A Mother's Day To Remember
Mother's Day, 2020, will be one for the books, as COVID-19 restrictions prevent many of us from hugging our own moms and celebrating them in person. During these pandemic times, Mother's Day may also fall upon a milieu of mixed emotions as we mothers do what we always do - keep crew members and passengers happy, healthy, and sane, repair the boat as it invariably springs a leak or two, and make sure that the ship continues to sail forward - but now with the additional need to navigate open waters dotted with unusual unknowns and uncertainties. We're in uncharted territory, yet we expect ourselves to hold it all together. And we do - somehow we find a way, and we keep on going. For some of us, it might not be pretty (ahem...), but we still find a way. So moms, here's a virtual toast to you, because you deserve it.
An orchid that I received two and a half years ago, and look!
I have not killed it! Miracles do happen. For more flowers,
check out the beauty of the Netherland's Keukenhof Gardens.
If it were up to me, Mother's Day would be a high holiday
Of the various holidays that mark my calendar, Mother's Day ranks high up there in importance to me. Christmas is, well, Christmas, and my kids' birthdays represent the auspicious dates when I first became a mom, and then a mom of two, doubling the fun. Each year's passing of my kids' birthdays stands as a clarion declaration of the passage of time, as nothing like the growth of a child, one who has been with you since his or her first breath, proclaims (in bold, caps, and underscore), "Time sure is flying by!!" My own birthday? Meh. A yearly reminder that I'm still around, that I should pause for a moment and take stock of where I've been, where I am, and where I want to go, and an excellent excuse to eat cake. Other holidays might register on my radar because they serve as opportunities to eat yummy food, in the company of family and friends. (Hmmm... I'm realizing that holidays are rather food-centric for me... 😳)
Then and now.
The tiny little feet that filled these Robeez now tread the world
in gargantuan foot vessels. WHAT. THE. HECK. Just stop. Please.
Mother's Day has grown in significance on my holiday-meter. (I won't get into why moms should be recognized, if not celebrated, every day and not just one day of the year, or why Mother's Day should be a national holiday with a requisite stat day, so that the celebrated person of honour receives perks such as a paid mental health day, a kid activity-free long weekend, which means no chauffeuring duties, etc. ...). I am not a religious person, therefore holidays like Easter and Christmas are more about creating memories, like a fun scavenger hunt for the kids, or spending time with family, all while eating an obscene amount of food. But Mother's Day is a different story, because of the profound impact motherhood has had on me. Nothing else in my life brings me to my knees the way that motherhood does, making me feel inept and so unsure of myself, nor has anything else in my life elevated me and revealed my inner strength and courage like motherhood, as I would do anything for my kids. Don't get me wrong, though - I am no saint, I am far from being a perfect mom, whatever that is, and I am sooo unqualified to wax philosophical about motherhood, as evidenced by the tears shed and hand-wringing over the years. What I can say is that over time, I've learned and observed a few things, none of which are novel or earth-shattering, but that are meaningful enough to open my mind and galvanize growth. And that, I suppose, is one of the reasons we are here - to learn and grow, in order to make better decisions and, hopefully, a better world.
Running the gamut of emotions - the highs, the lows, and everything in between
Being a mom has broadened the spectrum of my emotions. How could it not? Those pre-child years were pretty selfish ones - it was all about me, myself, and I. Remember those days when an evening out began at 10:30pm, lining up outside a downtown club in anticipation of some "Retro Night" hits on the dance floor? Yeah, neither do I. Clearly a former life that looks nothing like my current one: me in comfy sweat pants by dinner time. I wouldn't trade my present for the past, however, as motherhood has enabled me to experience so many different emotions that could only be accessible to me because of the bond and experiences I share with my kids. These emotions range from: joy, pride, and gratitude because of my incredible kids; to fear of failure as I wonder whether or not I'm doing everything I can to ensure that they will be kind, compassionate, confident, and resilient: to pain when they hurt in a way that cannot be fixed by a mother's kiss or a Toy Story band-aid: and to self-recrimination for taking out my frustrations on my kids as I realize, too late, that my anxious, decidedly non-zen interactions with them may become an admonishing voice in their heads as they grow up. I knew before I became a mother that it would be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. What I didn't fully understand, not until the first time I laid eyes on and held my baby, was the intense love and fierce protectiveness of motherhood that renders small moments of joy into mini explosions of stardust, and minor setbacks into gut-wrenching devastation. The stakes seem that much higher, the risks greater, when it comes to our kids, simply because from the moment of their birth to the end of time, they will always be a part of us.
