thing is… I need a do-over.
So, the thing is… Sunday was Mother’s Day.
I had planned to write and send out a lilting, gushing, uplifting Ode to Motherhood on Sunday because there are a lot of things I love about Mother’s Day. I love the projects the kids work on in school –I’m such a sucker for those awful corny poems and the painted flowerpots. I love the excited, conspiratorial air as the kids plan with their dad. I love to lie in bed and listen to them all working on my breakfast in bed.
The day started promisingly enough. I ate my breakfast in bed with apparent gusto and I oohed and ahhhed over the adorable things my children had made for me and then I got up.
And spent the rest of the day stuck inside the house on a rainy Sunday with a four-year-old and her terrible, no good, very bad mood. I kept trying to sit down and write my touching Mother’s Day column and Jane kept melting down and the girls kept fighting and my little greeting card vision of how Mother’s Day was supposed to be just floated away with the rain down the gutter. Jane kept asking to watch a movie—she asked some 57,000 times—and I kept saying no because she’d already exceeded her daily television time and finally, I exploded at my husband and my children and the godawful mess they’d made of the house while I was trying to take a day off.
Not exactly a Mother of the Year moment.
My husband looked honestly stricken. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t understand that this was supposed to be a day off,” he said. And he ushered the kids outside and into the car and took them to dinner.
I ate some leftovers and felt terrible. See, when my spouse celebrates Father’s Day, he gets all excited about spending the day with his kids. He revels in doing all the fun things he doesn’t get to do while he’s working.
Me? I didn’t really want a day off, necessarily (although I’d take one if it were offered.) But I wanted a strife-free day that was a celebration of all the things I do as a mom that are fun and creative and that define me as a good mother. I didn’t want to do the other stuff—the refereeing and the cleaning and the three million daily reminders. (I know, I know, but how exactly does one GET to Oz?)
So, Monday morning I took Ana to school and chatted with my friend Jennifer who works in the office there. I whined a bit that the day was sort of a disappointment and she said that she’d heard a lot of the same sort of grousing and that maybe the problem was that Mother’s Day came with so many expectations. It was like a light going off. I never realized that the greeting card, soft-focus version of Mother’s Day was either created by people with no children or by people who just became parents and suddenly were struck with the realization of how much their mothers did for them.
I went outside and threw the ball for the puppy twenty-five million times. I indulged in my own terrible, no good, very bad mood. I thought about how Mother’s Day should be abolished and we should have a Pet Owner’s Day. Because Scout was just so GRATEFUL for my every effort on his behalf. I went inside, deep in thought about the unconditional love of pets, and came back out to find Scout digging up the potted plants on the deck.
I seriously lost my mind. As he cowered before my rage (“That is simply…UNACCEPTABLE!!!”), I burst into tears and sobbed at my failure as a parent in every respect.
‘All I want next year,’ I thought, ‘is for my children and husband and pets to follow me around all day and NOTICE what I do. I’d like to unload the dishwasher and have them applaud. I want to stand at the washer turning the clothes right side out so they’ll be easier to put on and have my family thank me. I want to clean the kitchen and vacuum the floors and have them NOTICE.’
I know, I know, I’m making myself sick here. Hello, Barb? Could you please get over yourself?
(I did have a lot of fun imagining that I had my own little studio audience who applauded and marveled and laughed at my jokes as I went through my day. I actually got a little giddy over the idea. You should try it. Go make your bed and then imagine there’s a group of admirers standing there applauding. You’ll think about that every time you do this mindless chore for the rest of the month.)
Anyway, I started thinking about how when I was a kid, my parents didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I asked why one time, thinking how unromantic they were in the way that only a teenager who knows everything can think, and my mother said, “I just don’t need a special day to be reminded of how much we love each other. I get that every day.”
Well, it’s taken me some twenty-five years but I think I finally understand what she meant. I’ve been looking at Mother’s Day all wrong. I don’t need a day set aside for my kids to appreciate me. I get that every day, as I watch them learn and grow and flourish. Maybe Mother’s Day should be a day set aside for mothers to notice and appreciate how blessed we are to do this job! Maybe it’s a present we give OURSELVES –a day to notice how lucky we are.
You all are probably reading this and thinking, “Well, DUH, Barb.” I guess I’m a little slow sometimes.
I can tell you, though, that next year, I’m going to use Mother’s Day as an excuse to be the best mommy in the whole world. I’m going to make THEM breakfast (maybe not in bed, though) and take them to the park and play board games and clean up after them and remind them and referee –and I’m going to do it with a glad and thankful heart.
As for this year, well, I decided I deserved a Do Over. So I turned all the laundry right side out and vacuumed the floors and then I cooked my family a big ole steak dinner to say thank you. I listened and appreciated every hilarious thing that came out of my kids’ mouths. (Jane said, “Mom, one time when I wasn’t looking, I a-chooed in my mouth!”) Before I put the kids to bed, I told them how much I love them and how much I love being their mother. And even though Jane was still being a royal stinker (her adolescence looms large), I granted her a Do Over for today. We all deserve a Do Over once in a while.
Of course, if Scout digs up my plants again, he’ll find himself doing a Do Over in obedience school…
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(c) Barbara Cooper 2005
Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (7) and Jane (4). She lives in Austin, Texas and especially enjoyed the present of the following questionnaire on Mother’s Day:
Mommy Fact Sheet
What I know about my Mommy by Ana.
1. What is your Mommy’s Name? Barb