This weekend, which includes Mother’s Day in my country, our son is graduating from college. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the day.
As I’ve considered the great joy of being a mother, I’ve thought about the role models that have inspired me on my parenting journey. I naturally remember my own mother, as well as both men and women who have been shining examples of parenthood to me and to my children. There are also certain qualities I immediately associate with mothering, such as unconditional love, nurturing, listening, playfulness, spontaneity, patience, tender affection, unselfish care, and inclusiveness.
I’ve always loved the Bible, and when I think of qualities such as love and compassion, the individual that immediately comes to mind is Christ Jesus. While Jesus wasn’t a parent himself, he demonstrated parenting qualities – and so often mothering ones – to the people he taught and healed. For instance, he fed a group of thousands that had listened to him for three days, explaining that he didn’t want to send them away hungry or they might “faint in the way” (see Matthew 15:32-38). And the Bible often highlights how he felt compassion for others and was moved to heal and teach them, showing his Father, God, as the spiritual Parent that cares for us all. He did the will of God by listening for and following His direction.
The best mothering I’ve done has been through following Jesus’ example and cultivating a habit of listening for guidance from God, affirming His limitless love not just as our Father but as our Mother. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy, explains, “Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (p. 332).
That tender relationship is something I’ve strived to put into practice in my own parenting, affirming that as the children of God, divine Love, we each have an innate ability to express qualities such as wisdom and tenderness. As a mother of three, I found out quickly that being a mother required me to walk the talk, because children will notice whether the advice you give is something you abide by yourself. I also discovered that this isn’t always a cakewalk.
I recall a time when I said something to discipline our children that I immediately regretted. I reached out to my divine Mother, God, for guidance. How could I better nurture Godlike qualities such as kindness in myself and in our family? What came to me as an answer to my prayer was that I needed to show my kids that when we make mistakes, there’s always room to correct them and demonstrate our sincerity in striving to do better the next time. I wanted our family interactions to represent love, rather than dwelling on our weaknesses.
That’s when the idea came to me to initiate a “rewind and delete” rule. From then on, if anyone blurted out something unkind, he or she could pause and replace the words with kindness and respect. I shared this with our children, and they were all for it! This simple change impelled a rethink of the kinds of qualities that are natural for us to express as God’s children, and resulted in a marked improvement in our communication as a family.
Our children have moved beyond those days and are at the point where all those early lessons are now natural parts of their young adult lives, which is very gratifying to observe as a mother. Still, as any mother will tell you, the parenting never ends no matter how near or far we are from our children. And gratefully, our Father-Mother, God, is always available to guide us all on our journeys.