[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]
In third grade, I was sent home from school with a case of lice, which had effectively infiltrated my tiny head and the heads of many of my classmates. My mother picked me up from school, sat me down in a hard wooden chair, and went about the arduous process of picking each tiny bug out of my short brown mane. She did this more than once, patiently setting about her hours-long task without complaint. She washed all the bedding and turned the house upside down to ensure the bugs were gone. I, meanwhile, marinated in the novelty of watching cartoons on a school day.
This is one of a hundred million small things my mother did for me. She cooked and cleaned, paid bills, and shuttled me to and from practices, friends houses, and school events. She worked full time and mothered full time, and relentlessly pursued what was good and right. My mother was, and is, nurturing but stern with a kind, gregarious laugh. My life could have turned out many ways, but I credit my mum (and my dad) with guiding to me the next good and right thing and eventually, teaching me to choose the next good and right thing on my own.
As an adult, I appreciate my parents more than ever because, although I'm single and have no children, life is still annoying and hard a lot of the time. And I know that life would be more annoying and eons more difficult with a partner and children. It is stunning that they chose to take on this difficulty, and admirable that they executed the duties of parenthood with such grace.
Mother's Day was Sunday, and I did nothing but send my mum a card and give her a call. How do you thank the person who delivered you into this wild and weary world? Who did her best to help you make sense of it? How does any card ever say exactly the right thing?
Words are so often not enough. We say "thank you" all the time, but it can mean so many things. "Thank you" to a check out clerk is almost automatic and hardly sincere. "Thanks," to a dude handing out flyers on the sidewalk is an effort to get him away. We say "thank you," to the friends who help us move, to the coworker who has our back, to the food delivery person, to the Uber driver who drops us at the airport, to the bartender who pours us a drink or helps us weasel out of a bad date.
When we say "thank you" to our mothers, what we really mean is, "Thank you for loaning us your body. Thank you for nursing us, protecting us, guiding us, and teaching us. Thank you for your patience and grace. Thank you for doing the best you could with what you had. Thank you for being the kindest, smartest, most beautiful woman in the world."
In recent years, I've watched some of my closest friends transform into mothers. I've watched them struggle. I've watched them glow. I've watched them morph into more beautiful, wiser, and wonderful versions of themselves, and is a lovely thing to witness.
Mothers come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes the women who mother us most didn't give birth to us. Sometimes our grandmother's mothered us. And sometimes, a tribe of mentors is the closest thing we have to a mother. Some of the most influential women in my life were professors, managers, and friends. Mother's Day is a celebration of all the women who have ever helped to raise a child. There are so many.
The Greatest Compliment
You've got your mother's eyes
your mother's laugh
your mother's smile
your mother's hands
your mother's heart
your mother's brains
your mother's smarts
you're a chip off the block
that never quite chipped off
are just like your mother