Because I am a mother and a pastor, my children used to call me, “Mother Superior”. As a matter of fact, that is how my youngest son would address my birthday and Mother’s Day cards. Who was I to correct him? By the way, did you know that my middle name is Pope. That is a fact.
For a Mom, so often torn between parenting and pastoring, that name “Mother Superior” was my favorite gift. It was a dozen orange roses. It was breakfast in bed and a foot massage. It was a home cooked meal prepared, served and cleaned up by somebody else.
In fact, Chris’ construction-paper cards addressed that way were his wink with a kiss. I felt like it was his way of saying, “You’re no Mother Theresa, but your love for me is superior”. I didn’t need anything else. Then he grew up.
When Chris turned seventeen, things changed. He began to separate from me. He barely spoke. He forgot to share his calendar. No longer did he have time for a shared meal. I get it. Self-differentiation is the work of adolescence. Yet to say it wasn’t a struggle for me would be like saying that the Rock of Gibraltar is just another pebble. Am I the only mother who went through this?
At some point, this Mother Superior passed away. I don’t remember the exact date. All I know was that I wasn’t even invited to the Memorial Service.
Before that, Chris and I would go out many Sunday nights. It was just the two of us. He would finish his homework, as he ate. I would simply eat and offer my assistance if required. I would take deep breaths after a long week. Basically, we would re-connect after too many over-scheduled days.
However, during his senior year of high school, he did his thing; I did mine. We barely spoke. I don’t remember heated arguments. I just remember silence, blank stares and the question quota.
That’s right. He thought I asked too many questions. Can you imagine a mother doing that? Well, he thought I did. So, he imposed the question quota. I was only to ask so many questions before he shut down.
In my defense, I was still interested in his comings and goings. I wanted to know with whom he rode. I wanted to know what he was thinking.
I didn’t ask questions out of suspicion, most of the time. I was genuinely interested. Looking back, I realize I was still craving the long talks. I craved his need for my help. I missed the invitation to scratch his back. Yet, he was growing up and growing away.
Chris is now 21. He is a stellar son. He is in college, figuring out his core values and passions. Though I wish he called more, he participates in required family gatherings. For instance, this past Easter Sunday, he came to church for worship and the annual family photo. He didn’t growl or grumble. He was on time!
Yet, under his breath during Easter lunch, he muttered something about going to Europe in a few weeks. “whhaat”? I wanted to shout? Instead, I chose to be thrilled. I refrained from asking ANY questions. I simply said with great joy, “tell me more”!
I said, “Wow! Clearly, you’ve been resourceful. It sounds like you’re pursuing one of your dreams”. I expressed pride in his initiative. Then, he showed me pictures and shared more details.
Yesterday, while I was at church, Chris called me from Barcelona, Spain. With great animation in his voice, he shared some of the highlights from his travels. He called ME. He didn’t ask for money. He simply wanted to share some of his comings and goings.
Maybe this Mother Superior had to die for a new relationship to rise. I hate to admit that. It was a slow death. The good news, however, is that the pressure has been lifted. These days I’m satisfied to be Mom.