Last spring, my wife had to leave town suddenly. I took some time off work so I could take care of the kids full-time.
Contrary to the stereotype, I actually did quite well. For a week, I cooked, cleaned, and got the kids where they needed to be. In fact, I did a pretty darned good job and I was proud of myself.
Towards the end of the week, our three year old fell down and slightly injured himself. Immediately, he started crying and wanted his mother.
All of his physical needs were being met—but something was missing for him. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but he cried and he wanted his mommy.
I’ve thought a lot about this. What was it that made him feel the need for his mother so keenly?
I think the answer may be found in some other experiences.
One Sunday, when I was the bishop, both my counselors were out of town. During Sacrament meeting, I got a terrible itchy scratch in my throat and started coughing. I couldn’t make it stop. My eyes started watering and I kept coughing. And, because I was alone, I couldn’t leave the stand.
A sister in our ward noticed my predicament. She walked to the kitchen, got a glass of water, and brought it to me.
I’m a teacher, and a few years ago, I had a very rough year. A group of students I was particularly fond of hurt me deeply. As the year progressed, I went from being hurt to devastated.
Then, little notes started appearing on my notepad:
These notes appeared regularly, and formed a lifeline to which I clung during that time. I wondered who was leaving them. I considered whether it was my daughter. She goes to my school and knew how hurt I was. But it wasn’t her handwriting and she is a prodigious speller—she certainly knew how to spell “chorus” and “awesome”.
Later on, I found out it was her—she’d cleverly disguised her handwriting and spelling. She’d seen me hurting and tried to alleviate that pain.
Just like the sister who brought the water to me.
Which brings me back to my son. Anyone can cook and clean and do laundry. But nurturing is a highly specialized skill. It cannot be subcontracted out.
I wonder if this is the essence of mothering, part of being a woman: discerning suffering and bringing relief.
Whether your house is clean or lived-in; whether you have volumes of cute digital scrapbooks or an old shoebox with undeveloped film; whether you bake bread from whole wheat you grow yourself, or buy your kids Twinkies is far less important than the fact that you are the nurturer—someone who feeds your family’s soul and eases pain.
That is a beautiful gift. No wonder we love you so much.
Note: My wife cherishes her privacy. I could use many examples from her—but have chosen not to in order to protect her from public view.
photo credit blary 54 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/925914
Braden Bell teaches middle school music and theatre and tries to help his wife around the house. Braden's novel, The Road Show will be released in June. He blogs at: http://www.bradenbell.com/blog.html