Mothering

May 6, 2011

In our after school ministry, we have spent a couple of days working on gifts for Mother’s day. The children colored inserts for plastic flowerpots last week. Yesterday (a pretty day when we could play outside), we filled the pots with dirt and impatiens. They turned out to be cute mother’s day gifts.

Whenever I give out instructions for crafts that are parent specific, I’m sure to speak broadly and make space for kids to make as many crafts as they need to make. In our program, one of our children is raised by her grandmother. Several of the children have mothers and stepmothers. I always invite children to make the craft for their moms or grandmas or stepmoms or aunts or anyone that it fits (substitute appropriate male counterparts for Father’s Day). Many of the children made more than one flowerpot in the past week.

And then yesterday, as we planted the flowers and finished the craft, one of the fifth grade girls handed me a finished flower pot. I admired it and praised her and handed it back. “No, Ms. Becky,” she explained. “I made it for you.” Taken aback, I hugged her and thanked her and admired her artwork some more.

A few minutes later, a third grade girl brought me the flower pot she had colored and filled for me. She was followed shortly by a rather challenging six year old boy who also handed me a flower pot.

The kids I work with often are lovingly called “my kids.” “How many children do you have?” Someone will ask when I talk about “my kids.”

“Oh,” I’ll reply. “I have one kid at home. But I have lots of kids that I care for.” It’s a teacher thing, I know. I know lots of teachers who lovingly talk this way.

But still…for a child (or three children) who are not my actual children to even consider me in their list of mother-types is quite humbling and honoring. Of course, I know that I’m far from a mother to them–it’s not me who tucks them in at night, I never clean up vomit and I always get to send them home after awhile–but it’s a special thing to have a small part of that special place in a child’s world.

I’ve never given birth but I’ve never felt like I was missing mothering. Jonas, for example, has been in my care since he was a toddler. I remember one time overhearing him ask Jason if he could call me “mom.” He never did–“Becky” was just always a better fit and that was fine with me. He and I understand and are comfortable with our relationship. I’m surrounded on a near-daily basis with children and teenagers, who bring me lots of joy and love and go home before they get too complicated. Many of these kids have grown up with me as their youth director/children’s minister/after school club minister and I love watching them head for adulthood.

It causes me to consider the women in my life who have mothered me.

Of course, there’s my amazing mom. She’s been my biggest influence and the woman who had to love me no matter how obnoxious I tried to be. I’m so grateful for the things she’s taught me and ways she nurtured me to be an independent, capable woman (like her). There’s no way I would be the mom I am without having her to teach me and every time I catch myself saying something to Jonas in her tone of voice I half cringe, half smile (in that way we all do when we realize we’re more like our parents than we planned to be.)

Then there are other women–My grandmother, my Godmother, Sunday School teachers, a high school club sponsor, a minister at my college church,  the secretary at my current church who took me under her wing when I found myself twenty-two years old and on my own in the real world for the first time. These women are important, too, and as I honor my mom on Mother’s Day, I’ll think about them for a moment. Honestly, if I were to make a flower pot for each woman who mothered me, it would take a very long time and a lot of dirt.

This causes me to think about the mothering, tender, nurturing qualities of God. A loving God who has given me lots of mothering women and who has placed so many children in my care. A loving God whose tone I hope I imitate on a regular basis.

Who are the mothers you honor this weekend?