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What do women really want for Mother’s Day? Breakfast in bed? A diamond that says “forever”? I recently witnessed a young man offering his mother a priceless gift—sincere words of appreciation for the nurturance she provided for him as a child. “You gave me so much attention,” he said, “even though you had such a huge job and were so busy. I really felt you wanted to be with me.” I particularly love this compliment since mothers have so often been criticized for having careers or for being busy.
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This young man’s statement also expresses the reality that children are aware of whether we enjoy spending time with them. In his memoir, An Hour Before Sunrise, President Jimmy Carter recalls his mother’s full schedule—how often she left their home to nurse low-income neighbors. However, Carter still has access to the joy of his mother’s convivial story times. Lillian Carter loved relating entertaining tales about members of their extended family. She and other mothers deserve positive feedback for creating regular times to communicate their enjoyment of the relationship, helping children feel worthy of attention, comfort, empathy, and love.
Mothering—whether offered by a mom, dad, grandparent, or teacher—expresses a cherishing kind of attention that develops a person’s inner conviction that she isn’t neglected or alone. None of us needs constant comfort and focused attention from others. Even infants gradually learn to
toddle away from their caregivers and come back every little while for a dose of “I love to be with you and care how you’re feeling.” Women aren’t the only ones called upon for self-giving. When we acknowledge and support all caregivers, we contribute to keeping their wellsprings of nourishment from going dry. Positive acknowledgements help adults and children.
Award-winning author Mimi Doe recommends meditating on the essence of mothering—torevitalize ourselves with the flowing, benevolent forces of life. In her bookBusy But Balanced, Doe shares her daily affirmations: “Help me to see the light in others when they have forgotten it themselves.” “Let my voice be a sound of happiness in my children’s lives.”
Affirmations are like compliments we give ourselves in orderto inspire our highest responses. If you are a caregiver, try telling yourself, “I am fulfilling the greatest calling in the universe,” and notice what happens to your consciousness. When you’re overwhelmed, tell yourself, “I nurture myself so I can nurture others.”
We can expand our awareness by listing sources of mothering in our daily existence. Examining the times we didn’t receive adequate mothering as children can also move us out of old self-neglecting patterns. However, let’s stop blaming individual mothers for what we perceive as their limitations and admit we are all apprentices in learning to give and receive love. On Mother’s Day, let’s appreciate our own abilities to “mother.” In addition, let’s fully awaken our gratitude toward all the people who nourish our children, to those who have made us feel worthy of being listened to and loved, and the young ones who teach us so much about caring.
Susan Isaacs Kohl, is director of the White Pony preschool in Lafayette. She is the author of The Best Things Parents Do (Conari 2004) and four other books and numerous articles for parents.