by Carter Brown
I have many memories from my childhood of my mother – what she was like, things she would say, mannerisms she would repeat. She was predictable, in the best possible way. She was steady and reliable and she was always there. But there is one memory I have of her that I did not understand for a long time. An unpredictable moment where I saw her do something I had not seen her do before.
I was playing with my brothers in our house when I looked out the back window and saw my mother in the backyard, sitting at the bottom of the slide. There was no one with her. She wasn’t doing anything – she was just sitting there. I was confused, so I headed outside to see what she was doing.
As I got closer to the slide where she was sitting, I began to see the tears that were filling her eyes and streaming down her face. I stood there for a moment, unsure what one is to do when they find their mother crying. Then I asked, “Mommy, what’s wrong?”
I don’t remember what she said. Only that she deflected the question and gave me a hug.
For years, I did not understand what I had seen. Like a story without a beginning or end, I lacked the context to make any sense of it. Gradually, over time, I just forgot about it.
Until about two decades later.
As a young parent of a 5 year old and a 2 year old, I was thinking about the tireless work my mother must have given to raise me and my brothers. And then that memory came back to me, and I saw it. I saw a young mom, juggling the endless housework with the impending deadline of dinner and the constant needs of 3 rambunctious boys. I saw a tired mom, worried she wasn’t doing enough, or that she had spoken too harshly, or that she had failed in some other way. I saw an anxious mom, well aware of all the bills and due dates and decisions that she and her husband would need to address very soon. And I saw that mom step aside from the cleaning and the cooking and the caring to answer a ringing telephone and hear some bad news that on this particular day was the thing that put her over the edge. She slipped out without her sons noticing and found herself sitting on the edge of a child’s slide, weeping into her hands.
And when she looked up and saw one of her children standing in front of her, she wiped her eyes and brushed it off and wrapped her arms around him, protecting him from whatever truth had crushed her spirit.
It makes sense to me now. That was not the only time my mother wept. It was just the only time I saw it.
To be clear, I am not saying that mothers shouldn’t cry in front of their kids, nor am I saying that my mother was disingenuous. I’m simply saying that what might feel like a failed day to you, likely does not feel like a failed day to your children. Every day may not feel like a win to you, but your steady and reliable presence in your children’s life is one the greatest gifts they will ever receive.
Happy Mother’s Day. You’re doing great.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.