May 10, 2014

Robin Richmond Mason: Sit down for a season but stand firmly on your roots

Proverbs tells us that a woman can live in such a way that her children will rise up and call her blessed.

I am refocusing a piece that I wrote recently as a devotional for a young first-time mother-to- be. The occasion was her baby shower. It was my pleasure to present a devotional thought for the group of women gathered to welcome a new life and to celebrate the greatest role that most of us have ever filled in our own lives.

The poignancy of analyzing motherhood had a profound effect on me. At the shower, I shook hands with lots of young moms and a few gaily dressed toddlers bearing giant gift bags “for the little baby.”

Somehow the power of the moment washed over me, right when I thought that I was doing a service. I meant to give each young mother a pat on the back and to encourage their rightly placed priorities. Along with this, I found tears in my own eyes and even struggled to read some of the devotion. Motherhood is huge,  powerful and multi-generational. It lifts our abilities to their highest and it can deliver pain to our very souls. Anyway, gentle reader, I am sharing this re-framed, private tribute with you today so that we can all celebrate the wonderful gift of having or being a mother.

Sit For a Season and Stand Firmly on Your Roots

Written for a young mother-to-be named Gina.

I never met Grandmother Betty but I have heard her husband Jim, daughter Debbie and granddaughters Gina and Lauren all extol her virtues, character and cooking. Gina and Lauren rise up and call Mother Debbie and Grandmother Betty, blessed. As an objective observer, it appears to me that Gina and Lauren have been very well mothered.

At the university, I taught Gina and Lauren and (the new dad-to-be) Drew and they would be disappointed if I didn’t mention a little statistical research. When mothers are asked to recall and evaluate their parenting experiences, they often recall:

• fatigue

• impatience

• missed opportunities

• absentee ball games

• moments of conflict

This group of evaluative mothers give themselves a grade of B- for their job performance evaluations.

When the children of those same mothers describe their experience of being mothered, they most frequently recall:

• the happy times

• picnics

• Play-Doh sessions

• watching movies together

• ball games that mom did attend

• bedside care during illnesses

• funny, imperfect birthday cakes

• Christmas decorations

• a gentle touch

For Gina and Drew and baby Ethan, I am giving a refurbished farm chair. I just placed the last stitch in the little blue cushion this morning. I’ve chosen to give this little wooden chair because it is not fragile. It may have been used during tea parties and the folding of paper airplanes. It was almost certainly used for the reading of little books and the dreaming of big dreams. This little brown chair is a little worn with happiness and ruffed up with real life.

So, since I am giving my simple gift to two of my former students, who are now becoming parents, I am inclined to give an assignment. My assignment is for Gina and Drew to:

• Bathe every day of parenthood with prayer.

• Don’t forget to have fun.

• Don’t expect perfection of yourself. You will figure out how to do this parenting thing with some level of perfection on just about the week that your child leaves for college.

• Don’t lose fleeting time. Ethan will only be a baby for an instant and a little boy for a minute.

In short I am asking, I mean assigning, you to sit for a season. Pull up your own chair and turn off the technology. Purposefully dedicate your full attention to being fully present with your little guy while someone else works the overtime, moves up the ladder, earns the extra money and runs the errands.

Lastly, besides sitting for a season, I want to tell you to stand on your roots. You, Gina and Drew, have both grown up with good parenting, and your parents grew up with good parenting. Baby Ethan James has rich familial and cultural roots.

Learn all that you can from contemporary advisers. YouTube, Facebook and Prezi all offer some useful techniques, but the spirit of unselfish, unreserved dedication is already on your side. Ask your mother for her advice and embrace the wisdom of our Southern Appalachian culture. Sit for a season and stand firmly on your roots.


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