Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Family is where the heart is

My grandson Xavier staring at a pinata with deadly focus and intent. My joy, my love, my heart!

I had a wonderful Mother's Day. No, I didn't get a bunch of flowers (my kids know better), some chocolate (they REALLY know better) or a special brunch at my favorite restaurant. Not that I wouldn't have minded having brunch with my family, but unfortunately, I can't go anywhere near a restaurant these days, especially during a Mother's Day celebration. I would eat into oblivion. Even now as I'm typing this, I'm having flashes of M-Day brunches past, and I have to banish all food porn thoughts. (Is there any Remover of Difficulties save God? Say: Praise be God; He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His Bidding!)

So what did I do on Mother's Day? I talked to my three now-adult-children by phone, read a little, watched some movies, slept a bit...in other words, I had a great time relaxing! You may scoff, but trust me--there was a time in my life when I would have given ANYTHING to have one day to myself to just relax! Being a mom does not coordinate very well with the word "relax". In fact, the word should be used to refer women who haven't had any children, or grandmothers like me who have the delight of watching your offspring go through the rigors of child-rearing.

But the whole point of Mother's Day is to let your mother know how much you appreciate her, right? Well, that's my now-adult-children did. They called me without prompting, with no guilt or begrudging sense of "family duty." I am grateful for that, not because I did such a fantastic job raising them. I would love to make that claim, but the truth is, if I hadn't been in 12 step recovery for so many years, my kids would have been doing what I did for years--the old "let's get the flowers and brunch thing over with so I won't feel guilty" trip. Yes, that's what it was like for me. I did Mother's Day with my mom because I didn't want her to feel hurt or that I was slighting her. I wish I could honestly say that I did it because my mother and I had a very close and loving relationship, and spending Mother's Day with her was one way I could demonstrate my love and appreciate her. Don't get me wrong. I did love my Mother, God bless her and may she be comforted in the afterlife by resting in eternally Loving Hand of God. But our relationship was one of constant tension and enmeshment. It never felt comfortable, not even on Mother's Day. Perhaps ESPECIALLY on Mother's Day.

Looking back, there was much I could have done to alleviate the tension between us. But I was too wrapped up in it, and I couldn't see my way out of the buried anger and resentment. In fact, I must say that the anger and resentment was mostly pettiness and immaturity on MY part. I began to see that as her condition began to progress toward terminal. By that time, I had entered recovery from food addiction, and my part in the drama was uncomfortably apparent to me. Being abstinent from flour, sugar and excess portions does that. It isn't all about being able to fit into smaller sizes, believe me.

I've learned a lot from the years I did recovery work in Adult Children of Alcoholics, Overeaters Anonymous and Al-Anon, and much of it had nothing to do with keeping the flour, sugar and excess portions out of my mouth. But I did get enough emotional recovery to decide to raise my own children very differently from my own upbringing. My mother did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time. I had more information available to me, so I created a very different type of relationship with my kids. I've let them to BE the wonderful human beings that God created them to be. They needed a mother to teach the rules of the game of life, then step aside and let them experience life on their own. That's what I was determined to do. No more enmeshment or mommy-monster controlling every thought and action in the family. My view was that my children were a gift from God, and I did not OWN them. My job was to guide them into the tricky task of being responsible adults. If anything, I'm awed and humbled by the fact that I was given the opportunity to be their mother. By letting them go and grow, they've become magnificently talented and loving people. I can't take credit for that. I wouldn't have done that if I hadn't sought God's guidance and recovery during my child-rearing years.

So yes, I had a nice, quiet Mother's Day without flowers and food that I shouldn't be eating anyway. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Just being mother to my kids and grandmother to my precious grandson is the best gift I could ever have.

In some respects woman is superior to man. She is more tender-hearted, more receptive, her intuition is more intense.

It is not to be denied that in various directions woman at present is more backward than man, also that this temporary inferiority is due to the lack of educational opportunity. In the necessity of life, woman is more  162  instinct with power than man, for to her he owes his very existence.

If the mother is educated then her children will be well taught. When the mother is wise, then will the children be led into the path of wisdom. If the mother be religious she will show her children how they should love God. If the mother is moral she guides her little ones into the ways of uprightness.

It is clear therefore that the future generation depends on the mothers of today. Is not this a vital responsibility for the woman? Does she not require every possible advantage to equip her for such a task?

Therefore, surely, God is not pleased that so important an instrument as woman should suffer from want of training in order to attain the perfections desirable and necessary for her great life's work! Divine Justice demands that the rights of both sexes should be equally respected since neither is superior to the other in the eyes of Heaven. Dignity before God depends, not on sex, but on purity and luminosity of heart. Human virtues belong equally to all!

Woman must endeavour then to attain greater perfection, to be man's equal in every respect, to make progress in all in which she has been backward, so that man will be compelled to acknowledge her equality of capacity and attainment.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 161)

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