Mother’s Day has always been a conflicting one for me. I wish so many things had been different between my mom and me, but she died when I was 25, so I never got to see what might have been. My birth mom and I don’t speak anymore – my choice – another story and another layer of complexity. I myself am a mom to two teens, so I am smack dab in the middle of the “child to adult” transition phase x 2. And I’m friends with lots of moms and non-moms who all have different perspectives, opinions, kids, situations, etc.
In other words, I’m a regular mom with all the regular baggage.
Then comes Mother’s Day, with the commercial pressure to make the day “special.” I hate that. This brings all sorts of expectations that can’t possibly be met. Well, maybe. Sometimes. Sometimes you end up happy but a little sad for what used to be. What could be. What never will be – ever or again. I am learning to live with this ambiguity. That’s why this year I have a new goal.
Let go of expectations and make room for experience.
I don’t want things. I never did. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve loved, saved and cherished every macaroni necklace, customized gardening gloves, homemade ornament and card. We don’t have money for expensive things, never did, and while those kinds of gifts are lovely and memorable in so many treasured ways, (and I would certainly not turn them down), they are still just…things.
Maybe it’s because my kids are getting older. I feel the end of something looming. I am not sad about it. It feels like the natural order of things. We’re all moving on, as it should be. I just realize I need to change up the Mother’s Day game a bit to fit where we are now.
So what I really want more than anything is a simple, memorable experience. A little slice of time carved out from the real world where we just hang out, laugh, enjoy each other’s company, light candles, play music, just be together, in our little house – the three musketeers, me and my kids. I want an experience we can remember with a smile, no matter what tomorrow may bring. I want in real life what the best photographers capture on film: people lost in the moment, being their true selves, loving, connecting. I want a great story that we can tell again and again long after the day has passed.
Is that so much to ask?
And the “expectations” reality check…
This “experience” will more likely than not include four arguments between the teenagers; a puking dog (or two); something burning somewhere; and of course, something lost, spilled and/or broken. No one will be responsible for any of it. This is the way of life with kids no matter how old they are. I’m good with that. Sixteen years into this mom thing, I’ve learned to roll with it. In it. Through it. Over it.
So my Mother’s Day request this year is…
I’ve asked my teenagers (boy and girl, 16 and 14 respectively) to collaborate together to make me dinner AND clean up. I will take them to the store on Saturday to get their items, but from there – it’s all them. As a mom, I want to see my kids working together, unified for a common goal. A good friend inspired me earlier this year with stories of cooking with his older kids, and I am grateful for this. It gave me a new way to connect with my kids and I’ve been engaging them in the kitchen ever since. They are learning to cook, a great life skill, but more importantly – we found something we can do together.
So unlike every other day, this day, Mother’s Day, I will be sitting at the little kitchen table, talking about whatever, while my teenagers bustle around our tiny kitchen and prepare a meal that they think I will like. (My criteria: no dairy, healthy, and nothing out of a box.)
Expectations aside, what does it really mean to be a mom?
It’s a different experience for everyone, isn’t it? For me, it’s always been about finding the best way to connect with your kids no matter what their age or stage. Teaching them. Guiding them. Loving them through the good, the bad, and especially the messy. As they get older, I believe it’s about sharing what you think, your life, your hopes, your dreams, lessons learned, and yes, your disappointments, too. Being vulnerable and open yet firm. Setting limits yet being flexible and understanding. And watching them. Like. A. Hawk.
These days, it also includes being recorded singing (when you cannot or should not ever sing, not even in the shower) or ordering McDonald’s in a cartoon voice when you are not aware and then having it posted on Snapchat without your knowledge or consent. (Not naming names…daughter!!!) The inside family jokes, many of which now come during car trips to school, activities and friends’ houses. The many stories that can only come from many years of just…being there. Bearing witness to lives in the making.
Being a mom is an incredible gift.
Day in and day out, building the foundation, laying the groundwork, planting the seeds, doing the best you can at any given time and hoping against hope that you are doing right by these tiny little souls entrusted to your care. Giving them everything you can and everything you feel you didn’t get; making up for every missed kiss, hug and word of praise. Trying your best to heal the wounds that are bound to happen, despite your best efforts. Sometimes because of you. In spite of you. We all carry our scars.
Yet still, despite everything, we carry on. We never give up. We may give in once in a while. But we never, ever give up.
Goodbye, macaroni. Hello, dinner!
My days of dressing the kids up, posing them for the camera while enticing them to smile, and attending school-mandated “Mother’s Day celebrations” with macaroni-decorated anything are long over. I’m okay with that. It was kinda fun while it lasted. I am coming to learn that one of the best parts of being a mom is that I know where my kids have been. And now I am excited to see where they are going.
So on this Mother’s Day, I will sit back and watch my teenagers cook a meal for me in my little yellow painted kitchen. It feels like the right way to celebrate what was, what is, and what could be. Honoring their journey to becoming who they are meant to be as I sit on the sidelines – cheering them on, laughing, joking, talking too much and taking way too many pictures.
Wishing you all a happy, meaningful Mother’s Day!