Passing the Mother Test

Passing the Mother Test

Passing the Mother Test

I first became a mother at the age of 38 when my husband and I became foster parents to three children under the age of five. Three frightened, angry, fragile kids who spent every waking minute – which, between them, constituted pretty much 24/7 that first year – thinking of creative ways to destroy the house and get on my last nerve.

Admittedly, some days were better than others. The days I didn’t get a shower or a square meal – subsisting on goldfish crackers and leftover sips of juice boxes – happened more often than I care to think about, even ten years later. The days I spent scrubbing unmentionable substances off bathroom and even bedroom walls, muttering under my breath about the injustice of it all. Wondering whether I was crazy to think that I had it in me to mother these three rugrats.

If motherhood was graded pass-fail, some days I most certainly did not pass muster. I knew, going in, that I was supposed to be changing these kids’ lives. Only gradually did I wake up to the fact that . . . these kids had been given the herculean task of changing me.

I was going to have to pass the Mother Test.

Now, this test is unlike any other test you will take in your lifetime. It’s not a pass-fail; neither is it based on a 100-point or sliding scale. Rather, it’s a cumulative score accumulated over the course of a lifetime . . . with the final grade revealed only in heaven.

This doesn’t prevent any of us mothers from grading ourselves, sometimes mercilessly. That first year I remember standing in the shower, railing at the ceiling: “Holy Mother, if I don’t get two consecutive hours of sleep sometime in the next 3 days, I’m going to lose my mind. Please HELP me!”

Sometimes I thought I heard a celestial chuckle. And yet, there was always the hope of a promise, too – a promise that we hear echoed in this week’s second reading.

“… Let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”  Hebrews 4:15-16

Ten years later, now when I lie awake at night, it’s because of the quiet – my daughter is sleeping through the night most nights now, and my son … well, let’s just say that his absence keeps me awake at night far more often than his presence ever did. Sometimes I miss him so much, my arms ache for wanting to give him a hug.

The testing continues. What has been the hardest test for you so far?

Copyright 2012 Heidi Hess Saxton


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  1. Heidi – thanks for an amazing, thought provoking column. In my own mothering career, I feel like I’m going through a huge test right now. Our Adam, an 18 year old high school senior, is discerning his college choices at the moment. The “nagging factor” feels like it’s never been higher, and yet I know it is my responsibility to shepherd him through this big decision. Some days I’d like to throw up my hands and say, “whatever…” and just let him do it himself (which equates to the bare minimum being done until the last minute).Quite a test. I have Our Lady on speed dial these days. I wish we had more scriptural reference to her life when Christ was a teen!

  2. It’s funny you mention that — the other day on PBS they ran a story on “The Gospel of Thomas” that included some apocryphal accounts from the life of Christ, one involving him bringing back to life a playmate who’d mysteriously been pushed off a roof, to get the boy to tell the crowd that he (Jesus) hadn’t done it. You have to wonder just how Mary got through those years. Probably the same way she found strength to stand at the cross. That’s an image I come back to again and again.

    The hardest part of motherhood, I think, is in the letting go — something we’re both going through right now. May God bless you as you seek his strength every day to complete the work at hand.

  3. Excellent reminder. I especially appreciated being reminded that heaven is where everything will all be laid out and understood. Praying for your family.

    • He’s getting some special therapy for the next few months that requires he be away from home. We see him as often as we can — but we miss him very much.

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