“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.” – Erich Fromm
I write this at the end of Mother’s Day. One boy is fast asleep in bed, while the other two are still wide awake, their giggles and squeals heard from the other room.
It was a long, full day. We celebrated motherhood in a park surrounded by mothers and their mothers and quite possibly their mother’s mothers. There were lots of frolicking children with mamas casually watching them from folding chairs. You could spot the mothers from a mile away if you needed to — they were the ones who looked exhausted, yet happy to be planted firmly in a chair, if only for a few minutes.
Today, they felt especially deserving of a rest.
My mom was there and my sister too, who is the mother of a toddler son herself. There are four boys between us. We rarely sit. We chase. We do mental head counts. We use our peripheral vision to make sure nobody strays into the street. We half-eat. We hold half-conversations interrupted by calling out our sons’ names, or breaking up minor spats, or stopping to dole out water and snacks. We wipe noses and mouths and hands. We wipe noses and mouths and hands. Yes, I typed that twice.
Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real to me that we’re mothers. Yesterday, we were mothering our baby dolls together in our bedrooms, offering them imaginary milk in tiny pink plastic bottles, feeding them make-believe baby food on invisible spoons, changing fake diapers that held no poop. But today we are responsible for all these very real sweaty little heads running wild around us. We are changing real diapers. We are keeping these boy children fed with real food, we are nursing their bodies and their minds and their hearts and their souls.
My relationship with my own mother is complicated. It is content for future posts, made up of stories I’m not sure need to be told here or now, or told at all. Before I had my own children, Mother’s Day was always unequivocally about my mother. Now, I find myself torn between celebrating her and wondering if I’m justified in wanting to also spend the day alone with my own little family of five, in my own way, surrounded by my own boys.
I never learned about unconditional love as a child, which is why the quote above spoke to me. It is something I’ve had to learn along the way. I never realized that love is not a reward you earn as a child, depending on how good or bad your behavior is, but should be a given, a constant, not up for negotiation, a well that never runs dry. Simply, a parent’s single most important job. I’ve had to re-write the script with my own boys. I now know that loving your children is everything and it doesn’t come with conditions. If you love them with all you have, the rest will generally fall into place.
Love them, love them, love them and then love them some more.
That’s really all there is to it.