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To Mom: Thank You For Your Extraordinary (A Mother's Day Tribute)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 9:05 AM

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to enter my mom into a Mother of the Year contest, hoping like anything I could win her a K-Mart shopping spree or afternoon at the hair salon.  What (sadly, in hindsight) usually stopped me was the thought that for sure the contest would favour the entry by the kid that wrote about how their mom trekked to Antarctica to rescue a stranded whale or summited Everest without bottled oxygen or built – and taught in – schools in remote villages with little to no educational (or other) resources.  It’s pretty hard to argue with how amazing the uncommon is, but I always believed that if I could tell my mom’s story her everyday would almost certainly equal (and, in my adoring mind, trump) any other award-winning moment-in-time achievement.  

At the heart of my mom’s extraordinary is that she woke up every morning before we were the age of reason (and, let’s be honest, probably to this day) and lived five lives: hers and the life of each of her four kids.  When we were really little people, her multiple lives meant doing four additional times everything that she had to do to sustain life in herself: ensuring four additional people ate, slept, washed, learned, stayed safe, and maintained good health.  Moving up the hierarchy of needs, she invested all of herself into making sure those same four little people were actively engaged in our kid networks and, more broadly, in our community: that we learned critical information and values that would lead to good decision-making down the road.  But, teaching us values wasn't enough: she had to model them, and model them even when she might not have been feeling them, to boot.  As we got older, she was given the mom gift of being intimately connected to all of the emotions that came with four unique young person journeys: she simultaneously felt the ache of a child left out at school while feeling the excitement of another counting down to their birthday while feeling the fear of a child in a doctor’s waiting room and a fourth child nervous about an upcoming public speaking event.  Only she felt these things differently and, at times, worse, because she felt them with all the knowledge and life experience of an adult: understanding, fearing, and anticipating all of the possibilities that came with each of our life moments.  And she had to find a place for all of these feelings in the middle of her own, non-mom life experiences.  Her extraordinary is embracing all of that chaos as her personal reality while never stepping out of mom character...staying unwaveringly focused, calm, and able to lead us with a mom’s clarity and strength.

But, perhaps even more than what my mom has done, her extraordinary is defined by what she didn't do.  For all of her independence as a grown woman, she was bound at every turn.  The world was really only her oyster as long as her four little pearls had a safe place to go until she got home from work, or she could be sure that she and my dad could manage unexpected sickness, crisis, and/or the general life ebbs and flows of her little sea creatures.  She iron-willed herself not to put up stop signs at every corner, even when she knew that if we continued down the road her load would get heavier, more expensive, and sometimes lie-awake-at-night unnerving.  She never breathed a word to us about the opportunity costs of her sacrifices.

My mom’s extraordinary is not one single award-winning event, although there are many that qualify.  She has lived a child’s cancer, car accidents, moves across the province and across the world, putting four children through university (at personal expense that I’m sure we will never understand), and being a top performer in her career.  My mom is a nurse, which means that when she wasn't selflessly caring for us, she was selflessly caring for strangers.  Her extraordinary is waking up every morning choosing to pour her cup into ours instead of filling it up.  Her extraordinary is that for most of her life she has forfeited even having the option of hopping in the car on a whim, rolling down the windows, and driving wherever the road may lead.  When you think about it, as priorities go, that’s a heck of a commitment to make.

In so many ways, my mom is the reason I am so passionate about the work of One Spark.  As an adult, I understand and appreciate womanhood and motherhood because my mom has modeled it with such conviction and elegance and she has such a beautiful commitment to it.  When I think about how challenging many days must have been for her, it gives me pause to think about the women who make those same incredible commitments while living in the shadows of violence.  My extreme awe for how my mom managed motherhood in the absence of violence makes me champion women who want all the same wonderful things for their kids, but have to overcome the added contexts of fear and abuse to get there. I desperately want women to be lifted up and supported in that journey.

So, this Mother’s Day, I want to tell my mom that I love her for her extraordinary and to say to moms everywhere that One Spark salutes the extraordinary in each of your journeys.  My wish for each of you is that in all of your day-to-day sacrifices, may you also know moments of complete joy, rest that feeds your spirit, and hearts at perfect peace.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Executive Director, One Spark