Mother's Day is like Valentine's Day when all the popular people get cards, calls, visits, and praise, and the nerds get left out. Some women are graced with the ability to be mothers, by learning from a wonderful mother of their own or by an inborn disposition to know instinctively how to nurture. The gift of mothering gets doled out on a sliding scale, with some big-time losers and winners. And circumstances certainly dictate how mothering takes place. Some mothers get there by accident or abuse, some by the idealized desire to have someone to love them. So a bunch of factors can make having a mother and being a mother into anything from a nightmare to a fairy tale.
With Mothers' Day coming up, I'm grateful I had a mother who stayed the course. She wasn't gifted at expressing affection or instilling true self-confidence, but she was predictable. I never had to wait after school or dance lessons, wondering where she was. Since she died last year, I've thought about those plusses. I learned from her that every penny earned does not have to be spent, that a neat, attractive home is a good place to live, and that keeping my mouth shut is often the best answer in sticky situations. My mother was very critical, but I remember how gentle she was when she washed my hair. I don't remember her tucking me in at night, but I was never afraid to call out for her if I had a bad dream.
After my own kids were grown, I realized I hadn't known much about being a mother. I tried to do my job, though. And that's what my mother did. She tried. So the Mothers' Day cards with the smarmy messages that don't fit are like the Valentine's cards for the popular kids. Maybe down the years, someone in my family will have the hang of qualifying for the sentimental messages in a Mothers' Day card.
I guess there's not an appropriate card that says, "Thanks for trying." Mothers' Day? Yeah, a good time to appreciate having a mother who tried. Gushy Mothers' Day cards? Ban them!