing my children.
I was also reminded of how many of God’s children disregard him, disrespect him, even defile him. Even Divine Parenting doesn’t always result in happy obedient children who lovingly worship you. We are all agents unto ourselves.
And finally I asked myself, do I respect, honor and praise my Mother? Not often enough. As I looked around me I started to see her influence in everything I did. The freshly cut flowers adorning my table- a witness to her love of flowers, the time she took teaching me to care for plants, and then the opportunity she gave me to completely take over her flowerbeds (Only after many years of me moaning and fussing about my chore to weed.) The vegetable laden pasta dish- a witness to her dedication to healthy living, her commitment to healthy fresh food, her home cooked meals, (Vegetables I cried and complained about as a kid.) My attendance at church, alone- a shadow of her total commitment to Christ. The list went on and on. And in each case I could remember times, when as a child, I complained and fought her about the very things I now hold so dear. A friend once said she doesn’t think your kids really get what you’re trying to teach them until they grow up and have families of there own. Boy, that seems like a long time to wait, but reflecting on the profound influence my Mother has had in my life. It’s worth it!