This year I celebrated my first Mother’s Day as a “real mom” – you know, the kind of mom that gets to keep, cuddle, and celebrate all day with her child; not drop them off at 9 am to celebrate the day with their “real mom”. So, let’s take a look back at my first few Mother’s Days.
Every year, without fail, Mother’s Day falls on “our, time” aka dad’s time. This means we have to return the children several hours early so they can celebrate Mother’s Day with their mother. Seems logical, but any time missed with the kids leaves a little twinge of pain, especially when it’s to celebrate someone that I don’t think deserves celebration.
From the beginning, my husband and his ex-wife have had what would best be classified as toxic interactions… not a co-parenting relationship. I desperately tried to show her that we could all work together smoothly for the benefit of the children, but my efforts quickly turned from cooperation to domination. When the very first Mother’s Day rolled around, I decided it would be in everyone’s best interest if I helped the children get a Mother’s Day gift for their mom. After all, her boyfriend wouldn’t do it, I didn’t want my husband helping them, so I became a Mother’s Day martyr. I look back at my younger, immature self and just shake my head.
That first Mother’s Day, and probably the second, were attention getters. Look at me, selflessly putting the inferior mother first, spending our hard earned money on her even though she receives child support. Oh, look at me! See me, kids, “honoring” your mother even though she very obviously hates me. What a saint I am!! Can you see how this could end very badly…?
Two Mother’s Days came and passed with this attitude. I think I expected the kids to see my “sacrifice” and be in awe, then turn around and honor me. Big. Fat. Ouch. That’s not humility, that’s manipulation. Instead, they excitedly jumped out of the car, ran to their mother, and doted all over her. I melted into a puddle of self-pitying tears and my hatred for her grew.
Yikes. This Mother’s Day martyrdom was seriously backfiring.
It’s a slow learning curve I’m following here, but by year 3 of my relationship with my step-kids, at times it felt as if God had either started gently softening my heart or ripping out roots of bitterness towards their mother. My outlook depended on the time of day and circumstances, because it flip-flopped back and forth between gentle God and God with hedge clippers and a hacksaw. I want to believe He saw the good I intended and how my sinful-self clouded the intention with selfish and prideful actions. Year 3, I didn’t just buy a card, a box of chocolates, and a grocery store bouquet, we took an afternoon and spent time together making candy (Irish potato candy… AJ’s favorite). It was one of the few times they saw a baking task through from start to finish, so excited about making something from scratch for their mother. We spent hours in the kitchen. I got to teach them, talk to them, laugh with them, and create memories. It was one of the first times I humbled myself to serve her, show the kids how to serve her, and do it with a smile on my face.
I struggle with only giving people what I think they deserve. As parents, we don’t “deserve” love or respect- we are biologically programmed to love our children, and we are called by God to respect them. Sure, situations make love and respect difficult, maybe even next to impossible. But how much do I receive from God- love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, friendship, protection, provision, the list is endless. Whether I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mom, stepmom, aunt, friend, any role I fill as a female follower of Christ, I am called to lead others into a greater understanding of what Christ has done for them. They don’t deserve it, and neither do I! But as His spirit leads and drops little nuggets of kindness into my heart to share with others, I’m learning how to work them out in humility, not begrudgingly. As someone who has been forgiven much, not as a martyr.
Is Mother’s Day a hard time for you? Are there women who don’t “deserve” the honor? Have they hurt, abandoned, or manipulated you or the children you love? Sincerely ask God to open your eyes, do some weeding, and drop a little nugget of kindness into your spirit to outwork for these women in your world. Don’t be a Mother’s Day martyr. Be someone’s Mother’s Day miracle.
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