On Kindness, and Mothers

So, I’m six months pregnant, mother of a two year old, working full time, and there’s a large part of me that feels judged by the people at work for not being more with it, more on it, more everything.

Like, there’s no one smiling and saying, “There, there, sweetie, never mind, you’re with child, it’s okay that you didn’t notice that line item,” or “Of course you forgot to turn the car off before getting out of it! You’re pregnant!” Yeah – none of that.

So, I’m feeling kind of grouchy and self-pitying, and I was walking to my car last night when I dropped my water container on the ground. My hands were full, my ill-fitting stockings sliding down my legs, back and hips aching (for which I’m going to physical therapy), and I just looked at the red bottle there on the parking lot floor and thought, There’s no way I’m going to bend over to pick this up – I’ll either fall down from pain, lose my balance, or moon the office building behind me because my stockings will have been pushed all the way to my ankles. I felt utterly stupid and hopeless – a metaphor for how I often feel these days, trying to push my way through from one thing to the next.

And then this woman I barely know came up behind me, retrieved the bottle, and said, “Yeah, I know how it is!” With a smile of understanding and a flourish of kindness.

It felt like the nicest thing anyone could ever do for anyone else.

I know, this is a typical story – we all know about small acts of kindness and paying it forward and all that. But really, it’s a story that doesn’t get old when it’s something that happens in your own life. It’s so easy for any of us to get locked into a silent vigil of loneliness, with personal griefs and aches and burdens that we carry, visibly or not, with no one embracing us and saying “there, there, sweetie,” even though, my goodness, we all have times when we need it. It’s too easy.

Thinking about the woman who was murdered last week – looking at my daughter, trying not to get caught up in the imaginary void of what it must be like, as a parent, to get that phone call – I not only felt this huge well of sadness for that woman and her family, but also for the suspects, who are not much older than boys. What kind of heartache exists within them that murder is something they found possible? I can’t imagine how dark and sad and empty it must be, to be in that place. What about their mothers?
You know, if you watch TV, especially during the daytime, you see a lot of “moms” in mom jeans ogling Mr. Clean and finding the perfect snacks and sighing about their kids and homework – but when I think about all the people in my age group I know whose mothers are absent, screwed up, abusive, wrecked in some way – for various reasons – how many people I know who don’t have but would love to have a mother of unconditional love –  I am struck by how we actually don’t have a lot of those kinds of mothers in our culture. I mean, not just the real ones, but the images of them, the myths of them – the goddess figure whose arms are open with nurturing, comfort, love – we don’t have the element of mothering in our society. The idea of compassion and kindness that is strong, not weak. We are, in that sense, many of us at least – emotional orphans.

My conclusion to this ramble is that I pray I will learn to be a true mother – not just to my children, but to myself, to my friends, to strangers – meaning, that I will learn to have the open arms of exceeding lovingkindness, to heal wounds, to say “there, there” when people need to hear it.  Even to the least of these.

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2 Responses to On Kindness, and Mothers

  1. Cecil says:

    That was lovely. I too look at the pictures of the suspects in Jayne McGowan’s murder and have a complicated reaction: revulsion, pity, disgust, wonder, anger. I don’t think anyone is born disposed to commit the crime that was committed against McGowan; something, things, happen along the way, and somehow you end up with a person who can do this unthinkable thing. One of those things that happens, I believe, is an absence (so maybe it’s a thing that doesn’t happen) of what you’re calling “mothering.”

    This is not to excuse murder or to absolve murderers of responsibility. Understanding why something happens is not excusing it. The suspects in McGowan’s murder look damaged, to me. Like there wasn’t enough of something in their lives. Some void. It’s baffling.

  2. Love hearing, reading, experiencing random acts of kindness from strangers. It gives us all hope that the human species shall survive (at the risk of sounding like freaky and buff mom Linda Hamilton from “Terminator 2”).

    It’s amazing, though, isn’t it, how when you’re pregnant, how you’re sensitive to everything, not just smell and your baby’s/body’s needs but the needs of other people; the victim, her family, the suspects. If it wasn’t such an emotional roller-coaster ride I’d almost wish that we could keep that sense of awareness.

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