Her after school reports of kindergarten’s first weeks dripped with Ms. Foster’s gems. And the woman is a treasure, but geesh, those pieces of advice about how to treat others and how to write letters and how to wash your hands that Sici was sharing with me — these were things I’d taught my oldest girl for years.
“Ms. Foster’s right. That’s what mama’s said too,” I told her in my let’s-remember-who-gave-birth-to-you-and-passed-on-everything-you-know moments.
“Yeah, Ms. Foster’s a really smart lady,” I said at other less prickly times, swallowing my pride.
Then one day a few months into the year, Sici came home with a hand-drawn picture: “The Family Portrait.” Perched on top of a grassy hill were Papa with his long stilt legs, younger sister J with circle curls atop her head and Sici herself drawn the biggest.
But someone was missing.
Where the heck was I?
One, two, three…and no number four? The now pregnant mother who endured painful labors and excruciating terrible threes and poured out love and breakfast and kisses when life turned hard, yeah — where was that lady?
“Where’s Mama in your picture, honey?” I asked, trying to steady my voice.
“Oh, I forgot to draw you,” she said casually.
“Don’t you think it’s important to include Mama? I’m part of the family, too.”
“I forgot. This is a picture of when you were gone anyway. I can add you,” Sici said, taking a colored pencil to her drawing and making a tiny stick person hovering over hers and Papa’s shoulders.
I looked microscopic in comparison to the others and like I could float off into the ether without a stick figure on earth noticing.
Moments after Sici drew the floating mother afterthought, I could no longer hold it in. I didn’t want to be the proverbial martyr, but I felt so hurt, and I could not hold back tears. I ran upstairs and buried my head in bed covers and cried loud and hard.
Later, Sici apologized for leaving me out, and I, of course (with guilt of my own for making her feel badly) forgave her.
This mothering work is a privilege, holy work, and I don’t do the day in, day out tending, laundering and teaching expecting recognition, but still, sometimes it’s so danged thankless. And what does it mean about a mother if her own daughter forgets to draw her?
No, I don’t need accolades for this mothering work, but once in a while I could use some affirmation.
Accolades are junk food for my people pleasing hunger pangs, my need to have this ego stroked, to fill myself up with others’ good thoughts of me and my performance. They aren’t the sort of filling that lasts.
Affirmation, on the other hand, is the sometimes strong, sometimes gentle voice of encouragement — reminders of who I am and the good I bring to this world, reminders that I am seen.
That day and for many afterward I’ll let you know, I needed help remembering that, regardless of whether I was seen in the mind’s eye of my daughter as she drew the family, as a mother (and human being), I am important. I am valuable. I am loved.
After the hit to my mother pride, I shared with my husband, mom and sister and close friends that my omission from the picture represented my bigger struggle (yeah, you probably already figured that out) — to know my worth.
Yes, I was struggling to remember the truth.
Maybe you need help remembering it, too. Today, whether you are a stay at home mother, a full time working outside the home mother, or some combination in between, what you are doing in the lives of your children matters for it becomes the very matter of who they are.
You do the lasting work of raising kind, responsible, generous, strong, wise human beings. You who wipe a thousand tears from round cheeks and kiss a thousand growing foreheads and give the same reminders a thousand times…you need to know all those thousands count for something.
And when you are occasionally forgotten, it’s good to be reminded.
When have you felt left out of the picture? How do you remind yourself of your value –and your value as mother — when you lose sight of it?
Do you know about MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)? MOPS exists to encourage moms and remind us that this beautiful, difficult, often unseen and undervalued work called mothering matters. Today, I’m honored to be featured on MOPS 30-Day Blog Blitz, in which they visit some favorite writer moms from around the blogosphere. And here’s the fun part: I get to choose one reader as the recipient of a free annual MOPS membership ($23.95 value). Simply leave a comment including the words “MOPS membership” to be a part of the drawing, and I will announce the winner next week.
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