Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day 2015: Thoughts on Care, Nurture, and a Poem

Here we are at Mother's Day, that huge festival where we celebrate Mom--with flowers, brunch, and a gift.  But what about the rest of the year?

I am not the first person to note that we can tell a lot about a society, or an organization or a person, by looking at where it spends its money.  In the U.S., we are not a culture that celebrates mothers much at all.  We certainly don't do much where it counts.  If you don't believe me, ask a mother about leave policies at her work place.  Ask about childcare if its needed at odd hours.  Ask about schools and how they're funded.

As a church, how well do we celebrate mothers?  Do we mention them on Mother's Day and Christmas Eve and not much in between?

We talk about God as Father.  In some churches, we don't leave room for many other metaphors.  But how about God as Mother?

I'm thinking about nurturing of all kinds, the kinds we get from our families, the kinds we get from our friends, the kinds of nurturing we might get at work and school.

How well do we nurture each other at church?

I'm fairly sure we do a good job nurturing each other through life's big crises.  Most churches still know how to help people who have lost a loved one.  We celebrate weddings and births.

But what about what happens in between?

We're never really done trying to balance all these demands of nurture, both the nurture of ourselves, our children, and all the people who cross our paths.  We're not done as a church either, but it's easier to keep ourselves aloof.

On Mother's Day, I'm thinking about some of the mothers I've known best, my own mother and my sister.  Let me post a poem that came out of some advice that my sister got early on.

But the woman in this poem is not necessarily my sister.  In some ways, the woman in this poem is Alternate Life Kristin.  In some ways, I was trying for an iconic depiction of a mother.  In some ways, she's all of us.

In some ways, the mother in this poem is God.


The pediatrician tells her to change
her bedtime practices with her baby.
All her friends agree: "Just leave
the baby in the crib. Let the baby cry."
In this way, the baby will learn self-comfort.

The evening compresses with the wails
of a baby not skilled at self-comfort.
The mother sleepwalks through the day,
but even her bleary eyes can see a failed
domestic policy. For several generations,
parents have left screaming children to self-comfort.

Now a nation careens from bottle to bodies to fudge,
looking for love.
Never before have so many members of a country gulped
anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants.
The unmedicated drink wine or scotch
or eat whole cakes for dinner.
With a shudder, the mother looks at the angry
offerings of a popular culture raised
on this belief that they need to comfort themselves.

She returns to the rocking
chair, the nightly ritual craved
by herself, her baby, and several billion citizens
of a scary world that's short on comfort.
She sings nonsense songs and smells
her mint tea seeping on the windowsill
keeping the horrors at bay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem, thank you.