Mothers raise their children to leave. The leaving takes the place in many forms and often times children come back several times before they get it right. However once the final push out of the home nest is made - the babe must either walk, fly, swim, graduate, go to college, get a job, get an apartment or another place to live; either way they must make a move. In order to ensure that this move is permanent, as mothers, we begin the preparation to leave soon after they are born. We begin by teaching them to nurse and then teaching them to eat baby food, even as the child pushes the food back out of his mouth, we gently clean the chin and then scoop the creamy baby food back into the mouth of the infant. We then continue our tutelage by telling them that only babies drink out of bottles and eat baby food and then we tell them they are a big girl or boy and must use a sippy cup and eat solid foods and place them in their own mouths with their own fingers. One of the other monumental steps in our babes leaving is walking. Walking symbolizes freedom and the ability of the child to move from place to place creates in them a need to explore and eventually run from mothers who are doing their best in the mall or grocery store to keep them close and safe because she knows that danger is lurking in the guise of a kind man who has lost his puppy just waiting for the mom to disappear. Once these small yet very difficult and complex tasks have been well learned through repetition the child moves from a small fenced-in backyard to a larger school yard where the influences are peer pressure and less stranger danger. At any case here in this larger yard is where our ability to mother and our ability to know that we know that something is amiss comes in handy. This knowing is a mother’s intuition and it can also be called mother wit. Webster.com defines wit as a verb which is know and mother wit as a natural wit or intelligence and so it is what mothers have naturally that tells them that they know that the child has already done something that he or she was not supposed to do simply by looking at them, hearing them or sensing them. A mother’s job is never done. Even when they leave the home nest they come back for advice, for a shoulder to lean on, for someone to blame because they didn’t get the fancy sports car they wanted at 16; so it is OUR fault that they flunked out of school or something else so terrible that only one of our kids would say. A mother cares for the infant when he cannot care for himself, a mother takes the babe to his doctor appointments, signs her up for school, goes to school with him on the first day and possibly the next day and the next, stays up late nights helping with homework assignments due the next day that were assigned a weeks ago and just now the babe is writing; yep tonight.
I went to the movies to see African Cats with my daughter and her friend; both 9- years old silly and giggly. During this movie, I was struck by the mothering that the lionesses and the cheetah mom showed toward their young. They preened and groomed them (gave them a bath and combed their hair), they hunted (grocery store),they fought to protect them (if all of your friends jump off the cliff will you) only when necessary, they allowed their cubs to explore the jungle (go to the mall) and they expected individual and collective rough house play (basketball, soccer, gymnastics). The lioness did get angry and the cheetah irritated at their cubs; however never enough to push them away until their learning process was complete.
Mothers raise children to leave. And if we do a half-way-decent job they won’t come back. From one mother to another, pat yourself back on the back, celebrate yourself and have a Happy Mothers Day. Motherhood is a work in process.