The Security You Provide

8

This year, 2020, has taught us that humans have a profound need for predictability. Take away our routines and we find ourselves a bit panicked; no one understands this truth better than mothers. One of our earliest mothering tasks is to create a pattern from our infant’s disorganized days – creating rhythms of feeding, changing, sleeping, and bath. As they grow, we continue to order their days, allowing them to fall into a deep sense of security.

Mom wakes me up each morning.

Dad prepares my bowl of cereal.

Grandma is waiting outside my school each day to pick me up.

Predictability, rhythm, safety . . .

But what happens when a worldwide pandemic shuts down your carefully-constructed routines? Ruins your rhythms? Banishes your busyness? Well, mothers do what mothers have always done: we improvise. We structure our children’s days again, even if loosely. We create security for them in almost imperceptible ways – small acts that offer the predictability they subconsciously crave.

Opening the blinds at the start of the day.

The snack drawer in the refrigerator, right at their level.

The same scent of lavender soap in the bath each night.

That goodnight kiss each evening.

Saturday morning t.v. {the soft, favorite fuzzy blanket over them as they watch}

Dad’s pancakes.

You.

Yes, you.

Just you, Mother. Your physical you.

Yes, your body that you often speak to so harshly. Your body, with its rolls, breasts, skin, and thighs. Your very body offers security to your children in uncertain times. The other lesson of 2020 is that physical presence is a gift, not something to be taken for granted.

As a small girl, the weekly routine of attending church marked for me the end of one week, the beginning of the next. I cannot recall a single sermon from when I was a little child, but I do remember my mother’s hands. I would often rest my head on my mother’s lap during what felt like an impossibly long sermon. My mother would stroke my forehead gently with her fingers then rest her hand on her knee, right in front of my gaze. As the preacher made his three points I studied my mother’s hands — skin as thin as tissue paper, purple veins so thick under the surface, like welting on the end of a couch cushion. I made a game of pressing down on the most prominent purple vein with the tips of two of my fingers. When I released the pressure of my tiny fingertips, I marveled at how quickly her vein would pop back up. This is what I recall of church as a young child: my mother’s hands, the softness of her lap, the distant song from the pulpit often soft and low, sometimes loud and frightening.

I sometimes tease my older two middle school children that after I am gone, I hope they will weep for me in the grocery aisle when a stranger walks by smelling of cedarwood or roses. Don’t worry – my children have grown accustomed to my sentimental, fanciful musings, though they occasionally call me “Cringy.” They know of my love for Anne Shirley and I’ve caught both of them in the rearview mirror more than once, smiling and rolling their eyes at my overtures. I am not sure what aspect of my physical presence will someday make them nostalgic for childhood like my mother’s hands do for me. Let’s just hope it is something a bit dreamier than my coffee breath.

Mothers, it is not the busy schedules we coordinate, nor the ornate birthday parties we slave over, nor the perfectly tidy house we never quite manage to pull off that our children will remember when they have flown the nest. No, it is the rhythm and predictability of your presence. It is your body, soft in parts, but strong as you hold them. It is your scent like cinnamon or magnolia or even the earthiness of your sweat at the end of the day. It is how you tuck them under your arm, where they fit just perfectly, as you read to them before bed. It is the way you kiss the tops of their heads or do that silly dance down the hallway. It’s the sound of your laughter drifting into their room when they are supposed to be sleeping. It’s the ridiculously simple recipe you make from canned biscuits. It’s how you hold their hand, sometimes interlocking your fingers with theirs. It’s your habit of asking them to fish out your lipstick from the bottom of your purse so you can apply it in the rearview mirror. It’s a million ways of being present. It is you. You, Mother. You are enough. Tuck them into your side and know you are enough. That in the middle of a chaotic, often mean world, your presence stabilizes them in a thousand small ways.  

So today, when I am tempted to measure my worth by how much I accomplish, how well I kept my temper in check, or the degree of tidiness in my house or car, I will try to speak kindly to myself. Dear Mothers, our presence is enough – an anchor, a comfort, a predictable body at the table, in the kitchen, on the floor with them. Surely, we know in 2020, physical presence is a miracle enough for today.

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Sarah is a native Texan. Growing up, if she wasn’t in a tree channeling her inner Anne Shirley, she was riding her bike on adventures through Texas pasture land. Sarah fell in love with her best friend Tony after they shared an on-stage kiss in their high school play, Arsenic and Old Lace. Together Sarah and Tony attended Baylor University where Sarah received her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Sarah practiced as a speech therapist for several years before moving to Birmingham for Tony’s residency in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. After a brief stint in Jacksonville, Florida, Tony and Sarah moved back to Birmingham where they now live with their four children, Sophia (age 11), Vincent (age 10), Luisa (age 6), and Grace (age 3). Sarah juggles managing her home and caring for her four children, while also pursuing her passion for writing. She is currently editing the manuscript for her first book, a memoir of her motherhood journey through Luisa’s diagnosis with Rett Syndrome, a rare neurological disease that has left her daughter with multiple disabilities. Sarah believes that life’s contradictions are merely an invitation. Her writing focuses on the intersection of faith with brokenness, and the extraordinary beauty that can be found in the ordinary days of motherhood. You can follow her on Instagram @morlandt1201 or read her writing at morlandt.blogspot.com.

8 COMMENTS

  1. What a blessing to read your words and to remember. I am happy you remember our sweet moments in church. You are a remarkable mother—your children delight in you and I am grateful to be your mom. I love you and am so proud of you! ❤️

  2. I am always moved by your words Sarah. God has blessed you with such a gift. I too think of my mother’s hands and smile. Thank you for always opening your heart and sharing with the world.

    • Your words of encouragement always lift me – thank you. Yes, our mother’s hands – it’s a powerful image is it not? Hugs to you!

  3. What beautiful words expressed so eloquently. You come from a long line of kind, caring and loving moms. We are all proud of the woman you have become. I know your Granny would be so proud of you.

    • Oh thanks Dad! I miss Granny. She was such a consistent mother presence – in the kitchen, watching her “shows”…. Love you Dad!

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