A mother’s hands

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Our three kids are all right-handed. None of them are lefties like their mother. This is surprising to me because they take after her in so many other ways: her sense of adventure, her outgoing personality, her focus on the task at hand.

Over the years, her hands have turned the pages of picture books and pushed swings, dug in the sand and mixed cookie dough. Her hands have buckled seat belts, then steered the minivan to preschools, sports practices and out-of-town family gatherings. Her hands have wiped noses and tears, carried groceries and laundry, lifted babies and burdens. There are many days when she has little free time on her hands.

Yet, for as long as my wife and I have been parents, we’ve heard people say how time slips through your fingers. While there have been long afternoons of reading the same book over and over as well as interminable nights suffering with a stomach bug, it is hard to believe our kids are growing up as fast as they are. They are reaching out into the world and feeling their own way forward …

But they all still hold their mother’s hand. Even the oldest. They hold hands when crossing the street or parking lots. They hold hands while jumping up and down with excitement at the zoo, during the scary part of the movie, and just before drifting off to sleep. I know that they will not always need their mom’s touch in these specific ways. But as they continue to grow, I hope my kids hold onto these memories with their mother.

I know that Mother’s Day is painful for some. There are many who are no longer able to hold their mother’s hands. I am also aware that certain mothers have hit, slapped or manhandled their children. “Manipulate” is from the Latin for hand. Words can be manipulative. Abuse can be physical or emotional. Either way, we leave lasting marks on bodies, minds and hearts.

We try to feel our way forward with tenderness, humility and care. We must also learn from past mistakes.

As I said before, my wife is left-handed. Not too long ago, she would have been forced to use her right hand. This prejudice against lefties seems silly to us today, but our society still prevents children from being who they are. Children need space to find their own way, use their own hands and make up their own minds. Not everything is right or wrong. Sometimes, it’s a matter of right and left.

Our three kids learn a lot from their mother’s example and her strong, skillful hands. She also gives them freedom to be themselves. Fostering independence and self-confidence are key aspects to maturation. My wife knew this as a little girl; one of her favorite sayings then was, “I do it myself.”

Now that she is a mother, she often quotes writer and mother Glennon Doyle: “We can do hard things together.” In our family, each one of us is different. Each one is an individual. We help, we listen and we learn. We reach out and grasp each other’s hands. We hold one another, and we are held together, I believe, by the One who holds time itself in loving hands.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”

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