Ahead of Mothering Sunday, Celia Heath reflects on what it means to her.
The windows at Westfield are a source of constant amusement. At Halloween, a jewellers sported black and orange baubles, which remained in place for Christmas. No surprise then, arriving for work on Feb 15th to find Valentine’s hearts replaced with “For Mother on her special day.” We take such publicity with a generous pinch of salt, yet their sentimentality gets to work in our minds. It goes up a notch when hand-made cards are made at school, accompanied by whispered plans for “special treats”. Time flies and we hurriedly grab a last minute card when the best ones have gone and, with them, all serious thoughts of what the day is really about.
A reality check came during a visit to a Southwell primary school for an educational charity. The station sign in Urdu a reminder that this borough is often the first port of call for refugees landing at Heathrow, Mr Green’s school met them with gusto and real love. Realising that what survives even the worst traumas is often religious practice and their related festivals, the headmaster based his school ethos on that and the school was full of religious symbols from the many faiths of its often damaged yet deeply resilient children.
Filing in to assembly, the children pointed at a ventriloquist’s doll, Molly, slumped on a chair on the stage. Mr Ryan came in and held up a Mothers’ Day card. His Mummy, he said, was in Ireland and would be disappointed that he wouldn’t be visiting, but it was just too far away. There was an audible sniff from behind. “Oh dear!” he said, picking her up and putting his ear to her mouth “Molly’s crying because she hasn’t got a mummy.” “Children,” he went on, “What do you think? Is there somebody else Molly could send a card to? Someone who looks after her and loves her?” The answers came: Daddy, Teacher, Carers, Aunts and Uncles, special friends, and with their suggestions, the feeling that everyone could join in this Christian festival and that it might even help in building a new life. For the adults it was an affirmation of the school’s ethos and, with it, the knowledge of just how wide and deep parenting is, in good times and bad, and how vital in learning how to build a love that is tougher and deeper than the mistakes we all make.
Hosea 11, 3-4 speaks movingly about God’s parenting, transcending human biology and gender. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realise it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek and I bent down to feed them.”
It is a gift and a charge we all have, to every child, not just our own. As we enjoy Mothering Sunday and give thanks for all we have received and for all we are each able to give in so many different ways, let us keep our festival worship fresh and alive; after all, “It takes a whole village to bring up a child!”