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Niedner: A mom’s heart not her own

Frederick Niedner

Frederick Niedner

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Updated: June 12, 2014 6:38AM



This weekend, we wish happiness on all our mothers, those who birthed us into the world as well as the ones who made us dads or grandparents.

The accompanying blizzard of advertising for Mother’s Day tells us how to guarantee Mom’s happiness.

At the very least, we must send cards, flowers and chocolate. But a new flat-screen television, an iSomething or a Caribbean cruise would make her happy beyond measure.

The truth that every mother knows about happiness, however, finds expression in the wise old maxim that a mother is only as happy as her most miserable child. Once you give birth, your heart does not remain your own.

It wanders the world a vulnerable and fragile thing, susceptible to every danger, wound or blow the world might or does inflict upon your child. All the flowers and gadgets in the world can’t change that even for a moment.

When we honor those who have mothered us, our tokens of thanks must somehow convey gratitude for all the quiet worry and silent prayers that have accompanied our every venture into worlds brand new and shiny to us but filled with shadows and hidden pits our moms know all too well.

Despite their fears, our moms in their wisdom keep sending us out there into the crazy buzzing world. My goodness, how they rejoice when we dodge bullets, slay dragons and become people who flip the world over and become known as “that kid’s mom.”

Another kind of mother does a ceremonial but very real sort of birthing in this season, and plenty of men participate in the gestation, labor pains and ultimate relief and pride when the day comes for leaving the womb.

I speak of graduation season, at least as we have traditionally made meaning of it by singing songs and pledging loyalty to “alma mater,” which is Latin for “kind or nourishing mother.”

As one who will watch two of my children dress up in caps and gowns this weekend and march across a stage and into the “real world,” I fear for those we push out today amid all the clapping and congratulations.

I also give thanks for them and for the remarkable range of ideas and talents they will bring to the struggles with the very things that make me afraid.

My fears mostly have to do with the condition of the world we bequeath to them as their inheritance. A volatile, quirky job market will leave many bright and gifted people working for less than they deserve — and perhaps only part time while engaging in lengthy, discouraging searches for work that makes use of the skills and abilities we helped them cultivate.

I worry, too, that we have so fouled the Earth with environmental carelessness that they may ultimately drown in our mess. I try not to think what they might say some day about our heads, which we have buried in sand. I only hope those aren’t their last words.

On the other hand, I know that every mother and alma mater has worried like this, and we all know quotes of this sort that go back to the days of Plato and Aristotle.

Somehow, children make it. They must. And they have hope. So they do what they have to do and learn things we could never have taught them.

Later, they will do that not for themselves but for their children. That’s how the world works, and we must not forget.

Happy Mother’s Day? Hopefully.

Thankful Mother’s Day? For sure.



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