A Slice of Motherhood On The “Holy” Day

Sunday was Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in America as though it were  holy. Mothers are suddenly elevated to Christ-like status and cards, gifts and visits are all lined up to make sure the women who gave birth to us know how amazing we think they are. I got texts from people I barely know proclaiming: “Happy Mother’s Day!” This morning everyone is asking: “How was your Mother’s Day?”. Because, of course, I must have been in a swoon of maternal bliss all day long, right?


This past week I’ve felt amazed, grateful, horrified, amused, angry, touched, bewildered, bewitched and horrified by my children, sometimes all within the same hour. I’ve kissed them and told them how amazing they are, then the same day yelled at them and asked why they were being jerks. I’ve looked at both of them and wondered how they managed to grow up and become so mature, then wanted to toss them out the window a few hours later for fighting over who gets to sit on my lap first. Actually, I’ve wanted to toss them out the window multiple times. I missed them all the nights they were with their Dad, then wondered why I missed them when they were finally back with me.

Saturday morning I was in my car driving for an hour trying to get to my child’s volleyball game. When a huge traffic glitch made me miss the game (indeed, I never even made it to the game), I pulled over into a parking lot and cried for ten minutes at the thought of disappointing her. On Mother’s Day I ooohed and aaahed over the handmade gifts they made for me, then I made them lunch and helped mediate several small sibling skirmishes. I helped my oldest pack for a week-long field trip (the longest time away from home ever) and took her shopping for last-minute camping gear ($90 that I could ill-afford). I made a special dinner (last meal before the long trip!). When the break-and-bake cookies I purchased the day before as special treat could not be located (I’m sure I’ll find them rotting somewhere insane later), instead, we moved to a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies as a second-rate treat…then abandoned them when we discovered an ant infestation creating a home amidst the chocolate chips. Finally, scrounging, I dipped a scoop of only slightly freezer-burned vanilla ice cream and drizzled chocolate and chocolate chips over the top. It was pronounced mostly good and the dessert treat was saved.

Later that night, as I was cuddling them both (in my bed, as a special treat again) they bickered over who was touching more of my body. It was “stop making that noise!” and “You’re on my side!”. Finally, one of my children comments on how skinny she is and how she feels like a freak. I reply back with: “All bodies are different. You’re very thin and your sister is more rounded and you’re both beautiful.” This prompts my youngest to proclaim: “You’re saying I’m fat!”. I very emphatically deny this and let her know I am NOT saying she’s fat.

“Everyone thinks I’m fat.”

“That’s simply not true. What makes you say that?” I ask her gently. Her lip trembles and she finally says, *— called me a ‘big, fat pig’!” Turning toward her and holding her, I tell her firmly: “You are not a big, fat pig. You are a beautiful, smart, amazing girl and I love you. Anyone who says that is simply wrong and being very unkind. I’m so sorry they said that about you. I’ll bet that hurt your feelings, didn’t it?”

Her lip trembling dissolved into weeping and she buried her face in my neck. As I tried to talk to her about it, her sister tapped impatiently on the wall and made little, huffing noises of unhappiness. Finally, the oldest bursts out with: “This is SO boring. I’m so bored. Can we PLEASE stop talking about this? It makes me feel awkward.” Her sister continues to weep her pain and hurt into my neck…

…and I briefly wonder if I’m raising a child completely devoid of compassion, who will grow up to be a sociopath. A few more impatient words from her about boredom and I finally lose it and furiously tell her to leave the room if she’s so bored. Which she does. I mutter an exhausted and exasperated, “Jesus!”, to which my youngest begins to recite the 10 commandments to me (WTF???) and tells me I’m taking God’s name in vain (again…WTF???).  My frustration level growing, I snap at her, tell her sister to come and get in the bed, then turn off the light and leave the room. Thirty minutes later I pass by the room and hear my oldest daughter calling out to me.

“Mom…I’m sorry.” She says in a quiet voice. I hug her and we have a conversation about compassion and I tell her I love her. I kiss her sleeping sister’s forehead. I clean up the kitchen, start laundry and take care of last-minute details for the big field trip. Upon coming to bed and kissing my sleeping children again (because I’m sad that I snapped at them), I realize I am so heartsick about the “big, fat pig” comment that I can’t sleep. At midnight I get back up and do yoga, then finally fall into bed 30 minutes later. At 5 a.m. I’m awakened by my oldest, informing me her sister has peed in the bed. So I get back up, put dry towels under her butt and force her to get up and strip off the wet clothes. I lay there for 30 minutes, realizing my alarm will be going off at 6, then finally get up and start the day (which now includes stripping the bedding). I make them a great breakfast, for which they both hug and kiss me and say “thank you”.

