Before she was your mother, she was a little girl playing peekaboo, making castles in a sandbox, standing in the middle of the room twirling in a circle and giggling as her skirt swished back and forth. She was learning to ride a bike, falling, and scraping her knees. She was chasing after fireflies on a summer night.
She was learning about how to be in the world from her dad and how to be a girl from her mother. She was learning what each expected of her and how to get her way with each of them (especially her daddy).
Before she was your mother, she was dreaming of princes and castles, singing Disney melodies, and asking others to read her another story before bed. She was curious and loved helping her mother or dad do most anything, especially licking the spoon if someone was making cookies.
She learned that it was Grandma who let her do things her mother and dad would usually not. Grandma didn’t mind if flour got spread around when cookies were being made. Grandma always had time for another story and you could count on her to have your favorite snacks on hand when you went to visit.
Before she was your mother, she developed a fair number of expectations of what her mother should be like and by her teenage years they might bump heads more than a few times about her messy room, her makeup, the length of her skirt, and how late she could stay out at night. (There would be a long list of other things if you were her son, but smelly tennis shoes and socks would be on the list.)
She saw her own mother as not being ‘in the know’ and tended to set aside some of the wisdom she was offering. She saw her mother as older than she was and couldn’t imagine she had any dreams of her own that sometimes sat on a shelf to be her mom. She couldn’t understand why her mother got upset or angry with her. She seemed old-fashioned or like she was trying to compete with her in the latest fashion trends.
Before she was your mother, she may have been abused or neglected and felt unimportant to most everyone. Her dad may have left the home before she even knew him or divorced her mom and married another woman that made no sense at all.
She may have been a great student or never seemed to be able to get the grades her parents expected. She may have been a tomboy or a ‘girlie girl.’ Perhaps she kept all her feelings inside or maybe she wore her feelings on her sleeve.
Before she was your mother, she was a little girl growing up into a teenager and then a young woman. She had interests, skills, abilities, passions, hopes, and dreams. She decided if she became a mom one day, she would do it differently than her mom or do it better somehow.
Then she did become a mother. Sometimes it happened right on schedule. Other times it interrupted the direction her life was going.
When she held you in her arms, she was changed forever.
Suddenly she was a “mother” and began to discover what that meant. She guessed about a lot of things that first time she became a mom and she also learned that her mother knew more than she understood before.
But you didn’t know her during all that time before she was your mother so you only looked at her through that lens called “mom.” When she chose to do something that was meaningful to her whether it was coffee with friends, learning to play golf, or taking an online course, it may have frustrated you if you wanted her to do something for you or just to ‘be there’ in case you called or needed something at the last minute.
At this time of year many laud and applaud the woman who is called “mother.” Most often she is celebrated, but sometimes she is set aside because she disappointed you at some point along the line even if she was not an abuser.
Sometimes those judgments come because we never knew her before she was our mother.
When I was a girl growing up and then a teenager, I saw my mother as anxious and depressed. She was quick to tears and didn’t offer a lot of encouragement. Those things were, in fact, true of her; but what I didn’t learn for a while was who she was before she was my mother.
I didn’t grasp until later what it was like for her to find her own mother often angry and depressed or to have her home burn to the ground and lose all the family possessions when she was a freshman in high school. I could not have understood what it must have felt like to have she and her two sisters and her parents all living with other people, separated from each other for many months until a new home was built.
I couldn’t recognize how her emotional losses deepened when her first baby died 24 hours after he was born or that she was not doing well and could not help make arrangements for nor attend his funeral or burial.
When I think of how we pause to think about and honor our mother on Mother’s Day, I sometimes think one of the gifts that might bless her most would be if we put on another set of lenses and saw her before the role she has played in our lives.
If we could do that, I think most of us would offer more grace, set aside more of our disappointments, and value her a bit more despite her imperfections. We would also hope if we are a mother now that our children would do that for us as well.
Before she was your mother, she was God’s creation designed to hold a special place in his Kingdom. She was a treasure chest of possibilities and you have the blessing of knowing her when she isn’t wearing makeup, when she isn’t at her best, and when she keeps trying and loves you even when you don’t think she is doing it right or you can’t love her back.
Before she was your mother, she was God’s daughter.