Mothering Matters by Robynn
We have this precious picture that sits on Lowell’s dresser upstairs in our bedroom. It’s one of the rare professional pictures we had taken of our children when they were younger. I love it for how it captures their personalities. Each of them: Connor, Adelaide and Bronwynn are present and the photographer caught their essence. I also love it because it brings back memories of one of the best days I ever had in India.
For whatever reason the children had the day off school. I remember agonizing over how we would spend that day. There were obligations that I could have attended to. There were certainly things that needed doing. But there was also list of things that I had been wanting to do with the kids. Things we had talked about for a long time but never done. We decided that would be day!
Adelaide needed new shoes for school. We stopped at the Bata shoe store and found a pair of black Mary Jane shoes with shiny buckles. We met my friend Ellen and her two girls for lunch at one of our favourite restaurants. I can’t remember what we ate but I can imagine it—all spicy and gravy yumminess with fresh roti to scoop it up. I’m sure the kids had sweet lassis. I’m sure I had chai. After lunch we popped into an “Archies” store-–India’s Hallmark equivalent and then into a neighbouring bookstore. We browsed the toys and books. Perhaps Connor got a new Tintin book to add to his collection. I can’t remember.
We hopped on to a cycle rickshaw and continued into our beautiful day. Just as we were passing a large cinema, the kids squealed let’s go see Lage Raho Munna Bhai and I said, shockingly, sure! The kids ran ahead, as I paid the cycle wallah. I met them at the ticket counter. We hurried into the darkening theater and found seats. It was a great movie—full of silly slapstick, occasional dance scenes, blinged up saris and lehengas. There was colour and music, laughter and tears. At intermission the men came around with crates of pop on their shoulders. We indulged and had pop and maybe some numkeen.
From the cinema we made our way, again by cycle rickshaw, to the photographers studio. This had been my one thing I really wanted to have done. We arrived a little hurriedly, afraid we were running out of time. The kids, all three, were glistening with sweat dulled only by a little grime and left over movie giggles. I spit-shone an orange Fanta mustache off Connor. I tried to smooth Bronzi’s sweaty bangs to the side. Adelaide attempted to rub some dirt off her capris pants. The three of them bounced on to the bench. The photographer giving them instructions in Hindi, they scooted closer to each other, tilted their heads according to his demands, sat up straight as he indicated. And then it was over. I admit, I was hoping for a little more session and a little more photo from our photo-session. But the photographer just tilted his head to the side and nodded that he had what he needed. We could come back in a week to collect his masterpiece!
Next to the photographer’s studio was a small corner store. I ran in and got cold mango “Frootie” juice boxes to keep the kids hydrated. Humidity and heat were part of the day’s adventure.
The sun was beginning to dip low on the horizon but there was still one more promise to be fulfilled. We took an auto rickshaw halfway across town so that the girls could get their ears pierced. The beauty salon was clean and cool. They were pleased with their pale faced clients. Bronwynn opted to go first. She sat, brave and four, tiny and focused in the big chair. Holding my hands tightly in her little fists she didn’t breath. Her little nose squinched up into her forehead as the pain registered. Adelaide, watching it all, decided she didn’t quite want her ears pierced anymore. She would wait. We stopped for ice cream and a few groceries on the way home.
As we tumbled into the courtyard, spilling our stories all over daddy who sat waiting for us under the mango tree, there was so much joy. We had had a good day. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had been a mom that day. I hadn’t tried to juggle ministry responsibilities or team expectations. I had shaken off all guilt and had immersed myself in the day with my children. It felt like a dream day.
Even now the kids all remember bits and pieces of that wonder-day. Adelaide, then 7, remembers ice cream and how Bronzi didn’t wear the matching outfit to hers (I think Bronwynn probably had it dirty before we left the house)!Bronzi was only four but she remembers the juice boxes and the ride to the beauty salon. She remembers the auto rickshaw and seems to think the auto walla drove past the salon and had to turn around. Nine year old Connor remembers how much fun we had that day. He remembers the movie: it was a comedy, set in Bombay, with music. He remembers going to the studio for pictures. His face lit up as I asked him about it.
During those years in North India I battled seemingly conflicted roles. I never felt I had the freedom to just be a mom. To be fair, it was my own agonies that made this an issue for me. No one else was demanding anything else of me. I was determined to mesh my mothering with my other passions and responsibilities. In the end I fear I downplayed my maternity. My children got the brunt of this “philosophy”; they were the ones that suffered. They endured my leftover bits of energy at the end of full days with other people. When my best was given to those who came to my gate, or those who called on the phone, it was my little people, my tiny loves, that saw the grumpy side, the impatience, the inconsistent temperament. I regret that so keenly now. I wish I had known so many things back then, most importantly, I wish I had known how very much mothering matters. Those other things–teammates and ministries, work responsibilities—those matter too. But I really wish I had known how much mothering matters.
And so this picture reminds me of an immensely happy mom-day. I’m pleased the kids remember the day too. That matters to me somehow. We’ve had other good days too. We’ve laughed lots. We’ve had other ice creams and countless juice boxes. We’ve shared lunches with other friends and we’ve been to other cinemas to watch other films. But I’m grateful for the sticky sweet memory of this mothering day in September some time back in 2006.