My husband can’t win. Not when it comes to Mother’s Day. I’ve kind of always known that but it really hit home this morning when I woke up to find a gorgeous vase of orange flowers (my favorite) surrounded by homemade cards, his with a heartfelt, long message inside. (“Words of Affirmation” is my love language and “Lots of Words of Affirmation” is my love-you-a-lot language.) I looked at the flowers and registered that they were just what I would have picked for myself. I read the kids’ cards and KJ’s message that was kind and thoughtful. And then I immediately went back upstairs, climbed into bed and texted my friend, “Mother’s Day sucks.”
This is not shocking. I’ve known and said and written for years about how complicated Mother’s Day can be for me and for others who have lost their moms, have strained or no relationship with their Moms, have struggled to become Moms and on and on. But it’s tricky because some years are so much better than others. Last year, for example, I think we had brunch and a soccer game in the torrential rain, and it was all fine and actually not that complicated at all.
“I’m over it!” I remember thinking. “Mother’s Day is FINE now!”
KJ’s been asking me questions this week about when I want to eat and what I want to do (options are limited because, well, quarantine). And I’ve been cranky about it. He should just know how to make Mother’s Day perfect for me! I’ve been known to think.
HA! Obviously, that’s an impossible task. I can’t even decide how to make Mother’s Day perfect for me. And I realize that whether we have our take-out at brunch time or dinner time; whether we have Mexican or Italian; whether he buys flowers or not or reminds the kids to make cards or not, sometimes I just won’t really be happy on Mother’s Day. And my kids and I all have to know that that it has nothing to do with how I feel about them.
My Mom was known to say, very matter-of-factly, “I have the best kids.” She’d say it often, to anyone and everyone. She wouldn’t even hesitate to say it to other Moms who SURELY would be thinking, “Um, mine are pretty great, too” but people are generally polite so they would just smile and nod. And that was BEFORE she got cancer!
After she was diagnosed, the frequency in which she would tell people that her kids were THE BEST KIDS increased tenfold, but by then, people felt sorry that she was sick so they would just wholeheartedly agree with anything she said. And you can imagine how that would fuel her fire. She’d say to us, “I tell people ‘I have the best kids!’ and they agree! Everyone knows that I have the best kids!” I can hear her voice saying it right now.
I’m thinking about that a lot of today. Partly because I miss those words of affirmation (ha!) but partly because, I’ve spent the day seeing people write about how they have the Best Mom Ever! and I’m so damn envious. But also, so happy. I really do love when people appreciate their Moms. But I’m desperate to know what our relationship would have looked like if she was still here today.
Would I call her my best friend? Or the rock that holds our family together? Or say she drives me crazy but she’s the best! I know for sure that she would have loved a Facebook tribute. (And as my brother recently pointed out, she also would have loved Dr. Fauci.)
This year is probably a little harder because of the coronavirus and being stuck at home for – what are we on now, week 481? And it’s definitely a little harder because my sister’s going over a medical bump-in-the road which has been… stressful.
My feelings about Mother’s Day are akin to grief itself… it’s not a linear progression of getting easier and easier. I lost my Mom 17 years ago. The first few Mother’s Days were awful. Then some were fine. But today is hard. Like grief, the days/months/years don’t simply get easier and easier in a straight line. There are setback days. (It feels like there may be a math/graph term to use here but obvi I have no idea what it is.) Most days I think of my Mom with smiles, laughs and eye rolls. But once in a while, it’s a wave of grief as if she died yesterday.
Have I already written about the siblings I met on the breast cancer walk? I’m too lazy to go check past posts so I’m just going to tell the story again. Not long after my Mom died, I was walking in the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. I was chatting with a group of four siblings, who were probably 15-20 years older than me and they were sharing their story about walking in memory of their Mom who had died of breast cancer 19 years prior. They were all very emotional as they talked about her and I’m so ashamed when I think of my reaction now, although hopefully I didn’t let it show. I remember thinking, “Your mom died 19 years ago? And you’re still so upset?”
I know. It’s awful. But I think it was just the part of me that assumed – and hoped – that by the time that many years went by, the grief would be DONE. It was hard to face the fact that I might still be crying 19 years later!
But here it is. It’s been 17 years and most days I am fine. Even on Mother’s Day. But today, I miss my Mom. And I miss the way she thought we were the best.
So, the day remains complicated. And that’s OK. I have gorgeous flowers and heartfelt messages and even an original song from my girl. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be perfect and my Mom would appreciate my acknowledging that. But she would also remind me that Mother’s Day will never be all sad because I have the BEST KIDS EVER.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful moms in my life and for those of you for whom today might have sucked a little, it’s almost over. Next year MIGHT be better.
PS. I would be doing my future self who is re-reading this a disservice if I didn’t mention the other highlights of the day.
*I had a school mom friend reach out to tell me that she thinks of me on Mother’s Day because of one tiny thing I did a million years ago that helped her as a Mom. Geez, that message almost took me out.
*Another close friend reached out to say that she feels close to my Mom even though they never met. I told her I know why – it’s because they both love my hair half up, meatballs and family – so it makes sense. So many happy tears.
*A few other great friends reached out with some version of, “I know today sometimes sucks for you.” They each made me realize that there’s nothing better than having friends that know that kind of thing about you and acknowledge it with love.
*I chatted with my sister for two hours about nothing and everything and that will always be a highlight of my day.