In human communication we quantify and qualify nouns. Our adjectives and inflection give away our opinions. The slightest hint of sarcasm or condescension can skew the literal meaning of a phrase to make it mean the absolute opposite. A scowl, furrowed brows, crossed arms and gritted teeth seethe out, “I don’t care,” and we know instantly that the person cares very much about whatever travesty has landed them in this moment of defiance. Two girls walking down the street with elbows interlocked share a secret of the silly sort, a giggle, a sparkle in the eyes, and the one tells the other, “I don’t believe a word of it,” and we all know the bond of trust between the couple has been strengthened in this moment of true truth. Somehow we know how to read the signals and listen past the dictionary definitions of the words.
At times I read aloud. Yes, to my children or when I am addressing a crowd. Also, though, to myself. Some books just beg to be heard. Some technical articles are solved when I slow down and hear each step. The rough waters of Spanish bodies of words are set calm again when I take the time to pronounce each word and understand the meaning. When I practice this out loud lecture certain combinations that I would normally run right past stand still and grab my attention as if I had never heard them before.
A pair of words seen together frequently gave me pause today: good mother. You have heard that, right? So how is it that we, as a society, have come to qualify this noun ‘mother’? A woman either is a mother or she is not a mother. It is a definition in itself; why must we define the definition? We turn the noun to a verb and we say that a lady mothered or is mothering a being. Funny that we never say motherer. The female parent is a mother. We don’t ever say, “She is a good female.” Either a person is female or not. Yet, we feel inclined to describe the description.
It comes back to the way in which a woman performs her duties as a mother. A woman who neglects her children is said to be a bad mother. She is still a mother, though. This is a point of contemplation for me because mothering a brood is not easy. The gravity of being entrusted with raising these little people is not something I take lightly. I worry. Too much I worry that I am not a ‘good mother’. Too many times I ask why God would give me all these precious little ones to care for. I fall short, at times I loose my temper, more often that I should be I am lazy, sometimes I just hope no one is watching me when I am impatient with my kids, and the list goes on.
So why am I the one mothering these children? Is it because the mothers who birthed them are bad mothers? Ah, yes, to clarify, I am thinking of the wee ones that found their way to my arms not through the furies of the birth canal but through the horrors of abuse and abandonment. Were their mothers bad? The ones we have now all have at least one parent living. I hate to think of where they came from and what their little eyes have seen. No matter how hard I try I cannot hate their mothers. You will not hear me say that they have bad mothers. Maybe some can find motivation in judging people they don’t know; I simply cannot operate like that.
Am I a replacement mother? Am I an interim mother? Am I a substitute mother? Can I even be called a good mother? For the sake of the children I desire with my whole heart to perform mothering duties well. I want to care for them, provide for them, hug them, raise them and love them the best way I can. As we make the transition to ONE home for all of us I am struck, like a bowling ball in the gut, with the fact that round about a dozen of these kids may one day call me ‘mamá’. It feels like a weighty honor. I want it, but I am also so reverentially fearful of all the implications that follow.
Whether they be persons born from my womb, adopted, brought into our home, or just with me for a short while I truly do want to be a good mother for them. This is my prayer.
God, You are our Father. I trust You. I love You. This task of mothering so many is daunting at times. I do not want to fail You; for I know that these little ones, as a heritage, have been entrusted to me. I do not want to fail the children who are a precious treasure in Your eyes and mine. Please help me to mother well, God. Please help me to see them as You see them, speak to them as You would speak to them, and love them as only You can enable me to. Bless my children, Father. Hold their hearts in Yours. Help us, please. Amen.