The other day at softball, a mother revealed one of her deepest pains as she talked about her youngest daughter for whom language and making friends always had been and remained a struggle. Watching the sunny faced girl play with a dog and two younger siblings of another player, I could not see how this child would not make friends easily. She had an open heart and laughed often. Yet the mother’s voice trembled as she recalled cruel moments in the lunchroom and on the playground, memories burned in her mother’s heart because she could only watch and be present, she could not will away the pain of those moments or make the children who had hurt her daughter be charitable. She could not make these other children love her daughter. She could not protect her daughter from those moments of pain.
As mothers, it is our want to pad the tables and add plug covers and have band aids at the ready, to soothe all the cuts that come from growing up as best we can; but there are simply times when our love is inadequate to the task. A sharp insult in the hall, gossip in a text message, all the slings and arrows of elementary and secondary school can sting and sting and sting and still, we bundle them off to face that world every day, hoping that this day, the others will see our children with the eyes of love we have been granted.
Mary understands that our love cannot change the reality of our children being on the receiving end of pain, be it childhood insults or handicapping conditions or struggles with learning disabilities or weight or whathaveyou. Mary knows this path well. She stood at the cross. She witnessed the road to Calvary. She knew ahead of time, her heart would be pierced. So do we all if we pause for a moment. These children we love so desperately will struggle; they will make choices which make their struggles harder and ours as well. Her love was perfect and it did not change the reality of others committing evil unto her son, it changed her reality of how she responded to that evil. Sublime grace indeed to be able to endure such a scene, to hold in her heart full awareness of how much her son was Love incarnate; and how the world could not tolerate such intimacy.
Mary understood how the world’s eyes that do not love our children, can gnaw at our hearts, making us want to become flinty towards the others in our world that cause our beloved pain. But we are called to have open Marian hearts, not stony ones. We are called to turn the other cheek, to pray for our enemies and to teach our children the same; to love despite rejection and pain not because of the lack of it. At the end of the game, the mother talked about how her daughter really connected with her 80 year old mother who lived with them and suffered from dementia. She spoke proudly of how lovely the two of them got along and could visit for hours.
It seemed at least to me, that this child’s capacity to relate to her “Grandma” was the counterpoint/blessing of her struggle with her peers. If children had filled the void in her daughter’s heart, she would not seek out her mother’s mother to talk about her day; but the loneliness in both people’s worlds was abated by the presence of each other. God uses all gifts, all our brokenness, all our struggles to bring us to him; to create the opportunity for communion and community. And so, though our hearts may be pierced again and again and again like Mary’s, by our witnessing of our children’s great struggles big and small, the bottom line is we must trust that God will use all of this, even this, to bring all of us closer to Him. It is our job simply to imitate Mary and take all these things into our heart to ponder as we go about the business of mothering.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti