Mother holding her newborn feet.

Mother holding her newborn feet. Credit: iStock

Amid a swell of cacophony in our political discourse — which seems to happen most days these days — along comes Mother’s Day.

The holiday is a welcome respite, not that it should be viewed as merely a respite.

We humans celebrate many annual days of recognition, but for most of us this one is different.

This one has a touch of the elemental. This one crosses cultures. This one taps into all of our beginnings. This one reminds us that all of our journeys begin with our mothers; all of our stories start with them.

As I move through life — a euphemistic way of saying as I get ever older — I think more and more about my origins, about our origins, about how we all began.

The decision to bring a child into this world, or to take responsibility for a newborn or an older child, can signify many things. The fulfillment of the simple but profound wish to have children. The chance to feel the purest love that there is. The desire to form one’s own family and experience life through that special prism.

The decision also is an act of incredible courage. Because when you agree to usher a life into this world with all its hurly-burly and unpredictability, when you know your child will experience joy and sorrow, light and dark, security and trauma, companionship and loneliness, loyalty and betrayal, unity and discord, you know that their safety and survival and general well-being is in your hands. Every minute, every day.

Nurturing a child is the weightiest responsibility any of us ever assumes. It requires constant vigilance. Not everyone gets it right. And that can have profound consequences — for those being nurtured and often for those doing the nurturing. For them, this day might serve more as a reminder of what was lost. For those who wanted but were not able to have children, the day can be a piercing reminder of what could have been.

But for many, the day is a reminder of the cycle of parenting.

In those early years, we typically rely on our mothers for most everything. But then comes the time when we start to pull away, when we appreciate the roots she gave us but now yearn for the wings to fly. And typically, mothers give that, too.

And they do so even though it’s difficult to balance the competing emotions that come with that — the satisfaction but also the poignancy of knowing you did the job well enough that your children are ready to go out into the world . . . on their own.

We bring all of that to every Mother’s Day, no matter where we are in life’s cycle. For most of us, the holiday is comforting, especially perhaps for those of us of a certain age. Some of us are lucky to still have mothers with us to celebrate in whatever fashion we choose. Some of us have partners who are mothers to our own children. Some of us have children who now are mothers themselves.

The holiday’s traditions morph over the years. The host changes, the responsibility passes on. My mother hosted for her mother, then it was our turn. This year, for the first time, one of our daughters is hosting us, another part of life’s cycle where those who once received care later become the caregivers.

Mother’s Day is about all of those who gather, all of those who nurtured children and then grandchildren, and the younger ones now nurturing their own. It’s a day to bask in that love that spans generations, the love that is the spine of our families.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of our mothers. 

COLUMNIST MICHAEL DOBIE’S opinions are his own.