Our children change our lives. We welcome them into the world, we raise them, we celebrate their successes and feel their pain when they struggle. There’s the agony and elation of sibling relationships. We “catastrophize” any bad behavior, believing they’ll become serial criminals, the leaders of car-theft gangs. Finally, after all the guilt, regrets, wounds, and learning we experience, our last one leaves us with an empty nest, with unrequited love. Motherhood indeed transforms us.

As we approach another Mother’s Day, our children and spouses will undoubtedly let us know how much they appreciate us. Or perhaps how much the Hallmark cards glorify us. The legacy from our previous generations determines just how well we do this dance of mothering. Our multigenerational heritage shapes how we parent, how we treat our children, and whether we can unconditionally love and accept them for who they are, without trying to mold them into who we might want them to be. We absorbed whatever surrounded us in our families of origin, by observing what our own parents modeled and how they raised us. If we have been blocked at any stage in realizing our dreams, we may fail to support our daughter’s capabilities. Or we could do the opposite, becoming so deeply involved in her accomplishments that our vicarious pride robs her of feeling her strides are her own.

Mothering is our most important job. Our children don’t come to us with manuals, showing us how to navigate competently, without making mistakes. We do the best we can, based on our legacy with all its flaws. We can be assured our children will always give us uncensored “job performance reviews.” While they still live with us, we have the chance to make a difference, to model the values we want them to learn. Do we communicate with connection? Will our child believe we accepted “This is who my child is. There’s nothing I need or want to change about him?” What are they learning from us? Consider what we hope they’ll value most about us when they’re grown. We hope they knew we were there when they needed us, that we patiently listened without judgment or criticism, without needing to “fix” their emotions. We hope they will feel we supported, accepted, and loved them unconditionally. Will they feel we spent enough time playing with them, that being in their company brought us joy? We certainly are not in control of what happens to our children; much of what we ruminate about will never happen. And it’s pretty likely our children will love us in spite of our imperfections.

If this particular Mother’s Day of Hallmark cards and flowers counts for anything, let it be reflecting on the legacy we want for our children. They’re paying close attention to the messages we give them.

I believe Kahlil Gibran says it best:

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows
     may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Please send me your questions.