Anyone who knows me knows that Mother's Day is quite the difficult holiday for me. I get sad because I've never been able to bear children. I get sad because my mom is no longer with us. And, I get sad because people say things like "when are you ever going to have any kids" or "oh, I guess you've given up on having kids."
I've heard for the last 20 years how even though I don't have my own kids, I can still be a mother to others' kids. I don't want to be a mother to SOMEONE ELSE'S kids...I want to be a mom to my OWN kids. I've struggled with having to teach Nursery at church and having to take care of someone else's kids while they go to class and learn about the gospel. It's not fair! I need to be in there too! I've struggled with having to teach Primary for the same reason.
I've gotten tired of hearing so many women complain about all the places they have to run their kids or all the recitals or sports games they have to go to or all the throw up they've cleaned up or whatever. I'd just love to have the opportunity to HAVE to do those things for my kids.
But then, I have things happen that make me reflect on this day in a much different perspective. I experience and feel things that validate my feelings, but enlighten me to know that although I've never even been pregnant once, I AM still a mother in different ways, not just a glorified babysitter.
I've never been involved with the teenage youth - but if I were, would I feel the same way? I don't think so after what I've felt the last 48 hours, the last 4 months, the last year. And, after playing the piano every week in Primary for the last 5 months and hearing those sweet little voices (and the big bratty ones too), I can't help but feel differently. See, Heavenly Father has given me these experiences, especially most recently, to help fill a void in my life because he knows how hard this is for me. The Prom, camp, playing piano, all of it, connects me with the children, youth (and parents) of good, righteous families. And that's what I need in my life. Whether those children are mine or not doesn't matter...I'm grateful that those parents share them with me and allow me to be part of their lives.
I'm grateful that I got to spend 5 months in Primary playing some of the most difficult songs in the world - it forced me to practice the piano. It forced me to see the sweet and tender feelings these little children have. It forced me to feel their sweet testimonies every single time one of them got up to bear it on Fast Sunday or to give a little talk in Primary or when they knew the answer to a question in sharing time and their hand shot up as fast as it could and the child was about to leap off their chair in excitement.
Today, the children sang Love is Spoken Here and I Often Go Walking in Sacrament Meeting for the women and moms in the ward. I was so honored that this was my last Sunday that I got to play for them and although it was scary enough for me to play in Sacrament Meeting, all of the smiles I got and the one very excited "we get to sing now!" as we all walked up to the stand together was worth every missed note I played. As we were walking down from the stand to go back to our seats, one of my dear sweet Sunbeams from a couple of years ago put her arms around my legs and gave me a huge hug. I was so entirely swept away in emotion. She knows I love her and she returns that love - just like my own kids would (hopefully) do.
I'm grateful to the moms (and dads sometimes) who so willingly let me hold their babies...and especially on Mother's Day. They have no idea how much that means to me. I think sometimes some of them don't offer because they are afraid it will make me even sadder. It doesn't. It gives me the opportunity to glance at the face of a sweet, precious baby who's just come from the presence of our Heavenly Father. It makes me wonder if the reason that babies can't talk is because they are still learning sort of "long-distance" and the veil is too thin still and they might "spill the beans" about heaven. It makes me just love that child all the more.
When I was much younger, there was a family in our ward that had a baby with Down Syndrome. The mother was quite resentful of this child and would never hold him. The dad always had to hold him. I began asking if I could take care of him during Sacrament Meeting. I would hold him and love him the whole time. As he began to grow, I continued to hold him, rock him, feed him, play with him, teach him about the sacrament, etc. Eventually, after a number of years, it was time for me to go off to college. I would frequently come back on the weekends to attend church with my family. That little boy would see me walk in and would squeal as he ran down the aisle to come to me. Even now, he's at least 25-27 years old and in past years when he's seen me, no matter how much I've changed, he still recognizes me and runs to me. Tell me how I can resist that! I can't.
I'm grateful to a dad in our ward that 8 years ago let me hold his one and only baby girl all through Sunday School every week for about 2 years. That little girl is now 8 and was just recently baptized. She is gorgeous and so sweet and just looks over and smiles at me each week. It melts my heart.