And that’s motherhood.

Sometimes I am understanding and patient, knowing just the right thing to say. Sometimes I’m frustrated and lose my temper, yell, then have to go back and apologize. Sometimes I’m so on top of this parenting thing I amaze myself. Then other days I realize the shoebox I’ve given my child to carry her show-and-tell to school in has a half-naked pin-up girl on it. There are moments I’m driving down the road and we’re all singing at the top of our lungs and I see happy, rosy-cheeked kids and feel like a success. Then they open up the glovebox and discover breast-augmentation pads I tried as a lark one night, then felt ridiculous and pulled them out before I arrived at my destination. I’ve spent hours composing notes from fairies, sprinkling rose-petals in a trail for birthdays, baking birthday treats, giving massages and cuddles and kissing an infinite number of boo-boos (of the heart and the body). I’ve also (according to my little morality police daughters) said “Fuck” four times in front of them, once told them they had driven me to drinking, have yelled and called them little jerks and more nights than I’d like, watch tv with them instead of doing crafty things or baking. Because I’m exhausted and I just want us to all sit there and be drugged for awhile. I once attempted to drug my oldest with valerian root tea so she would just GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP. She was up for 3 and 1/2 hours. I’ve watched my youngest pull out stripper dance moves and wondered, horrified, if she somehow learned them from me.

That’s motherhood too.

I was a fully-formed human being before I had this awesome responsibility of being a mother. Guess what? I still am. The evolution of my being is a work in progress and so is my parenting. There are no saints in this world. I’m going to do amazing things and I’m going to do shitty things and at the end of the day, I’m going to pray the good outweighs the bad. I’m busting my ass to try to do my best, to raise these amazing little people into amazing adults. It’s hard work! Yes, I get paid in kisses and hugs and hand-made cards and that has a sweetness to it. Yet, let’s be honest. Parenting is the hardest work you’ll ever do for the least immediate compensation. Parenting is a garden; I’m spending hours preparing the beds, planting and tending the seeds, in the hope that one day I’ll have these healthy, breathtaking flowers. Yet I won’t get to see the full fruits of this labor all at once. This is something that will take years to fully blossom.

So…kudos to all the mother’s out there who are planting and tending, hoping their love and work infuse their children with the strength to stand on their own as healthy and happy adults who bring something beautiful to the world. I applaud you for the nights you crawl, exhausted, into bed after a day where you felt like Atlas with the weight of the heavens on your shoulders. I pray you have strength to carry on, to bear your burdens and your childrens, to wipe your tears and theirs away when you need to. I am right there with you as you cheer them on during volleyball and softball, cello recitals and school plays, times when they are hurting and there’s nothing you can do.  I’m also the one standing firm on “Go clean the bathroom like I told you to an hour ago, because you’re a member of this family and you’re going to help!” even when you know you could do a better job without them. Like you, there will be nights I remove privileges, knowing I’m going to get a miserable, hellish evening in return, because they have to know there are consequences in life. I’ll be the one saying “Eat your vegetables. Turn off the tv. Do your homework. Be nice to your sister. Clean your room. Don’t throw the ball in the house (CRASH!). BE NICE TO YOUR SISTER!!!”

And although the garden will be a slow process, with tiny flowers here and there and some blooms it might take years to see…it’s still worth it. Somehow, for all the back-breaking, exhausting work (mental and physical), the best words of praise you’ll ever get are tiny hands around your neck and “You’re the best mommy in the world and I love you.” That moment when you see the life lessons you’ve been trying to instill in them since birth, coming out in their day-to-day lives…yeah, that’s a “this is worth it” moment. Or when you watch your kid stand up to someone who’s in the wrong and she refuses to back down just because it’s scary and would be easier to just cave and be a follower. Well, it’s hard to beat that for reward. The hope that one day I’ll get to watch them as adults and know they might have pain, but they’ll be okay because I gave them the tools they need…

Maybe I’m starting to get Mother’s Day a little more. Not the media-hyped version, but the day where kids are reminded to say “Thanks” and our society takes a pause for recognition. The handmade birdhouses and mugs, the cards drawn with love, the beaming joy and pride on a kid’s face when they’re celebrating YOU and hoping it makes you feel cherished, love and appreciated.

Happy belated Mother’s Day, moms.

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