When I taught four year olds (for 16 years) , every Friday before Mother's Day the preschool would host a Mother's Day tea. Each class would prepare a dish for all the moms to enjoy. Through the years, I have helped kids stick fruit on tooth-picks for fruit kabobs, and smear pink icing and shake sprinkles on store bought cookies. I've cut many sandwiches with a heart shaped cookie cutter. I always loved watching the mothers hesitantly eat the food while they wondered who washed their hands, and who might have had a sneezing attack.
The moms were greeted with special gifts made by the kids...and the teacher. My favorite thing to make for the moms was a big, round pin. I would make a poster that said, "I Love My Mom." I would put a big red heart where the word "love" went. I'd take a picture of each child holding up the poster, cut it in a circle, laminate it, and stick a safety pin on the back. I imagine there are a lot of moms who still have those pins! Let's see. 15 kids x 16 years. That's 240 pins!!!!!!
Another activity I did every year before the Mother's Day tea was to ask each of the children why they loved their mothers. I would write their answers on a big piece of colored construction paper and put them on the wall outside of my classroom. The moms would "oo" and "ah." The kids would grin and enjoy the praise and affirmation. And I would be thinking, it's almost over and I can go home!
The reasons most kids gave for loving their mothers were: she cooks for me, she buys me toys, she plays with me, she loves me, she takes me to the park, she's pretty. One year a little boy named Joey gave me an answer I will never forget. When I asked Joey why he loved his mom, he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and without any hesitation at all he said, "because she takes naps with me and she holds me real tight."
You see, Joey's mom had cancer. She had to take naps with him. She would walk him to my classroom, and would have to sit down for a few minutes before she could walk back to her car. One day, Joey and his mom were the first to arrive to my room, and I had a few minutes to spend with this brave and loving mom. That morning she told me that she needed to hold on a little longer. A little longer for Joey. She told me that she knew her older children would remember her, but she wasn't sure that Joey would. She had spent much of his young life away from him, fighting the cancer at a cancer research center out of state. She did hang on. For about 10 months. Somehow, I imagine that Joey, who is probably now close to 20 years old, remembers those naps and being held close by his mom.
Joey and I were able to spend some time together in the months following his mother's death. I went to eat with his kindergarten class one day. He reminded me, when he took his peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of the baggie, that the reason it had crust on it was because his momma had died.
Joey's family moved to be closer to grandparents. When he was about 12, his family came to town for a visit and his brother brought him by the preschool to see me. I wasn't there that day.
In the remaining years I spent at the preschool, I made it a tradition to share Joey's answer with the young moms at the annual tea. I shared it with them for the same reason I am sharing it with you. To remind you and to remind myself, that it isn't always what we do that makes a difference. It's who we are. It's the giving of ourselves. The pouring of all of the love that we have into this gift God has given us. It's taking time to encourage, to listen and to hold tight, regardless of our child's age.
I pray this Sunday, that even if the memories have dimmed, when Joey thinks of his mom he will feel the love that she was trying to pour into him during those naps. And I pray that even though he's all grown-up, a grandma, an aunt, or maybe a new mom, will give him what his mom wanted him to have. And maybe, just maybe, they could cut the crust off of his sandwich.