We are out of town this weekend celebrating our son, Aaron’s graduation from Law School. We will be blessed by the presence of all of our children, their spouses, and our grandchild. We are truly , as Lou Gehrig once said, among “the luckiest people on the face of the earth” and are truly grateful.
As we celebrate the fifth commandment this Sunday, which teaches us to “honor our father and mother,” I came across a posting by Rabbi Jack Riemer that I found very touching and hope you are as inspired by this as I was. I know that some of you reading this are not moms and this may be tough to read, but hope that you will appreciate this for what it is. It is long, but worthwhile….I hope you will send this to your moms and if they are no longer alive, I hope you have positive memories that will be stirred by some of his comments. (which apparently are based upon something that came across his desk).
This is for those mothers who wipe up barf that is laced with wieners and Kool-aid, and who say as they do: “It’s okay, darling, Mommy’s here.”
And this is for those mothers, some of them lawyers and doctors and engineers, who sometimes show up for work with spit-up on their dresses and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purses or in their briefcases.
This is for those mothers who are chauffeurs and cookie bakers and who sew Halloween costumes, and at the same time are executives and office managers and nurses and doctors too.
This is for those mothers who give birth to babies they give up and will never see. And this is for those mothers who take these babies in and give them homes.
This is for those mothers who have priceless works of art, done with crayons, on exhibition on their refrigerator doors.
And this is for those mothers who freeze their buns on metal bleachers at football or soccer games instead of staying home, so that when their kids ask: “Did you see me, Mom?” they can say: “Of course! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” and mean it.
This is for those mothers who swat their kids when they stomp their feet and scream for more ice cream and more candy before dinner. And this is for those mothers who don’t, and who count to ten instead, but who understand how child abuse can start.
This is for all those mothers who sit down with their children and explain to them all about how babies are made. And this is for those mothers who want to, but just can’t find the words. And this is for those mothers who, when they do, find out that the kids already know.
This is for all those mothers who pretend that they like the end of the loaf of bread because their kids don’t, and for those mothers who go hungry so that their children can eat. And for all those mothers who read “Goodnight, Moon” twice, and then read it again “just one more time” if their kids insist.
This is for those mothers who teach their children how to tie their shoes before they start kindergarten. And this is for those mothers who opt for Velcro instead.
This is for all those mothers who teach their sons how to cook and teach their daughters how to sink a jump shot, so that they will both have a well rounded education.
This is for those mothers whose heads turn automatically whenever a little voice calls “Mom?” in a crowd, even though they know that their own child is at home-or maybe even away at college.
This is for those mothers who sent their kids to school with stomach aches, assuring them that they would be just fine when they got there, only to get a call from the school nurse an hour later, asking them to pick them up right away. And this is for those mothers who keep their kids home from school with stomach aches, only to have them mysteriously cured as soon as their favorite television program comes on. They both make a guess as to what to do-and if they guess wrong? Nu.
This is for those mothers, whose children have gone astray, who have either been locked up behind walls, or who have locked themselves up behind walls of silence, those mothers who cannot find the words with which to get through to them, but who never given up on them, and who won’t, no matter what.
This is for all the second wives and all the step-mothers who have done their best to raise someone else’s child and who are nevertheless made to feel like ‘the wicked witch of the west’, no matter what they do.
This is for all the mothers who grit their teeth and try to say nothing for as long as they can when their fourteen year old son says he is torn between dying his hair green and getting an earring or getting a tattoo, and you know that they are only trying to bait you into killing yourself.
This is for all the mothers of the victims of shootings, ‘nebech’, and this is for the mothers of those who did the shootings too, ‘nebech’.
This is for the mothers of the survivors of those shootings and for all the mothers who sit in front of their tvs in horror, watching what happened, and hugging their children who just came home from school safely.
And this is for the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful and gentle and who now wait and pray and hope that they will come home safe from the war.
What does it take to be a good mother?
The doctors say that it takes broad hips. That helps, but only in getting started at the task. After that, you need broad shoulders and a good heart more. And patience. And more patience. And still more patience. The ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button-all at the same time. Nowadays they call that ‘multitasking’. We used to call it ‘being a mother’.
What does it take to be a good mother? The ability to watch your child walk into school alone for the first time, and resist the almost irresistible temptation to go along. And the ability to watch your child go into his college dormitory alone and resist the same temptation.
The inner alarm clock that goes off at any hour of the night when you hear a cry from a crib. And the inner alarm clock that goes off at any hour of the night when you hear your teenager close the door and tiptoe into the house after his first date.
So kol hakavod and yasher kocheych and cheers to the young mothers who are here today, who are stumbling through sleep deprivation and diaper changes. And kol hakavod and yasher kocheych and cheers to the older mothers who are here today, who are learning how to let go, which is much, much harder than learning how to change a diaper.
Here is to working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, to married mothers and to single mothers, to mothers with money and mothers without money. On Mother’s Day we say to all of you: hang in there-even though the end is never in sight, not even when they marry, not even when they become mothers. It never ends, but it does get easier sometimes.
Here is to all the mothers who are here today. Know that you can only do the best you can-and then pray. And know that if you are lucky, then you can say that you are smart. And know that your children love you. They really do, even if they only remember to tell you once a year on Mother’s Day.
Happy Mother’s Day and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce D. Aft