Mothers are a wonder. They’re a work in progress like the rest of humanity, but they’re a wonder nonetheless. Have you ever watched them with their families? I don’t mean in a creepy, call the cops and get a restraining order kind of way; I mean a casual observance. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I like people watching, but there’s something about seeing a mother be a mother that’s stirring.
We were in church the other day and I was watching this young couple (it’s okay, we were in the back so it wasn’t as weird or noticed) with their months old baby. He was adorable; he smiled, he bounced, he wiggled. You could see on his little perfect face how much he adored his parents. His dad tried to hold him to give mom a break, but he kept bouncing. Then, I watched the mom do what I see so many others do. She lovingly picked up her son and walked to the back of the church to pace with him so no one was distracted but her.
There was no conversation between she and her husband. The baby didn’t reach for her or shy from his dad. The baby wasn’t making a terrible amount of noise and he was happy. His mom could tell he was distracting his dad, though, so without question or much thought (seemingly) she sacrificed her time listening to the service uninterrupted so her husband could listen.
I started to think of all the times I’ve seen mothers do that, or how many times I’ve done that. I’ve watched mothers step in to calm the brewing storm in a child struggling with center of the universe syndrome time and time again.The work being done in me as I grow in motherhood is not completed, but I find it much easier to be a selfless mother in public. When we’re at home, I have no problem declaring the poopy diaper change as not mine, but in public I will take my 2 YO for a diaper change without a thought or a care.
It’s an unspoken rule in my relationship with my husband that when we’re in public, I will take care of everything kid related. My husband never asked me to do that. He’s never pulled me aside before or after an event to forcefully suggest I not treat the kids as his. He’s never even hinted that it’s my responsibility alone. We’ve never declared it, it just feels natural to me.
It’s more than it being a mother’s job (because it, in fact, is not just a mother’s job; two tangoed, my friends) and it’s more than us knowing them better because we experience the same emotions at the same rate as our kids. Mothers have a special bond with their babies, whether your independant eighteen year old wants to believe it or not (and if they keep denying it, prove it in front of all their friends, that ought to stop their arguments). All mothers in all circumstances have the ability to zero in on the moods and atmosphere of their children. Part of it is due to unabashed staring, but the rest is because of that inner bond.
It’s not only limited to public displays, at least not always. I said I have no problem pawning off a dirty diaper on my tired husband while in our home, but when it comes to any sort of packing (be it for the day or a vacation) mundane decisions, calming hysterics, or basic care it wordlessly falls on my shoulders to do it. My husband and I just know that I’m going to know exactly what they need and how much of it is necessary. And usually, I do. Usually mothers are able to spot those needs without thinking too hard.
Mothers are created with a familial emotional honing device. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair and sometimes it ticks me off. Sometimes I have to bite down (literally) on the urge to ask my husband why it falls to me to take care of it all. After I’ve taken a stick to that emotion I’m able to see it (why it falls to me) for what it is: a result of me being a mother. What greater honor is there than that?
So the next time you see a mother giving up her seat to make sure she’s the only one disturbed by a teething kid, or when you see a mother appearing to dictate and control the vacation process, stop a minute to smile in her direction. Let her know you appreciate her sacrifice. Let her know that she’s not completely messing it up. Return her awkward stare for the 20 minutes it takes for her to notice it, then nod in her direction. You’ll find that one smile is what it takes for her to embrace those sacrifices instead of feel occasionally bitter about them.
Let your mother know how much of a wonder you find her to be. Leave the boots and leotard in your closet, but get her the cape and patriotic headband.
When’s the last time you offered a “good on ya” smile to a mother in the thick of it?