Sometimes I wonder when it was that the role of mom, along with all its other jobs, came to include serving as the family pack-mule?
Often it’s mom who gets left holding the diaper bag and her purse and jacket and everyone else’s jacket, sip-pee cups, snacks, toys and everything else the family just had to have with them to survive the 60 minute odyssey to the video store. It’s not until after the family arrives at their destination and drags in all their paraphernalia, that they realize they didn’t need it after all, and certainly don’t want to be burdened with carrying it. That of course is when mom is loaded down. While everyone else is debating over which hilarious gut-busting comedy to rent, mom is hoping they’ll just grab the latest released-straight-to-video Disney movie before she looses complete use of her right arm.
Sometimes it’s not how much Mom is left holding, but what. I remember once being left alone standing in line at the food court in the mall holding nothing but a stuffed elephant and a Winnie-the-Pooh blankie. To make matters worse my shirt was smeared with a teething biscuit. (Wretched, messy things, by the way.) I’m sure all the other mothers that saw me understood exactly what transpired. My son started screaming from hunger during the long, long wait for his mini corn dogs, and my husband whisked him away before he disturbed all the other happy shoppers. However, I grew a bit uncomfortable standing there as I realized how ridiculous I must look to those who didn’t know my situation. I considered wrapping the elephant in the blanket, cradling him in my arms, and talking to him. Not one to do things in a small way, I thought why not really give them crazy? I was saved from myself when our long-awaited mini-corn dogs came out of the deep fryer just as I started to arrange the blanket.
I never thought there was much to learn from the humble mule, though I’ve been compared to one a few times, in the stubborn sense of course. I didn’t know a lot about mules, so I did some research on them, and was surprised by what I discovered. Though widely believed, they are not simply the dumb and stubborn result of accidental breeding. They are described as being sober, patient, vigorous, strong, courageous and having sure feet and good endurance. Mules are intentionally breed, because they are often preferred as work animals over horses, since they are more patient when pulling or carrying a large load. Mules also resist heavy rain and hot sun better. The expression stubborn as a mule is actually a compliment, because it refers to their ability to plow clay fields better than a horse. I always admired the beautiful horse, but perhaps the hardworking mule is the real star.
A good mule happens to be similar to a good mom. Besides carrying all her family’s material possessions, mom also carries with her their hopes and dreams, sorrows and disappoints, love and joy. It is a job that requires sobriety to make clear decisions and patients in difficult times. Mom needs physical and mental endurance to get her through the tiring, but rewarding days raising children. She must have sure feet and vigor to help her run along side her children and strength to lift them up when they fall. Her courage will help her press on when the mire of life seems to thick. When the storm blows in, or the glare seems to bright, mom toils on until the task is complete.
I’ll continue to carry my families desires and needs in my heart, and when life gets tough I’ll remember the hard-working mule. As for all that stuff, Frank, our new mule, will handle that. As I lead him through Macy’s, elephant and Winnie-the-Pooh blankie peeking from his saddlebag, I will glance at him and share a knowing smile. We have so much in common.