Saturday, May 4, 2013

Apron String Theory

I read an article on motherhood recently. The author wrote "to be a mother is to wish with all your might that it be you instead who breaks the arm, who bleeds, whose heart is crushed." She also wrote "Don't let any harm come, in any form, on my watch. The vigilence is without end."

Barf!! The last thing I want is my boys bubble-wrapped, Purell'd and unprepared to navigate our crazy, beautiful world. I'm of the belief that painful experiences are a huge part of learning to be a decent human being.

I've always been a little baffled by the mothers that hover. I don't get it. My mother encouraged exploration and adventure. I was a tomboy and a bit of a hyper "handful" so she probably just wanted me out of her hair, but whatever the reason I spent a lot of time playing outside unsupervised. I have a scar or two and some great stories as proof. Once I begged my older sister to let me ride on the handlebars of her banana seat bike. We hit a curb and crashed spectacularly and I ended up with a mild concussion. I don't remember being scared at all, it was quite a blast until I hit pavement. What I do remember is feeling a little too wild and free and knowing something more powerful than me was at work. In this case, gravity. I discovered that elusive boundary between wild abandon and common sense. I was learning first hand a little bit of how the world operated and gaining healthy respect for things beyond my control. My mom wasn't lecturing me about it or making me read it from a book. I'll always want my boys to go out there and explore, get a little dirty and banged up, and to come home and tell me about it.

I remember what it was like to get my heart stomped on by I boy I loved. I also remember what it was like to be the new kid sitting alone in the lunchroom. Would I go back and spare myself the pain? Had my mom sit with me the first week of school? No, because I learned from experience what rejection and loneliness feel like and can spot it in others. The most compassionate people are those that have been there. The quickest to pick up the fallen are those that remember what it felt like to fall.

So when I read Mother's Day treacle like that article, aimed at me and designed to make me feel part of an elite and smug sisterhood of protective mommies, I barf a little.  Don't you, too? Motherhood doesn't give me the right to be some martyr of "constant vigilance" and worry. It means, by some miracle, I've been given the honor of helping two young souls navigate their way through the world for a brief time. It won't serve them well to have me clutching the helm out of fear, even though there is plenty to fear besides  broken bones and broken hearts. Of course I want to protect and nurture my boys, my love for them is boundless, but my ultimate goal is to prepare them to belong to something bigger and more important than themselves. To do that I have to allow them to live, knowing living is sometimes messy, scary and painful.

I know a lot of really great mothers. One of the greatest blessings in my life is their company. The ones I've learned the most from keep the apron strings loose as best they can. They lead by example and live a full life, laughing at mistakes they make and focusing on the joy of the ride. They bravely ignore worry and put their faith in the greatest Protector there is, knowing full well their children have always truly belonged to Him anyway.