All of us need mothering at some time or another – no matter our age.

May is the month that reminds us of “mothers” and “mothering.”  Strangely the dictionary does not define “mothering,” probably because it is not grammatically correct.  It does describe “motherly” though – as devoted, careful, watchful, kind, warm, gentle, tender, comprehending, sympathetic, care taking, supporting, protecting – but then says “see also loving.”  The idea is clear.  “Mothering” is one, some or all of these.

Theoretically, I suppose, “mothering” could be categorized into the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects, however, some of these become meshed into the words and behaviour of the process.  Many variations on the theme of mothering were noticeable on TV programmes this winter, that is, if you were watching for them.

For anyone who watched the sage of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd – wasn’t it curious how they only addressed each other as “Mother” and “Father,” the custom of the times notwithstanding.  As the story developed it became evident, however, that indeed they did parent, nurture or “mother” each other in stressful times.  Mary suffered lifelong migraine headaches and then melancholy after her young son’s death, while Abe often had nightmares during the Civil War over the heavy loss of life among his young soldiers.  During these times each would sit at the other’s bedside soothing and supporting the other.  However fictional – it was a tender, human touch – just as valid then as today.

In more modern times we were all thrilled by the Winter Olympics in Calgary, and then the World Skating Championships in Budapest.  When lovely and accomplished gold medallist, Katarina Witt was interviewed she gave credit for much of her success to her coach, saying “she is like a mother to me – any question I ask her she answers and she always helps me.”

And behind the scenes the TV camera caught Canada’s bright, bubbly, silver medallist, Elizabeth Manley bussing her grandma on the cheek proclaiming, “I love you,” before taking off to skate a dazzling performance.  Hard to know who was mothering whom!

The mother of silver medallist, Brian Orser, can’t bear to watch him twirling in the air as her performs (I don’t blame her), so she paces backstage and shares his triumphs or sorrows afterwards.

Mothering is not often as discernible publicly.  The recent national pro-life television programme, “Feel the Heartbeat,” show on Global TV, sponsored by Alliance for Life, with its impressive network of coast-to-coast affiliates, dug deeper into the plain of the human psyche.

Interviews with pregnant, single women, often teenagers, poignantly painted the inner conflict they experience between sustaining life within them, or succumbing to the seductive bait of abortion.  A very young teenager, whose parents wanted her to abort (but she refused), said, “I could never do that to my baby” – out of the mouths of babes.   From these women’s’ courageous convictions there arose social and family support systems which enabled them to carry on and give life-testimony that mothering is an encompassing good.

When all is said and done, I suppose “mothering” is at its noblest when the chips are down.  That’s when it’s hardest to mother, or when those we mother need it most.  Of course, mothering is by no means exclusive to women or biological mothers.  Mother Teresa in India, who mothers the drying into peaceful death, and Jean Vanier, in France, who protects the mentally handicapped by bringing them to live in sheltered, home-like surroundings, are shining examples.  Closer to home, everyone should have someone they can mother and someone to mother them at some time.

A family I once worked with were experiencing much conflict with a rebellious teenaged daughter.  The parents themselves were quite young, alone and new in this country, and emotionally drained.  They had run out of steam in coping with her, and so desperate, the came for help.  Before long, I too, exhausted my repertoire of ideas for this teenager, so I decided to ignore her for a time and “mother” the mother.  In meetings we made afternoon tea a formal occasion, concentrating on mother’s personal needs and bruised feelings;.  Slowly she found her feet and eventually stood up to the young tyrant in her home, with change occurring in some areas – making life more bearable for all.  Mother’s depleted batteries, once recharged, were a source of strength to all.

When my own emotional reserves are how, I find myself gravitating to my friend’s house down the street for a cup of tea and her latest baked sweet (low sugar).  Words aren’t necessary – she just knows.  Likewise, when she’s feeling down, I reciprocate with chicken soup (low salt).  The message is in the sustenance.  Sometimes it works well, other times it’s just enough to get over the hump – but whichever way – it warms the heart and sustains the soul.

In this month of May, if your mother is about, why not reverse roles and “mother” her.  If she is not about, then “mother” someone else who needs it, someone who is hurting or lonely because “mothering” like love has a circular magic.