A Mother's Love
By Brad McEwen
While there is quite literally nothing as fulfilling as being a father, it’s a job that—despite the incredible joy it brings—is also the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.
In fact, if I think too long about the immense responsibility that comes with helping to shape the course of another human’s life, it kind of freaks me out. It’s just a little bit overwhelming to really consider how my actions, or non-actions, reverberate in my children’s lives.
But aside from those deeper, more existential-type thoughts about parenthood, there’s all the other day-to-day caretaker stuff to consider as well. No longer can I just jump up when my alarm starts blaring, get ready and head off to work. Now I’ve got to make sure that I build in enough time to help get the children out of bed and mobilized for their days.
Heck, that alarm I’m setting every night, isn’t even set on my schedule—that buzzer goes off every morning at a time that’s optimum for making sure my lovely wife doesn’t have to shoulder the entire burden of getting two kids cleaned, clothed, fed and delivered to the schoolhouse (although I freely admit she’s handles the lion’s share) by herself.
In fact, it’s that sentiment—that no matter how willing I am to help, my efforts pale in comparison to Tay’s Herculean feats of motherhood—that’s at the heart of this missive.
Sure I’ve taken on nightly laundry duty, and I’m the dude that takes out the trash and reminds Bear and Milla that their mom asked them to finish their chores and brush their teeth half an hour ago, but when it comes to the stuff that really matters—I’ll always just be sort of a helper.
For every tough job that I get to handle in relation to my children (yes there are a few), there’s at least four or five other instances (likely more) when I get to assume the role my dad played to a tee—that of the laid back pops that does the fun stuff like toss the ball around in the yard, or let them ride to the park in the back of the truck, or turn up the music real loud—music that in some cases mom wouldn’t be thrilled we’re listening to.
There’s no doubt that in my house the notion that dad gets to have it a little easier and gets to do more of the fun stuff is alive and well.
Growing up I was unquestionably close to my dad. Right up until my 27th year when I finally lost him to cancer, we were incredibly tight. He was easy to talk to, he’d do anything for me and he was frankly a lot of fun to be around. Always quick with a joke and smile, or some sage life advice, Dave McEwen was one of kind.
Looking back there is no doubt that my father was a good man. He provided for our family, he modeled good behavior and I’m keenly aware that he loved me and would go to great lengths to see that I was happy and healthy. But as a kid what I liked best about my dad was that he was cool. He would hang out with me and talk to me about the things he liked and more importantly genuinely wanted to know what kinds of things I was into.
And he often let me get away with stuff that mom just wouldn’t.
Even though the sadness of losing him was still kind of fresh, as soon as I became a dad I couldn’t wait to be just like Dave.
But as the reality of parenthood set in, and I started to understand there was much more to it than having fun and being buddies with my kids—and as I watched my young wife transform into the rock of our family unit—something really profound occurred to me.
For all the great times I had with my dad, and for all I could see that he did for me, far too often I was blind to the hard work my mom put it in. Don’t get me wrong, my father was a great provider and he always encouraged me and let me know he loved me, but as I look back on it, it was Mari who worked hard in the background and made colossal self-sacrifices to ensure that at all cost I would grow into a productive member of society. It was my mom whose heart was always inextricably connected to mine and who hurt as much or even more every time life dealt me a heavy blow.
While dad always made time to take me on a fun adventure or to the golf course, it was mom who made sure our tummies were filled before we left and after we returned.
For all the great life advice my dad ever gave me—nuggets like “just do what your mom tells you,” or “sometimes it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”—it was mom who was always the voice of reason, making sure I was doing all the things expected of me and that I understood the consequences of my decisions.
For all the cool stuff dad taught me—like how to get up and down out of a deep bunker, or how to grill the perfect steak—it was mom who taught me how to be independent—how to iron a shirt so I’d look presentable, the importance of keeping your home clean and how to get it done right.
Sure I balked every time she made me dust the furniture, polish the silver, sweep the kitchen, vacuum the den, make the bed and so on, but in making sure I did those little things, she taught me about pride in ownership and how to care for what you have and that there’s no substitute for hard work.
But more than anything, what my mom gave me was her special kind of mom love—love I couldn’t really understand the depth and breadth of until Tay and I became parents.
And because I was blind to just how much that woman loved me, I wasn’t always nice. In fact, there was an embarrassing stretch from late middle school, through late high school, where we argued and butted heads more than I’d like to admit. And I was the one doing the hardest butting.
She was the stern one in my house. Dad was the pushover. Mom was the one who inspected the homework and dad was the one who would slip me a $5 when I really hadn’t done anything to deserve it.
So naturally, there was a long period of struggle in my house between Brad and Mari. Gone were my toddler days when I was almost always attached to her at the hip as we’d run errands, go the beach or visit friends and family.
Instead our relationship saw both of us at odds. She was the person who was constantly urging me to come in from the yard to get cleaned up for dinner, the one who was always on me about keeping my room cleaned or getting my homework done, or turning the stereo down. And I was the typical angsty teen who only saw the nagging and the style-cramping.
Back then I couldn’t understand that the furrowed brow and stern look was not one of vengeful control, but one of genuine concern that I’m convinced is the sole domain of mothers.
In short, I couldn’t see the unfathomable love behind all that worry.
But now, as I see the way Tay hurts when Bear doesn’t make the team or when Milla struggles on a test she studied really hard for, how she hurts more, I think, than they do, I have a better understanding of my mom.
When I overhear Tay’s nightly prayers, not asking God to bless her, but to simply give her the strength to care for her children, I have a better understanding of a mother’s special love. By witnessing the awesome way my wife cares for and protects her children, I see my mom connection to me more clearly.
Now that I have two children of my own and I too am left tossing and turning some nights thinking about what kind of future I’ll be able to provide them, I can’t help be feel a weird mix of appreciation and shame.
Appreciation that, unlike far too many people I know, I have a mother who loves me so unconditionally she would literally lay down her life for me and shame that I took that love for granted for so many years.
There’s no number of Mother Day cards or gifts that I could ever give my mom to repay her for all the things she’s given me. It’s folly to think that I can square things up with her. There will always be a debt.
But I think what I can do, what she would want the most, is for me to dip a little bit out of that incredible pool of love moms have for their children, and spread what little bit dads are capable of spreading, to my wife, my children and the world around me.
A mother’s burden is an immense one, one that I will simply never fully understand. But if life has taught me anything, it’s that the most powerful force in this world is love. And it’s love that is the true gift of motherhood.
So this Mother’s Day my hope is that my children and I can honor that gift by showing the mothers in our lives how much we love them.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - firstname.lastname@example.org - @BradGMcEwen