When I was pregnant with my first child, who is now eight, so many people talked to me about how much my life would change when the child was born. At the time, I thought that was mostly related to my day-to-day life: changing diapers, figuring out feeding schedules, coordinating childcare, managing doctor appointments, buying clothes and school supplies, and driving from soccer practice to Girl Scout meetings to gymnastics. While this is definitely part of it, what I did not fully understand is how profoundly my internal life would change—the incredible amount of love and devotion that would flow out of me on a daily basis to these two little humans. It is such a gift to be their mother and to have a front row seat to their lives.
My daughters started back at school last week. It is exciting that they can be fully back in-person and we can somewhat go back to how things were before the pandemic hit. I pick up both girls at the end of the day. In the past, when I would walk into the classroom, they would run towards me with arms wide open and a giant smile on their faces. This has always been the best part of my day: seeing the love and devotion they have for me so clearly as they bound through the classroom or playground once they catch sight of me.
As they get older, this changes. Last week, neither of them ran towards me; there was no smile or open arms. I was disrupting prime play time or the art project that would not be completed because it was time to go. Even though it was a small act, and I know of their love and devotion to me, it was such a punch to the gut for me. I know there will be more and more moments like this as they get older. No one can fully prepare you for when that happens. It just happens.
Today, as we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cannot help but think about both St. Anne and Mary as mothers. I think about the love and devotion they poured out to their new babies: keeping them safe and happy. I also think about those moments of punches to the gut that each of them felt when their children were small: how the love and devotion that poured out of them was slowly sucked dry as their children grew up and were not as reliant on them for all of the basic needs of life.
For me, it is in these small but challenging moments that I need the support of the Blessed Mother, the supreme example of motherhood. Her grace and strength provide such an excellent example for mothers as we go through the day-to-day of life—the ups and downs, the challenges and the joys, the moments of light, and the punches to the gut.
I love the line in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus’ birth when he writes: “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). It is almost as if she took a mental picture of everything that was happening, so she could remember back to that particular moment when she needed to. I try to do this in those moments of joy we experience as a family, so I can remember them when the girls are challenging me directly or indirectly, as was the case last week. We need to have moments of challenge to make us appreciate the moments of light and joy.