Beauty personified in the eyes of their children

My friend’s mother died late last year and at her funeral, her two sons and one of her grandchildren delivered a wonderful eulogy. The stories they told reflected the depth of their love for a very special lady, but there was one moment that touched me deeply. Her son was recalling a memory of her from almost 60 years before, when he was only a young child. As he described his mum’s dark hair and the way she walked into the room, his voice caught and he had to stop, such was the power of that memory and his love for her.

On the way home I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend’s brother as a young boy, looking at his mother and being literally bowled over by her beauty. I have a four-year-old son who looks at me like that right now, so this powerful moment gave me a true insight into the way our children see us, both as young children and adults.

The appreciation of a mother’s beauty never leaves her children, so why do we struggle as mums to acknowledge that beauty ourselves?

I’m not talking about the external aesthetic, but the beauty we generate from our hearts. A young child doesn’t care about physical shape, perfect makeup, designer clothes or grey hair. Young children live in the moment and are not bothered with society’s expectations and notions of ‘beauty’. To them, their mother is simply beauty personified.

So how can we tap in to our children’s perception of us as mums? We can start by acknowledging our true beauty.

Our beauty is in our body, as we grow and birth our children, withstanding and defying all the odds, embracing the pain and the miracle. It is in our stretch marks and our dilapidated pelvic floors. Our beauty is in our resilience as we lose sleep and time and our senses. It is in the unrelenting monotony of the day to day. Our beauty is in our hands, arms and backs as we bathe, dress, hold, carry and caress. It is in the fact that we are still up when everyone else is asleep. Our beauty is in our strength when our children are in pain, when we do whatever we can to help them. It is the willingness to transfer their pain onto ourselves so that their load is lighter.

Our beauty is in our ears as we listen and really hear our children, so that they know they are special and loved beyond measure. It is in the way we know what they are truly saying, the reading between the lines. Our beauty is in our persistence when we never give up despite the slammed doors, screaming, bad decisions and lack of gratitude. It is in the faith we have in their goodness. Our beauty is in our voices as we whisper words of love, teach and tell our own stories. It is in the way we use our tongue to speak the truth. Our beauty is in our ability to be the proverbial punching bag for everyone’s emotions, good and bad. It is in the way we absorb the blows and respond.

And our beauty is in the keeping track, the meetings, notes, emails, organising, driving, budgets and research. It’s in the showing up, the gut instinct and our unending capacity to forgive. But most of all, our beauty is in our hearts, where the desire and will and energy to love in a way that is almost impossible to comprehend, is born and nourished. Our beauty transforms and empowers.

And while there may not be much beauty in the moments we aren’t at our best, there is great beauty in the way we move on and try again.

Mothers spend so much time questioning what we’re not getting right, we forget to acknowledge the things we’re doing well. We are so caught up in the busyness of each day that we are in constant danger of missing all those ‘beauty’ moments. Being mindful is the key to unlocking the transformative effect of recognising our own beauty. As Piero Ferrucci puts it in What We May Be, when we “fully appreciate beauty we become more than we were…we effortlessly build a stronghold against the negative pressures that life inevitably brings”.

My youngest loves to sing and dance in the car, although he does not like to perform. If you try to watch him, he stops. It is exquisitely hard to resist turning in your seat or adjusting the mirror to revel in his joy of the song. But because I love to hear his little voice singing words he may not yet understand, I try to make do with my peripheral vision. His latest favourite tune, after a long period of only wanting to hear “Look Down” from Les Miserables, is the Vance Joy song, Fire and the Flood. Although this song is about a romantic relationship it has become, for me, a motherhood anthem! Vance Joy sings,

You’re the fire and the flood
And I’ll always feel you in my blood
Everything is fine
When your head’s resting next to mine
Next to mine
You’re the fire and the flood.

My three kids and I often sing along loudly to this song and when we do I definitely feel that connection between us, the beauty both in myself as a mother and in my children as well. Mothers are there through the inevitable fires and floods of their children’s lives, and as children we do feel fine if our mother’s head rests next to ours, no matter our age.

Mothers are beautiful. As Louisa May Alcott put it in her novel, Jo’s Boys, “Dan clung to her in speechless gratitude, feeling the blessedness of mother love – that divine gift which comforts, purifies and strengthens all who seek it.”

Let’s acknowledge the gift we are to our family, and take the time to affirm others in their role as mum. Let’s try to see and appreciate those ‘beauty’ moments each day. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Joanne Isaac Image
Joanne Isaac

Joanne is a Communications Officer for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular columnist for Aurora Magazine.

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