I'm grateful that I was entrusted to chaperone 60 crazy and fun-loving teenagers last night who CHOSE to avert the ways of the world and come to a Prom where they knew there would be no alcohol, where they knew there would be no drugs, where they knew there was no expectation of immorality at the end of the night, where they knew there would be no vulgar dancing, where they knew EACH AND EVERY other person there would be dressed modestly, and that when 12 of those teenagers ended up in an accident on the way to the prom - NOT ONE was found to have been drinking when each one ended up having to get tested. I'm proud of each of them that they knew they would be able to go to church today with their head held high allowing them to continue partaking of the sacrament and fulfilling their priesthood responsibilities.
I'm grateful for little Primary kids that sing their hearts out even when I make mistakes playing the piano for them. They just keep singing. Since today was my last day in Primary, Megan had each of the kids sing into a quart jar with cute pink ribbons telling them that I was going to miss them so much and that if they sang into the bottle, I could open the lid when I missed them and I would be able to hear them sing to me. I was so touched! I lost it. As they sang I Am a Child of God into the jar, I was crying. It is seriously one of the sweetest little things ever done for me. I don't ever want to get rid of it. And I bet there WILL be a day, that I take that jar off my shelf and open it and listen to the sweet little voices in it sing to me.
I look at so many things that have touched my heart recently...how the accident last night affected me, how the children singing in church today affected me, how just so many different things affect me in regard to children now and I know that although I never have been able to bear any children, I CAN be a mother in other ways without it hurting my feelings like it has for so long.
As I was working on the bulletin for Sacrament Meeting in the last couple of days, I struggled with what to put as the special message for today. I found the "perfect" talk - but then realized it was just so one-sided about those women who haven't been able to bear children. I personally wanted to put it in, but I just didn't feel the witness that I usually have about what should be in there, so I didn't. Then, I found Sister Beck's Talk about "Mothers Who Know" but it too felt too one-sided about only those women who are mothers, although it does have some really good points in it:
Mothers Who Know...
...Desire to Bear Children
...Honor Sacred Ordinances and Covenants
...Stand Strong and Immovable
It was then that I found Sister Dew's talk titled "Are We Not All Mothers?" It was perfect. I loved when she said,
"Motherhood is more than bearing children. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us. For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable for each of us does not negate our nature. Some of us, then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved and led."
I found that very touching and insightful for me. It really did help me realize that yes, this life is difficult for me knowing I have not been blessed with children, but that the Lord has a reason why, but he did not fail to give me motherly instincts.
After we came home from church, Melon Man went to bed and I proceeded to begin blogging about my day. It didn't take long until I felt something was wrong. Dog was having a seizure right behind me, ever so quietly. Usually, his tags on his collar clink together and I can tell just from the sound they make, but this time, no. I just KNEW. It was almost as if all three talks had come together all at once. I didn't have children, I was not a real mother, although I was a mother to two dogs, and I KNEW...I knew something was wrong with my "child" that I love dearly and care about. The seizure didn't last too long and soon he was back to begging for a pickle, but either way, during that moment, the Spirit bore witness to me that although I had not been able to bear physical children yet myself, that I, too, was a mother in all other senses of the word. It was a deeply profound and spiritual moment.
I am missing my mom today - but not as badly as I have in the past - maybe because of all this heavy stuff that I've just realized today. I did have a hard time when we were singing the closing hymn in Sacrament today - Love at Home. Anyone and everyone who knows anything about my mom or about us kids knows that when we would fight, that would be the song she would start singing to us. We came to hate that song! And then, now love it because we miss her so much. As I tried to sing (and then eventually just read) the words today, I felt her nearby and lost it when I read these words:
Kindly heaven smiles above
When there’s love at home;
Oh, there’s one who smiles on high
When there’s love at home.
I hope she knows how very much we love her and miss her. It's just not the same without her. She was the glue that held our family together. She was the one who solved the arguments. She was the one that knew just the right thing to say to make things better. I wish she were still here. Happy Mothers Day, Mom. I love you.