I’ve told you about this photograph before, the way it sits on my nightstand lending me strength in the blessing of reminder and legacy, offering a sort of benediction and admonition to my life. Last night as I was climbing into bed I found myself thinking about mothering and the constant choices that you make.
Mostly it started from a conversation earlier in the evening, where I walked away feeling blessed by friends who feel similarly, and who ground you. And I’ve been blessed by similar conversations with women I love the past couple weeks that made me feel empowered by some choices I am currently making. Choices where, at times, I have felt like I need to stick my neck out and stand, even in an array of different opinions and viewpoints. The gift of that experience is evaluation and introspection, digging inside and pulling the roots up to examine so that clarity comes within reach.
One friend talked with me about an insight while studying the "Proclamation on the Family" and what it says about a mother’s responsibility – that our primary role is the nurturing of our children. She said, essentially, that this responsibility encompasses making these choices for our children – their environments, what they will think about things – in addition to feeding and clothing them, loving and teaching. The thing I liked so much about what she said was that it almost seemed like an exclamation point on owning our job as mothers, not apologizing to others about how or why we do things the way we do. I believe in inspiration and in that channel of communication from heaven to guide us and to try to understand what we need to do. I think that parents are blessed with that channel, because I believe in loving Heavenly Parents who also want the very best for their children in the varying environments and circumstances that we live in. It’s an exciting AND daunting job. It fills me with wonder and analysis on a daily basis. It is a constant challenge – exhausting and exhilarating.
Last night in the quiet, and all morning today out working in my gardens, I have found myself thinking about mothers having to make brave choices. We all do it differently, and that’s okay. I don’t think there’s one right way. I DO think that we are prompted for our own households, and through revelation received in personal study and as revealed through prophets in venues such as this.
I think my mom made some brave choices. I remember my sister saying once as she had her own children that my mom had done a brave thing in letting us dress ourselves. I felt pride as I read that statement, thinking about how my mom let us be our own agents. (And, consequently, as I remember some of my awesome, mismatched, orphan-child-like outfits I donned as a kid, all without one word from my mother. She never seemed to be worried about us fitting some social expectation or, heaven forbid, what the neighbors would think!) I think that was perhaps one of her greatest gifts to me, at least, illustrated by even that small point. We were allowed to think for ourselves, without the expectation that we would have to conform to a set, prescribed way of thinking. My parents always cultivated openness, and not fear to differences --- whether that was differences of belief, viewpoints, cultures or lifestyles. They taught me to not be afraid, but to embrace and enjoy and learn and love. That was brave. I’m so grateful for it now.
I think about the freedom my mother gave me, another thing I find very brave. I learned responsibility while having the room to breathe. I find myself hoping I can do the same, guiding without infringing.
I think about the choice my mother made to read to me every night. I am far and away below being a stellar mother, but someone recently said to me that she admired how we read to our kids every night, that it took patience at the end of a long day to do that. She’s right – sometimes it’s exhausting, and sometimes we miss it because the ends, so to speak, are all unraveled. But generally, it is the routine. But I choose to do it not because there aren’t times that I’d rather do something else (ie. time by MYSELF!!), but because that simple thing cultivated a love of words and learning and thinking that I will forever be grateful for, and to me, that was brave. That is a gift I hope to give to my children. I am sure she had times where she felt how I do at the end of the day, probably very often. But she did it for me. She did it for us. And any time you offer a gift to someone else, even, and maybe especially, when your needs become secondary, that is brave. I think as a parent, you do that exact thing a lot.
My mother isn’t what one would call a hands-on mother. But she loves us fiercely, her devotion is palpable. I know she has had a lifetime of debating, weighing, and deciding. She has fought, trying to find that path and honor and be true to her beliefs. That is brave. I think this is something we are all trying to do, and it isn’t for the faint of heart.
I guess I realize how brave it really was then when I am trying to do the same thing now. It seems I appreciate these gifts of braveness more and more the older I get. My parents weren’t perfect. (I know you’re shocked!) My mother wasn’t perfect. There were things I would have wished different. But today I find that comforting, to some extent, because I feel very aware of my own inadequacies and the obvious bumps in my parenting. But I can say one thing for sure: Like my own mother with us, I love them fiercely, and my devotion is deep. And yes, they will find a very flawed mother, but I also hope they see a woman asking questions, not being afraid of the unlighted step in front. I hope they see a woman who tried in every way she knew how to instill belief – in God, in themselves, in a beautiful, promising world despite the trouble. Belief in their dreams, in the beauty to be found in others, in the power that is in trying to be open. I hope they embrace and learn, and try on the questions. I hope they have the courage to face things head on. I want them to be real, and to think about what they believe, not just passively follow suit.
In the last few years, this has to have been one of my all-time favorite talks. It is all about taking your job as a mother head on. There were a lot of folks that were buzzing after this talk was given, but for me – it was empowering. I felt like it was a great, celebratory, wake up shout to own your job as a mom. It is not secondary to having a profession. It is not anything less. It is demanding but delicious, devastating and decisive at times. It requires choice, and as Sister Beck says, you are required to “…choose carefully and do not try to choose it all.” It requires weighing priorities and acting, even when you’re unsure. And how scary that deciding can be sometimes. I find myself hoping, frequently, that I’m doing the right thing as I live and learn and try on faith. I’m grateful today for a mother who encouraged my being my own agent.
Mothering is a great act of faith I think, in part, because you cannot see the fruit yet. And maybe this is also because it is in a constant fluid state, ever changing, growing, and being added upon through the generations, while trying to put in concrete foundations. What a paradox. You see it only in small pieces, small teasing tastes. But in the midst of all the ordinary and mundane, there are occasional bright bursts that define why you do what you do, and how deeply you feel it inside. And for me, these moments reaffirm why I love it – even while tenaciously trying to figure it out.