My three mothers
Vince Mallett | Friday, May 7, 2021
Motherhood isn’t only biological. Many mothers are not biologically related to their children, and many biological mothers have no personal relationship to their child after birth. Many children don’t have mothers in their lives, for a variety of reasons. But the fact remains that, for many if not most humans, our mother is the first person with whom we form a strong bond. They, usually along with our fathers, guide us to adulthood and help us bear our burdens from then on. There are three mothers I think are important for us to keep in mind throughout our lives, and to thank on Sunday.
First off, it would be remiss if I did not mention our Holy Mother Mary, to whom the month of May is dedicated. Every time we think about motherhood or appreciate our own mothers, we should remember that we have a spiritual mother in heaven interceding for us, who brought our salvation into the world.
May is not only Mary’s month, however, but it is the month of Mother’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate the women who have raised us; but that celebration, that remembrance, must not be limited to this Sunday. I can’t speak to anyone else’s relationship with their mother, so I’ll tell you about my own.
The way I interact with my mom provides a lot of material for teasing by my friends. We talk on the phone every day, and text apart from that; the latter involves a lot of emojis, often rows of repeated hearts. They say my voice goes an octave higher when I’m on the phone with my Mom, and supposedly I’m much more polite with her than I am with them (how dare I!?). This cheesy veneer might seem to them, and many others, to signal a skin-deep relationship, a cheery correspondence more than a human connection. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
My mom is my best friend. We talk about every aspect of our day, the minutia and the big stuff: work, meals, sleep, interpersonal drama, mixed up with family, love, God, friendship and what it means to be a good person in this complicated world. We laugh, we cry, we argue, she realizes that I’m going to be stubborn about a disagreement, I realize she was right all along. It’s a respectful relationship, of course, since she is my mother. We don’t have the kind of friendship that (hopefully) happens between siblings; we’re equals in some respects, but certainly not in all of them. But it’s also not the kind of relationship one has to a teacher, or another mentor. It’s so much more than just a “learning from” or “being raised by,” it’s a “journeying through life with.”
I really do not mean to put anyone else’s mom down, but I do think that I have this wonderful relationship with mine mostly because of her particular strengths. My mom is a compassionate, dedicated, loving woman whose every action is intended to be for the best of her children. She’s honest, thoughtful and wildly smart, to the extent that my understanding of each of those words is largely informed by my understanding of her. Perhaps more than anything, my mom is willing to say that she loves her children unconditionally: I genuinely believe that there is nothing I can do in this world that would make her love me an iota less than the most she ever has. That kind of love is the most important kind, in my opinion. It’s the kind of love God has for us, the kind of love that drove him to die innocent on a cross, for the sake of us: the guilty. It’s the kind of love every true parent has for their child, even if they don’t say it or struggle to carry it out in all of their actions. It’s how our parents show us the goodness of our God above.
This brings me to the last of the three mothers I want to discuss: Notre Dame, our mother, tender, strong and true. Like all human mothers, Notre Dame is not perfect. She is prejudiced, fickle, subject to financial pressures and more complicit in systematic racism than any of our individual mothers. However, she cares about us. Notre Dame wants us to succeed, wants us to grow in love and make a positive impact on this world, not just so her reputation could be strengthened but so her motherly role could be fulfilled. Does Notre Dame love each of us unconditionally? I’m not so sure about that one. But Notre Dame has certainly given us a home, a context in which to grow other relationships, a foundation on which to build our lives and years of memories of love.
The relationship to one’s mother changes as one gets older. My mom won’t always be my best friend; someday, I hope that my husband will play that role, as he becomes my primary partner in the journey through life. In a couple weeks, I’ll be graduating from Notre Dame, and I’ll never again have the closeness to the University that I do now. But these relationships do not end. My mom will always be there for me, and I will always be there for her. Notre Dame will likely ask me for money I don’t have until the day I die, and I’ll continue buying merchandise and going to football games and humming the alma mater or the Canticle of the Turning. We might not be kids anymore, but our moms will always be our moms.
To my mom, Notre Dame, the Blessed Mother and all other mothers out there: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Vince Mallett is a senior majoring in philosophy, with a minor in constitutional studies. He currently lives off-campus, though he calls both New Jersey and Carroll Hall home. He can be reached at [email protected] or @vince_mallett on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.