It started out as a lovely day. Actually, it started before the day actually began, when my daughter brought home her carefully crafted card from school on Friday, and decided she couldn’t wait two extra days to give it to me. “Happy Mother’s Day!” it shouted from the cover, complete with hand-drawn flowers and carefully crafted letters. Inside were additional words sharing how much she loved me, with added hearts and stars for effect. It was, as personally made cards go, pretty much perfect. She beamed with pride as I hugged and thanked her, and told her it was the perfect start to a lovely Mother’s Day.
The next day, the celebration of “all things Mom” seemed destined to continue. My husband took over swimming lesson duty while I opted for the rare opportunity to go shopping alone. As I strolled down the lane of our local outdoor mall, I frequently checked my watch, only to remember that I actually had nowhere to be, and no time to be there. It was an odd feeling, and I finally embraced it (about 45 minutes in…). Though I didn’t purchase much in particular, I did partake in a leisurely solo lunch, and very much enjoyed browsing the bookstore without anyone constantly tugging at my arm asking when we could go to the kids’ section. That evening we had a lovely dinner at a new pizza restaurant (the cooks entertain the kids by throwing the dough and drawing pictures in the flour – the kids love it!). The food was great, the ambience was light and relaxed, and the evening just made for the cap to a wonderful day.
When I awoke this morning, I was convinced that since the weekend had gone so well, the rest would follow along. As far as breakfast was concerned, I was completely on the mark. Instead of trying to face any of the Mother’s Day crowds, my daughter and I instead had a personal pancake-making lesson. It was lots of fun watching her be so careful with all the steps, and be unbelievably proud of herself when she accomplished her goal. After breakfast wrapped up, she and I devised a plan that today would just be a girl’s day. Next on the agenda: movie and shopping; oh, what fun!
The movie went pretty well; she enjoyed it, anyway (the Three Stooges – let’s just say I was glad to have my internet-connected phone with me to make it through all 90 minutes). My wonderful weekend was continuing swimmingly; or so I thought. On the way to the clothing store was when it started to turn, as my daughter began informing me she would really rather not go. I coaxed from the front seat, trying to make it sound like a fun adventure. No dice; her protestations got louder. In an effort to revert back to the Mother’s Day bliss I was previously in, I turned on the radio to temporarily drown her out (come on, we’ve all done it). We arrived, parked, and walked in; the way she dragged her feet and bee-lined for every puddle she could find (despite my asking her not to) really should have tipped me off to what was to come. But I was still in Mother’s Day denial, so I pressed on.
Once in the store, we didn’t really find much for her. But I did find a few things for me that I actually needed, though I had to try them on before buying. This is always a challenge; my daughter is not a fan of sitting and waiting while I try things on for myself. So I pulled out the other well-know parental prod: bribery (and yes, you know you’ve done that, too). As soon as she started complaining about being bored in the dressing room, I happened to mention that I might need to go to the jewelry section afterwards, and if she behaved, we could maybe get something for her, too. I thought it had worked when her eyes brightened and she said, “Oooh, jewelry!”. And I was right; it did work – for about five minutes. After which point the boredom really started to set in, and she decided she wanted me (and every other customer in about a 10 foot radius) to know about. She quickly got louder, and more frustrated. I then did what I normally do when she acts out, I warned her of consequences. If she didn’t behave, she would lose the jewelry option. Thing is, you can’t expect to threaten something like that without following through on it; and I forget that trying to teach a lesson in a public place is not always the brightest idea. So when she decided that dropping the shirts I was saving to buy onto the floor (“to see if they would float!”) was a good idea and I did, in fact, take away the jewelry as a consequence, that’s when my Mother’s Day turned into – well, you can guess.
Squalling. Tears. Pleading. Stomping. The works. It was a display worthy of a Tony award. All in the confined space of a dressing room that does not connect to the ceiling, which has the effect of amplifying the sound through the whole cache of rooms connected to it. You can imagine the looks I got as I left with her (which I had to do by pulling her by the arm, because at this point she refused to walk normally). It was a six-year-old’s version of the wailing banshee.
Of course, by the time I got home I was furious, and exhausted. I felt like my whole Mother’s Day had been ruined by this singular, raucous, embarrassing event. Not only that, my daughter was now angry with me, and I was frustrated at her. Fantastic way to end the day, right? Granted, I tried to rise above and calm us both down for the evening, because I don’t like going to bed angry or with hurt feelings, especially for her. But I still had my own adult emotions to deal with after she went to sleep, and I couldn’t help feeling that my Mother’s Day had been hijacked somehow.
But as I reflected on it further, I realized that I had probably THE most perfect Mother’s Day of them all, if you really think about it. Because what is being a mother, if not a challenge? Being a mother is certainly not perfection. You do not sign up for this job because you expect never ending days of tranquility, unaccompanied shopping trips, agreeable children, and peaceful days and nights, do you? Clearly not. You sign up for loudness, confusion, scraped knees, high fevers, sleepless nights, backtalk, grumpiness, frustration, and tears. You sign up for worry, desperation, bribery, cajoling, arguments, errands, homework, and laundry. But you also sign up for laughter, bedtime stories, stargazing, and first-tooth-losing. You sign up for butterfly-chasing, late-night campfire singing, costume wearing, baby rocking, and hair smoothing. You sign up for hand holding, secret sharing, Eskimo kissing, milestone watching, “I love you more than all the clamshells in the sea, Momma” hearing. That’s what you sign up for.
None of it is perfection; and all of it is. It’s one big giant messy world of nothing you ever expected and everything you never dreamed all wrapped into the most beautiful package of a person; the one that calls you Mother. So I’ll take my Mother of a Day, today, bruises and all. Given the right vantage point, it ended up just as lovely as it started.