“I don’t need you, MOM! I don’t need you!”
I hear this screamed by a large, fit, and well-dressed man. He is a study in contradiction. He has a large pack which suggests to me that he could be homeless. He is huge, more than six feet tall. He appears mentally ill. He is screaming at his mom.
It seems he might be on the phone but I can't quite tell, as a tree partially obscures my view. The sun is out and pale Oregonians are flooding outside. I’m eating Street Noodles in front of a food truck and feeling vaguely uncomfortable.
The man begins to holler about shooting someone.
There is no mother nor victim to shoot that I can see.
The cops show up, and as soon as he sees them, he begins to pack up and move along., still yelling. The cops follow, at great distance.
“I don’t need you, Mom.”
His furious, belligerent voice lingers. He was defiant. But not truthful. I listen to the cadence and rhythm of voices, searching for the shreds of truth or lies. I have done so since I was a little girl.
I listen for what is behind the words.
I heard that he needed a mother more than he needed anything else.
It was devastating. Like watching a car hit a bicycle. A large need crushing a vulnerable man. I wanted to walk over to him, put my hand on his arm and say “I hear you.” I was too scared. But I wish I had been brave enough.
I have that same sort of dissonance in my relationship with mothers.
I surely don’t want to need one.
But if you put your ear to my heart, you would hear me cry like a little girl, “I need a mama.”
Yet, I am a 44 year-old mama.
And I still need a mother. Maybe more than ever. Because in raising children, in being a mother, what I have realized is that I have missed out on much of what I needed. And in missing out, I am not equipped to give what my kids need. It’s a deep pain. I’m always on a journey to get what I didn’t have so I can give what my kids need.
It’s like climbing a mountain peak roped to people below you, but you never reach the top.
This past spring, I participated in a program our high school hosts to foster acceptance in the students. There was a young man there. He was attention-seeking. Highly distracted. And vulnerable in a darling way. Through the whole program, my heart was drawn to him. He was brave and shared honest, difficult issues. I had this desire to walk up to him, put my hands on either side of his face, and say, “If I was your mom, I would be so very proud of you.”
I didn’t do it. It seemed like I might scare him. But I heard him. He needed a mother.
We need mother and fathers to be a vision of change and growth as age rolls forward. We need anchors to the earth when life feels too hard. We need voices that speak to us, "All will be well."
Many of us stride through this world in deep need of parental love. I don’t know how to address this problem. Except maybe get a little braver and offer attunement and kindness to large men and sophomore boys? In my uncertainty, I’m asking the question. I am listening to myself. What do I need? I’m watching. What do you need?
Maybe the answer will come and until then, I will honor those of us with mother-holes by creating space to speak our need.
And truly, all of us have mother-holes even if we are connected to our mothers. And despite our best intentions, we who are mom's create holes in our children. It's part of our humanity. Not to be hated, but to be seen with mercy, because it is the place where God gets in. Into us and into our children. The holes are God-shaped. But we won't even know we have them if we don't give them names.
Be on the watch for my new site. It will be called Darling Mom. So many of us are moms, while never given the luxury to be the darling. I hope to create a community where it is possible to say when and why you need a mother, even if you are one.
This space will not be able to be all that you or I need, but it will be a place to name that we do indeed, need.