Over the past few weeks, we have been collecting Mother’s Day cards to send to the grandmothers and mothers of the youth in our mentoring program.
This weekend I went to Target to buy a few more cards for these caregivers. While there, I was reminded that Mother’s Day – perhaps more than any other day of the year – is a reminder of the painful life journeys our youth have been through.
There is not a young person in the Braid program who hasn’t separated from their mother for some period of their childhood.
In fact, that is the only criteria we use to determine whether they are a match for Braid. Whether they ended up in good foster placements, bad foster placements, living with a relative, or reunited with their mom, we know that the pain of being detached from their primary caregiver is something they will carry for the rest of their lives.
But, standing in the card section at Target, you wouldn’t imagine any of these life stories. I was confronted with a wall of cards full of hearts and flower and sappy odes to the greatest mothers who have ever lived. Our culture has idealized Mother’s Day in a way that doesn’t make room for real-life complexities of motherhood and family relationships.
There were no cards for grandmothers raising grandchildren.
There were no cards for aunts raising nieces and nephews.
There were no cards for foster mothers, or adoptive mothers.
There were no cards for mothers in prison.
There were no cards for mothers struggling with addiction.
There were no cards for mothers still working to be reunified with their children.
There were no cards for mothers trying to earn back their children’s trust.
Mother’s Day may not even be on the radar for the youth you’re mentoring, but if it is, it may be a time that is triggering for them.
And while their relationship with their mom may never come up as a topic of conversation, it’s always important for us to remember that there are parts of their story we may never see or know, but which cause them pain.
This week I read a helpful reflection by the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron:
“Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means ‘noble or awakened heart.’ It is said to be present in all beings. Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in a sesame seed, this soft spot is inherent in you and me. It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself. This is the time to touch the genuine heart of bodhichitta. In the midst of loneliness, in the midst of fear, in the middle of feeling misunderstood and rejected is the heartbeat of all things, the genuine heart of sadness.”
We know you wish as mentors that you could heal all the painful wounds in our young friends’ lives. But I have heard Pima Chodron’s words echoing in my own heart this week: “healing can be found in the tenderness of the pain itself.” Healing comes from the inside out.
The greatest gift we offer our youth is a space where they can be loved and honored, where they know that the ‘soft spots’ of their story are safe, where they can access their noble heart. Thank you for holding that space with such sensitivity, this week and every week.