Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

On Friday, the first grade had a special program for mothers.  There were talents on display, poems read, songs sung.  As each group of kids stood up, I noticed each one craning their neck to find their own mother.  My own daughter did the same as her class sang a short song about mothers.  The song itself I don't remember.  What I do remember was the feeling I had when they sat down.  I watched my daughter turn to look at me, to check in that I'd been watching her, to smile at me. 

My thoughts immediately turned to her first mother, the one on this earth no more, the one our shared daughter has blurry memories of, all good ones.  I sat there in the warm auditorium and cried, not for long, but there was no holding it back.

Can she see me?  Can she see us?  How did it happen that "my" daughter looks to me for approval and support?  How can I possibly manage to honor the first mother, the one who carried the little one on her back and taught her to make injera and how to grind freshly roasted coffee beans with a mortar and pestle?  The one who planted the seed in our daughter's heart for love?

Tonight we had a group of folks over for a potluck dinner and ended up talking a lot about parenting.  I explained that we want very much to hold to the Ethiopian manner of parenting, that of the values of hard work, respect, tenderness with the young and elderly, humility.  A married couple with children in high school listened but said, "Isn't that too heavy of a burden to carry?  I mean, these are your kids now."

I don't fault them for their question.  It came out of concern for us, not wanting us to set ourselves up too much for failure.  But what I know in my gut is that we can't lower the bar.  We want our children to stand tall in their Ethiopian identity, beyond the realm of knowing the music, food, and snippets of language.  For the sake of their first families, we long for them to carry within them the pride of their roots: tenderness, hard work, responsibility, community, and hospitality. 

We carry this burden with joy in our hearts.  My children made me a mother.  By God's grace, I will honor their first families if it's the last thing on earth that I do.

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