Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers!
Especially my mom, who is kind of the best mom! I am so grateful to her for the loving example she has provided, for always being there. I know that I am truly, truly blessed. I know that for many people this day is a reminder of all that they have lost or all that they never had and wished they did. Two of my tribe have a hard relationship with this day. One having a mom but who is so drunk all the time she is barely functional as a human, never mind being a mom. The other having lost her mom early in life and been left to grieve that most excruciating loss for her lifetime. Then to have endured an abusive step mom for the duration. But despite the hardship and pain, both of these women have become AMAZING moms. One in particular, an amazing step mom which is way harder than being a mom...I know that first hand. Today is not an easy day for many.
However, this is exactly what I want to talk about this morning. This disconnect where our ideals about motherhood and actual motherhood get squeezed. This is a rich place for one to delve into the heart and soul of being a human being and also a mother.
I don’t know about anyone else but when I thought about having children, I thought about these theoretical children and boy, were they amazing! They were smart and beautiful and perfect. They did all the right things and were exactly as I pictured them to be. Gracious, loving, kind. They served me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day and saved up their allowance for weeks to buy me flowers. They dedicated the day to me and gave me what I always wanted: a day where I was the center of attention and love. Thank you Hollywood and Hallmark for this most lofty and insane idea about how this day was supposed to go...
The big squeeze of motherhood happens exactly at the place that I recognize that my ideals about Mother’s Day and my reality come into conflict. My day will not be like my ideals...at all. This is the place that I get squeezed, the place where what I believe and what my reality are, come into a hard and difficult reality.
I know we have all been there. There have been a lot of disappointing events in my life because of this disconnect between what I want and what will actually happen. In fact, to me, the whole of raising kids has been just such an adventure. I thought it would go one way and it has gone almost every direction other than that one. It is easy to love the theoretical children in my head because they always do what is right and good. These actual children I have are harder, they are messy, loud, self involved children who care more about what is going on on their screens than they do anything that is happening in real time...except I am wrong. None of what I just wrote is true...it is only my perception. And I can totally change that to match my actual reality. Let me give you an example...
This morning I woke up at 6:17 am. My phone rang almost immediately. For a minute, I thought, “Yay, my son is calling me to wish me a happy mother’s day!” And I was right and wrong. My son was calling me but he never said Happy Mother’s Day or acknowledge the day in my honor at all. Now once upon a time, that would have set me off. I would have been upset about how on this one day a year he couldn’t get out of his own way to think about me. However, that didn’t happen today. I listened to him talk about Fortnight for like 10 minutes while I made my coffee and let the dog out. I listened to him talk about him. I cared about what he was saying. I didn’t make it about me. I made it about him...he quickly wanted to return his attention to his game so we said goodbye (he will call me back in an hour to tell me more about a game that I do not understand or care about...).
I was in the big squeeze. What I wanted (him to care about me) was not happening so my ideals had an opportunity to come into immediate conflict with my reality (he wanted to talk about him). But today, the big squeeze didn’t bind or pinch me. I didn’t even have to rise above. I just was above already. I realize that my time as a mother has always and forever been about being there for him and his sister. That is the deal of motherhood. It isn’t about you really ever...that is not the deal we cut when we become mothers. It is always and forever about them. It was supposed to be that way for us as well and for me it has been. I know many others that were not so lucky. Motherhood is a kind of pay it forward kind of deal...
So I did what I believed a good mother should do, I didn’t chide him for not remembering that today was MY day. I just behaved like how I thought a good mother should behave. I listened to him and gave him attention and love and support. I didn’t let my ideals ruin a moment. He did call me, so he does care and was thinking about me. And today, I am going to put that in the win column.
My daughter is still asleep so we will see how that goes today. But like my engagement with her brother, I intend to do the same for her. Give her a pass on the whole making it about me thing today. When our children are born we do not look at them to provide us anything. They are these tiny creatures we have only begun to get to know while they lived in our bodies and consumed our nutrients and body from the inside. We felt them move, sometimes to the point of losing sleep. On the most fundamental level, they the most welcome parasite one could ever have and us the most gracious host, willingly giving up our figures, energy and bodies to bring them into this world.
Motherhood has always been a one way street. It is only thinking it should be otherwise that makes us mothers suffer. The tiny humans that our loving care, concern and attention creates, do not guarantee us a symbiotic relationship. No, quite to the contrary, that notion above all others, creates a situation that is fraught with a double bind that we can never escape.
Today I am proud to say that I side stepped the whole issue and saw that my best use of my motherhood status today is to be of service...just like any other day. This day is supposed to celebrate me and somehow I have come to believe that in the celebrating me, it should look nothing like being a mom. No other days of motherhood result in me being pampered and spoiled by my children...why should today be any different?
So today I am going to do what I always do (or at least try to do) to love the kids I have because they are pretty amazing human beings. But they are teenagers who care more about pretty much anything else than celebrating a mom who has done such a good job at being a mom that they can take me for granted. What an awesome gift I have given them! The knowledge and life support of a loving mom who is always there no matter what. There are so many kids that do not get that. Such a fundamental way to go through life with a mom who loves the crap out of you even when you are being an ass.
I am not saying that motherhood equals doormat status and that our children should walk all over us. Perhaps that is a battle we fight with them every other day except this one. Today we just allow them to be who they are and do our best to be the best version of our mothering shelves that we can be. It isn’t about us, it never has been. We didn’t have them to enslave them to our wills and needs, we had them because we wanted to be part of the most amazing legacy and experience of raising tiny embryos into ground ass men and women. We wanted to give...that is why we became mothers. I feel like if we did it for any other reason, we have really missed our calling. We, not them, have cheated ourselves out of the greatest lesson: unconditional love.
So today, for me, it isn’t about the cards or flowers or gifts or breakfast in bed. It is about giving all I can to these two teens that are often different than how I would like them to be. I am going to meet them where they are today and love them with all that I have to give. And I am going to do my best to love my own mom who has been amazing and wonderful and has given me unconditional love my whole life. I am going to show her today that it isn’t always about paying it forward...sometimes your errant children can show their mother just how very much their years and decades of sacrifice is seen, appreciate and felt. Today, the only big squeeze I am going to find myself in is the loving grasp of my children and my mother. COVID-19 be damned. Today, I am going for the love regardless of what I get in return. And that is what being a mom is really all about.