How I Learned to Make a Cup of Tea – an early Father’s Day post…

tres leches“the kind of dad I have goes to the store at 10pm to buy me tres leches (or other random cravings) when I’ve had a not-so-great day such as yesterday, and he’s been doing that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (tall people, am I still knee-high to a grasshopper?) thanks Daddy.”

That is a recent facebook post from our daughter, @sadpotatoes… Yesterday had been a bit of a rough day emotionally for all of us, for various reasons… When I saw her post and the comments on it today,  it reminded me of how I learned to make a cup of tea!

So, at the risk of embarrassing Peter even more, and with the excuse that Father’s Day is not too far away, here goes:

When we were first married, I resented the idea of getting my British-influence South African background husband a cuppa, mostly because of the machista culture I was raised in, wherein brothers and men in general expected to be served… “Mija, ¡¿ya está la comida?!”

cheesecakeOne night many years ago, Peter, my sister, and I were hanging out just before ten, watching tv, when the words “I feel like cheesecake!” popped out of my mouth. I just sort of said them to the universe. Without hesitation, he jumped up off the sofa, got his shoes and said he would go get some.

About half an hour later he returned with an entire cheesecake. The story? He’d gone to the local Marie Callendar’s, which had just locked its doors for the evening. He knocked on their door until they let him in and sold him a cheesecake.
And that is how I learned to make a cup of tea.

It’s all about what my pastor in Chile (Alf Cooper!) used to call “mimo mutuo.” Mutual pampering. I discovered that getting a cup of tea (or hunting down a cheesecake) for someone isn’t about control, or anything that complicated! It’s just a nice thing to do. It’s a kindness. Peter is not perfect. Nope. Not at all. Trust me. But he has always modeled kindness for me. And something as simple as that has helped me to begin to know love… And probably helped us to stay married!

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Mother’s Day Hurts for Some

I woke up this morning to a silent house – Peter with his headphones downstairs, watching the news, the kids in a deep sleep. And in that silence, the thoughts that came bursting into my head first thing were for my friends who are not mothers, and this not by their own choice, and are struggling quietly today because of the hoopla and Hallmark.

To you I say, You are not incomplete. You are not “less than.”

I don’t have time or space here to delve deeply into the complexities of humanity’s love/love/hate/buyflowers/deride/canonize relationship with motherhood. And chances are high this writing is going to be clumsy, because of the delicate nature of the theme. And kinda sorta deep cause I usually go there… so sorry ahead of time! But still…

I am thinking of a gorgeous loving girlfriend whom I once callously asked at a baby shower,  “So, when are you guys going have one?” – only to be stopped in my tracks by  immediate overwhelming tears that brimmed her big eyes. “We can’t.”

And others, who would make amazing mamas, but are battling with health issues or life circumstances so their future in that regard might be uncertain. And amazing couples that are moving forward in their adoption process, after an agonizing soul searching and decision making process.

I just woke up wanting to hug all the women who can’t have kids and tell them the truth.  I write this because it seems tradition and society subtly conspire to make a woman feel “less than” when she hasn’t biologically experienced “the miracle of birth.” That – to put it eloquently – is crap.  I say you’re “more than” – more than amazing and inspiring, creative and beautiful and full of power to change lives and grow lives and be an agent of redemption. I salute you!

Yes, motherhood is amazing. And yes, I have often gushed over the miracle of it. But motherhood is not the most amazing experience in the world, and I mean that. I believe the most amazing experience in the world is connecting at the deepest levels with the human and the divine.

Bearing children biologically, and raising them, does allow us to experience that connection. But having a child is not the only way, doesn’t even guarantee it.

What do I mean by “connecting at the deepest levels with the human and the divine”? I wish I was a good enough wordsmith to flesh it out… Here’s my clumsy (I warned you), and admittedly limited, attempt:

Impacting another life – true, when you are raising a child you are literally molding another life. That is power and responsibility. Yet I can think of teachers, mentors, and relatives that helped mold my life. If you have that innate instinct to mentor, to impact, to help a person discover who they were meant to be, pursue it!

Agonizing heartache – one of my abiding ponderings is the mystery that heartache and joy are two sides of the same coin. The journey with another person through bad and good is the connection with the human to which I referred. Kids will absolutely sear your heart; some of the greatest pain in my life has come watching my children go through bad times. That feeling is matched in intensity by the joy of watching them make right decisions. All of us, to grow, have to connect at that level – and you can have that connection with a lover, a sibling, a kindred spirit…

Self-sacrifice – laying down your life for another is the beginning of connecting with the divine. This is another abiding pondering for me – self-actualization often only happens through self-sacrifice, because that is when you discover who you really are. Losing myself has helped me to find myself. Self-sacrifice means doing things when you just don’t feel like it; it means going on when you want to give up; it means being misjudged.  I promise you, there is someone out there who needs a hero like you today.

Redemption – a third pondering: the dynamic tension between my choices and my destiny (in religion-speak, free will vs. predestination). As life unfolds one day, one year, eventually one decade at a time, there is a matching revelation – things work out. With children you can see how a choice you felt forced to make (and feared would hurt your children) – say, to move to another state – ultimately leads to very good things for them… There’s something about the helplessness of parenting that ultimately helps you surrender to redemption. You already know about helplessness and surrender. And everywhere in life we can witness goodness and redemption working out, both despite and because of, the decisions made. With eyes wide open and an attentive spirit, we can see this redemptive grace at work everywhere.

Bottom line – it’s rough. The ache may never fade. But just in case you have subconsciously bought into the lies, be free. Motherhood is not the be all and end all of womanhood. Connecting with our fellow humans and our God, and channeling life through those connections, is the essence of womanhood.