Growing up I wanted to be nothing like my mother. She wasn’t cool enough to me. I wanted to be fun, push the boundaries, and dress cool. She was an introvert, quiet in her own way, highly organized, and logical. I was adventurous, artsy, and a spontaneous free spirit. I never saw myself in my mother. She represented everything I never wanted to be—that is, except for a mother.
I was young and foolish—too prideful to admit that I wanted to nurture children the same way my mother had nurtured me. Over the years, I’ve begun to see more of her in me. By my late twenties, I’d gained a whole new appreciation for my mom—in fact, I would consider her a friend.
It’s funny how living a little will help you to see why your parents taught you certain things. I realize that my mother prepared me for a whole world where being young, gifted, and Black was not favored. She taught me perseverance by never allowing me to quit on the first try. She taught me to be confident by allowing me to sell my handwritten newspapers in front of the grocery store to anyone who would buy them. She taught me how to be gracious by encouraging me to listen to people without inserting my own judgments and assumptions. One of her greatest lessons (and gifts) to me came long after I was no longer a child.
In 2018, my family and I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, and I was struggling to adjust to a new city. I had left my friends behind: my sister-friends, my “mom” friends, my married friends . . . all my people. It was especially hard to leave my single friends behind because I worked hard to cultivate those friendships. Oftentimes, these were friends from different “groups” or phases of my life, but I’d kept up with them individually. We would meet up to hang out and talk about life and dreams and everything else in between.
I gave all that up when we moved to Greenville. I knew I’d make new friends, but intentional friendships take time and energy to cultivate; I was out of energy and just wanted new friends ASAP. It was hard. Everyone around me was married, and they were always having couples’ dates and playdates with their kids. I wanted to be in a relationship, too, and I wanted children. And my mother could see that.
One day, I had just finished eating homemade pasta when my mom walked in and told me she had a surprise for me. Her gifts are always practical and thoughtful, but I had no idea what this surprise might be. She walks over, hands me a flower and a gift bag, and says, “I know people will be focused on all the mothers tomorrow. I wanted to say happy Mother’s Day to you as you’ve been motherly to your nephew and other children. You’ll be a mom one day too.”
From a deep place often left untouched, tears welled up and began streaming down my face. I was feeling so lonely at that time in my life. My dreams of being a mother one day felt far off and, sometimes, nearly impossible. I wasn’t in a relationship; I had no prospects (although, since then I have found pandemic love); I felt emotionally naked admitting that I had such strong desires to be a mother. I mean, most people talked about the negatives of having kids—the time, the money, the “loss of freedom”, but no matter how many horror stories I heard about motherhood, I still wanted it. It was an unexplainable desire that I wasn’t sure would be possible for me.
I looked into the gift bag my mom placed in front of me. Inside I saw my favorite snack and a plant for my new hanging pot—all in an effort to say, I know your heart’s desires and I see you. Her act of kindness softened my heart in a season when it was growing callous. I guess my mother taught me something else, too: never underestimate the power of kindness, especially around holidays that can feel very lonely to those longing for a family.
So, to all the aunties, godmommies, sisters, friends, etc., I see you. You are valued and loved. There’s a place for you too. May you know just how important you are on a day when some celebrate and many mourn.
How do you show appreciation to your friends during sensitive holidays like Mother’s Day?Leave a Comment