His butt-whuppin’ of Old Testament proportions went viral in cyberspace last week during all the trouble in Baltimore. It is every teen boy’s worst nightmare to have his mother (his MOTHER, of all people) suddenly just show up where he was specifically told he wasn’t supposed to be by his mother.
And she was not pleased. Not. one. bit. As I watched the video of the completely unhinged young mother in the bright yellow outfit march her masked, rock-chucking son across a parking lot and catch up to him several different times to smack him upside his masked head, my initial reaction was complete and utter awe. He was younger, stronger, and taller and he could have easily dropped her with one blow if he’d wanted to. Instead, he skulked ahead of her, head down, as she ran after him shaking her fists and screaming in that hell fire and damnation way that most mothers of teen boys have been driven to do from time to time.
The next day, and for several days after her “come to Jesus” fifteen minutes of Mom fame, news outlets were all over the story. She was lauded as a hero and fine example to other mothers by some in the media, and a sad commentary on what the world has come to by others.
I saw it as both simpler and more complex. She wasn’t being a good mom. She was being a terrified one. And she was trying to protect herself by protecting her son. Heck. Any mom could see that.
Because the thing nobody tells you about being a mother before you’re a mother is that once you are, you spend the rest of your life terrified that something really bad will happen to this person you love in this utterly terrifying way. The fear ebbs and flows, certainly, but it never leaves mothers completely. Kids don’t understand this until they become parents themselves and so, as they grow, they tend to get a little testy and impatient with their mothers.They take risks and tempt fate and do stupid stuff because kids never, ever think bad things will happen to them. Mothers, on the other hand, know that bad things happen all the time. They’ve seen the look in the eyes of other mothers who’ve had really bad things happen. Things like illness, injuries to bodies and souls, addictions, and funerals. These things are the monsters in the nightmares that wake mothers up, trembling and clammy, in the middle of the night.
It is an awesome, terrifying, beautiful thing, this type of love.
This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. It is my 23rd. I am only a mother because two other mothers on the other side of the big world loved their babies enough to put them first. And when the cards or phone calls from the children they carried and gave birth to come to me this week, I will be thinking of them. I often tell my kids that their mothers were young, but oh, so brave. I am grateful for their courage and mindful of the awesome, terrifying responsibility that came to me, as a result.
Happy Mother’s Day!