However, it's also true that the core of a mother's role, besides protection, is education.... not just academic education, but education more broadly, as raising up a child to know how to be an adult. I just realized while writing that the protective aspect slowly diminishes as the educative aspect increases. An epiphany!
It reminds me of that proverb
It also reminds me a bit of Galadriel's temptation to seize and hold power by means of the Ring, and how she resolved it by pulling back:
“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”
"I will diminish, and go into the west, and remain Galadriel."
That in turn always evoked John the Baptist's "I must decrease, and He must increase" and that seems to speak not only for the turning point in Scripture as prophecies became present actualities, but also to a mother's role with each of her children. As we teach our children to do more for themselves and for others, we step back from doing those things FOR them. This starts with birth, and the loss of the physical intertwining with the child within, and then continues with the weaning process and then throughout their growing years in all kinds of areas. In a way, we are helping them not just to live, but to live better, more fully.
I am glad when I realize something like this when I'm writing, because I realize now that I have a tendency to hold on to the protective role, and that I have to realize more strongly that the educative aspect of my role is a way of making the direct protection less necessary. One diminishes oneself in that particular aspect but in order to let the child himself increase in that same aspect. A child goes from relying on a mother for the barest essentials of survival and nourishment, to being able to do these things for himself, to being capable of providing for others. When my children are grown, I am no longer directly protecting and providing, but I have made my legacy more enduring by making myself less directly necessary. I need to keep this in mind because I always sensed I was somehow not doing things as well as I could, and I think that this insight will help me do better in future.
Liam recently told me that philosophically, it is a stronger thing to be a cause of a cause than just a direct cause. In other words, God is stronger than the sun (a quick example) because He causes the sun to shine and therefore the plants to grow etc, so He is a cause of a cause, whereas the sun is more simply a cause; God is unmoved, while the sun is moved by Him, so it is less powerful. So in the same way, it seems, in the fish proverb, a teacher is more powerful than a provider because he has caused the man to know how to fish and that man can teach other men, and so on. But at the same time, which is sort of a mystery, by teaching he makes the other person more powerful, so the power is not a zero-sum game, but something like love, which enriches the giver and the recipient.
Effective teaching causes freedom and agency; and the corollary seems to be that teaching should be done in a "free" way as much as possible, as Plato pointed out, because servile teaching is just indoctrination or mechanical training. That last part isn't really related to what this post is about, but I put it down because I didn't want to forget it.
SO! back to mothering. I sat down with a paper and thought of all the different aspects of mothering that I could. It basically added up to something quite similar to what I had listed for myself. ... their relationship to God, their own physical (and emotional and spiritual) health and fitness, their family life and relationships, their responsibilities as students and members of the household. Then of course there is something that is somewhat unique to young people -- their preparation for their future. That is in fact why one becomes a student -- it is one way to bring the future into the present. You learn in order to be able to BE or DO something you aren't at present; this is true of all learning throughout life. But it's particularly true in the developmental years. Flannery O'Connor said pithily, in regard to what literature should be taught in school: "Children's taste should not be consulted; it is being formed." Taken more broadly, this has an application to all development; it should not stagnate right in the child's comfort zone; it should be something like bearing's "throwing yourself off balance in the direction you want to go."
Once again I will have to leave it there in order to pick up with the specifics in a future post. I will just point out for now that I have found my mothering role much more complex to figure out than the other areas of my life that I've already listed. I think that's because it is much more open-ended and because my temperament is more introspective so it's easier to figure out MY stuff than try to decide what is best for someone else, even if that someone is one of my own kids. But I have hope, because I used to find it difficult even to decide about my own stuff, so I seem to have progressed by simplifying, and perhaps I can apply that to my mothering responsibilities as well.