Motherly affection goes unappreciated ... for now

Motherly affection goes unappreciated ... for now

by Lisa Smith Molinari
The Meat and Potatoes of Life

When we were stationed in Virginia, I had a small book of quotes about motherhood that, along with Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., I kept on a three-legged table in the powder room, stacked neatly on top of two National Geographic magazines. The pair of books paid equal homage to the males and females using our facilities. Besides, I figured that anyone staying in our bathroom long enough to read might as well enrich themselves while they’re at it.

I’d received the motherhood book years ago as a baby shower gift from someone I’d forgotten. Perhaps I was feeling the kind of prenatal hormone surge that turns mortal women into teary-eyed cornballs, but I recall being touched by the gift, and envisioned my family pondering its inspirational quotes and appreciating their loving matriarch for years to come.

When our military family moved from Virginia to Germany, to Florida, and to Rhode Island, the movers packed up the books along with other bathroom accessories -- a wicker tissue box cover, a decorative soap dispenser, fingertip towels, a little dish for matches and the three-legged table. In every new location, I faithfully placed the little motherhood book back in its traditional spot.

Even though this routine went on for 15 years, the book's binding somehow remained crisp. Apparently, no one in my family was interested. Admittedly, the few times I tried to read the book it bored me to tears. Its heartfelt reflections about the nurturing bond between mother and child made reading the back of the antibacterial soap bottle seem far more entertaining than the perusing the book’s clichéd drivel.

Sure, I’ve experienced the indescribable joys and deep-rooted connections unique to motherhood. I’ve felt every saccharinely trite, sickeningly sentimental and shamelessly schmaltzy emotion when mothering my own three children.

When they were young, our children gladly accepted my frequent outward displays of motherly affection, often reciprocating with cuddles. On Mother’s Day, they were so excited to present me with construction paper cards and popsicle stick crafts they’d made at school, animated with crayon stick figures or strung with macaroni.

However, our children grew, and now are in their 20s. Naturally, I’ve stopped being the center of their universe. I’ve learned that my maternal displays of physical affection have become somewhat irritating, and I shouldn’t expect reciprocation, unless I want to see my adult children’s eyes roll, which I certainly do not.

My son doesn't understand why I still smooch his prickly cheeks. My middle child thinks it’s weird that I breathe in her hair when I hug her. My youngest doesn't get why I regularly stop on the stairs to sigh at the framed photo of her as a newborn wrapped in a tiny flannel blanket.

No little book of mush will make them understand what I know. I’ve learned over the years that true appreciation for motherhood is best felt, not described in words on a store-bought Mother’s Day card or in a schmaltzy book on a three-legged table in the bathroom. In other words, the best way to fully comprehend the instinctual and emotional feelings of motherhood is to experience parenthood for oneself.

Thankfully, our three children are too wrapped up in their 20-something lives to consider procreating anytime soon, which is fine by me. In the meantime, I’ll try to let it go when they act like Mother's Day is a hassle. I’ll pretend I didn't hear them say, "What do you mean we're going to early church because we have to take Mom to brunch?!" I’ll smile and thank them when they give me cards they hastily picked up from 7-Eleven. And I’ll bite my lip when my husband blurts out his brunch order before mine.

We moms can wait for our children to experience parenthood in order to be truly appreciated, because motherhood has taught us patience, selflessness and love unencumbered by conditions. When our children finally figure that out, they may not come running home to show their undying love and appreciation, but maybe, just maybe, they'll stop being the first ones to let go when we hug them.

Read more at the website, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email.

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