What does it mean to be a Mother?

This morning my daughter said to me – Mom, I love you to the fountain and back. The fountain is her happiest and best place. She splashes with no shoes and her tiny feet have the power to stop the water spouts. At the fountain, she yells “I’m jumping really high” to total strangers and beams up at them and they inevitably smile back. The fountain is a magical place and it is a bike ride or a car ride away. So, my small fierce girl ¬†loves me as much and as far as she can imagine.

When I replied, “I love you to the fountain and back, too” she tilted her head, frowned and said “No, mama, you love me more”. Because that is my job, really. I might screw up in all kinds of ways and I’m sure I have and I’m sure I will but the job I must get right is loving her further and more intensely than she can imagine loving me.

Mother’s Day. It is not a simple day for so many of us. I went to a meditation that morning and the speaker attempted a neutral stance but clearly his mothering experience had left a longing. He tried for something positive but finally settled on asking us to meditate on forgiveness towards the person who played the role of Mother in our lives.

We ask so much of our mothers and our relationship with them is complex. Our mothers have failed us and will fail us. They have left us and they will leave us. We as mothers stumble, cause harm, fail to protect. We let go at the wrong time, we hold on too tightly, we are frail, we are mighty. In the beginning we are everything and then too soon we are nothing. Ideally we are able to find a place somewhere in the middle but all along the way we must steer our love with a steady hand.

It is a big one – this holiday. It has taken me weeks to even write about it. It is challenging and messy and heartbreakingly complicated. ¬†And then I look down at my daughter’s face as she instructs me on love and I see that sometimes it is as simple as the road to the fountain and back and the joy of wild barefoot splashing.

Happy belated Mother’s Day.