“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.” - Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match
The beauty of an insanity that makes sense
Imagine if you saw this job description that requires a willingness to:
subject your body and mind to some crazy physiological, physical, and psychological changes as a little person comes to be;
undergo a process that is punishing to both body and mind to bring this little person into the world;
take care of the physical, emotional, and social well-being of this little creature who is totally dependent on you for survival;
shepherd this evolving person through the myriad obstacles and quandaries of life;
ensure that this person is educated, both in and outside the classroom;
guard this person with your life;
create a bond with this person that is unlike any other bond in your life, only to:
give them the wings to be able to successfully fly away from you, and the tools and resources to be able to thrive without needing you.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Spelled out like that, it's akin to voluntarily ripping off gazillions of industrial strength bandaids from a non-healing wound. (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. But can you tell that I might not cope well when my kids leave the nest?) The thing is, we choose this because of the unique magic inherent in raising a child - from those early flutters and dances within the womb, to discovering the world with and through the eyes of a child (how else would one ever hear the excited exclamation, "Mama, I can see my dreams!!"?), and to creating memories that are special because they are exclusive to you and your child. It's not all rainbows and unicorns, that's for sure - in fact, a lot of it may be a bit of a slog - but those moments of magic make it all worthwhile, as they bring clarity and focus to what matters most: our kids.
“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is... and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” - Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
So this is what I tell myself
We know that being a mom is tough and, at times, crazy. To prevent myself from losing it, I try to remind myself:
No one is perfect. Everybody has a backstory, with its own trials and tribulations. We're often not privy to it, and we should try to be informed before passing judgment. Or better yet, don't judge.
Be kind to yourself. There is no need to place lofty, or impossible, expectations on yourself. All we can and should do is try our best.
Take care of yourself. Think of your mental and physical health as being fundamental to not only your well-being but to your child's well-being, too. A better frame of mind for you, and good modelling for your child. It's more than ok to take time for yourself - it's necessary. So do whatever works to restore balance within - mindfulness pursuits? Axe-throwing? Regular sessions with a therapist? Go for it. I approve. It's unfortunately easy to forget about oneself - I do it all the time, and it's something I definitely need to work on.
Don't forget to laugh. At yourself. At the absurd. At your kids (but just don't do that right in front of them). Because with kids, there's no shortage of laughs if you're open to them.
"I asked myself." 😂 Mic drop.
(Thank you, Peter Sowell, for sharing this with the world.)
Be present, and be available. Oooh, the number of times I've told myself that, especially as the kids have grown and become more busy, is quite embarrassing. However, I think I might be doing ok if my kids still share their thoughts with me, even the ones that they find uncomfortable or intensely personal. I'll know better when they're past their teen years...
Hold on to what's important, and let go of what isn't. Pick your battles. Decide what's worth the emotional energy. Sometimes that's hard to figure out, and we might need help to sort it out.
Hold on to your little ones ❤️
I do not claim to know everything or even a lot about being a mom, only the stuff that I've gleaned from fumbling about, messing up frequently, trying to figure out what works for my family. It's definitely a work-in-progress, one whose parameters will continue to shift, thereby exasperating me or plaguing me with self-doubt, as the kids transition through the different ages and stages. Being a mom is one helluva job/role - it's beautiful yet messy, you're part of a sisterhood with similar experiences yet those experiences are poignantly unique to you, and it's rewarding yet so unforgiving at times. For these reasons and so many more, I know that being mom to my kids will be the most meaningful and cherished experience of my life. So to all you moms (and our moms before us) who show up everyday, regardless of how tired, preoccupied, or overwhelmed you are, to do this thing called motherhood, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day. This one's for you.
Until next time,