Ah, Mother’s Day.
It conjures up images of beautiful brunches, adoring children, and thoughtful gifts honoring all that mothers sacrifice and do on behalf of their families.
My reality is a bit different.
Mother’s Day is a holiday I approach with more than a small amount of trepidation. Possibly without exception (and I only say “possibly” because there might be an exception, but I honestly can’t think of one), every Mother’s Day has been an opportunity for my girls to roundly remind me of all the parts of being mother that I don’t like. It’s like they spend the day parading their ugly sides in order that I might, for the rest of the year, appreciate how wonderful they are and how blessed I am to be their mother. And the universe conveniently conspires to add its own dose of mayhem, lest I get a moment’s respite from their antics.
This year’s Mother’s Day was the perfect example. Amend the details, and it could stand in for just about any Mother’s Day I’ve had in 12 years:
Sabrina had a good friend who inexplicably had planned a very big, very expensive, and very fun birthday party for the better part of Mother’s Day, so we shifted most of our celebration to the Saturday evening before. James had to be out of town at his parents’ ranch and asked the girls and I to join him on Saturday and stay the night so we could be together Mother’s Day morning. Bryn had a birthday party on Saturday that was supposed to end at 4:30 but ran much later, so we were a little late getting to the ranch. On our drive out of town, the girls bickered and poked at each other, setting my teeth on edge. Then Bryn announced that she’d need to go to the craft store the next day (Mother’s Day) for a school project on Monday. Seriously?? I promptly told her “No.” and, given the tone of my voice, she didn’t ask a second time.
James’ parents have a dog, Gus, who is hardly older than a puppy, although he is probably at least 50 lbs, and James’ giant mastiff, Roxy, was also at the ranch, where she’s been staying until we get a a fence at the new house. The girls and I had brought along our whippet/terrier mix, Gertie, and Bryn’s mini-dachshund, Bella. As soon as we pulled in the driveway and got out of the car, Gus began harassing Bella, which frightened her and set her to whining and yapping, so Bryn started screaming and crying hysterically, causing Bella to amp up the yapping and Roxy to come over to see what the noise was. Roxy’s method of calming the other dogs down was to nip at them, so Bryn and Sabrina were screaming at Roxy, thinking Bella or Gertier were being hurt. This is a scenario that played out multiple times over the next 12 hours. I’ve drawn the conclusion that the dogs will never be besties…
Later, with the dogs separated and the girls calmed down, James started the grill for dinner. He had purchased flowers for me, ostensibly from my girls, but when I thanked them for the flowers, neither daughter even bothered to respond. A summer storm appeared suddenly, drenching the deck and chilling the air. We waited for it to pass, then ate outside — but quickly because the girls were clamoring for us to start the movie they’d picked – The Hulk. So into the house and onto the movie. As soon as we started the movie, Sabrina (who had picked it out and pressed so vigorously for us to start it), promptly left to go get ready for bed. Realizing that she’d then require us to reiterate for her in vivid detail every bit of the plot she’d missed, James hit the pause button and we all waited. Just before Sabrina returned, Bryn decided that she, too, needed to change for bed, so we waited some more. Finally, on to the movie! Except that the DVD player seemed to have difficulty coordinating with the TV, so the action sequences and background music were VERY LOUD while the dialogue was nearly inaudible. James kept the remote handy and tuned the volume up and down, up and down, up and down throughout the movie. Perhaps surprisingly, The Hulk has a fairly convoluted plot, and it was actually difficult to follow when you missed the first part of every dialogue.
Even without the technical difficulties, the movie wouldn’t have been the relaxing family time I’d been looking forward to. Bryn was hopped up on sugar from the birthday party she’d attended, and Sabrina had had too many caffeinated iced teas to sit still. So, there was a lot of fidgeting, mixed in with arguing over who got to sit next to me. I’m pretty sure I said “Enough, already!” at least a half dozen times.
The drama of the evening was further enhanced by Gertie and Bella’s discovery of Wobbles, James’ parents’ enormous tabby cat. I’d neglected to consider the presence of Wobbles in my plans for us all to hang out at the ranch, primarily because I’d never before laid eyes on him. He’s like a phantom blur — an enormous cat who wanders the canyons, returns with small animals bigger than Bella, and avoids all human contact. Of course, on this particular night, he had found his way indoors and was located by the enthusiastic noses of my dogs, who then proceeded to chase him all around the house while the bigger dogs chased them to protect the cat, and the girls, James, and I screamed and ran after them all, trying to insure that neither of the small dogs was shredded by Wobbles’ considerable claws or Roxy’s massive jaws. Twice during the movie, my dogs tracked down Wobbles and a mad dash through the house ensued, interrupting our attempts to follow the movie despite the volume control issues. By the time the credits rolled, even with three glasses of wine, my nerves were completely frayed.
We put the girls to bed, in the midst of arguments around who had to sleep on the top bunk. Even after James and I thought we might be done parenting for the night, Bella and Wobbles went for round 3, woke everyone up, and brought Bryn to our bedroom door in tears. At that point, James and I discussed whether the girls, dogs, and I should just head back home for the night. Too tired to carry out that plan, we collapsed in bed.
The next morning — Mother’s Day — James helped Sabrina make me breakfast in bed while Bryn pouted and whined about various injustices. As I sat in bed to eat and open my little presents, the girls traded barbs and promoted their superiority as the better daughter. Honestly, I was exhausted before I got out of bed. When I did, there wasn’t much time to get cleaned up and out the door in order to start the hour-long drive to take Sabrina to her friend’s birthday party. Before we left the ranch, I asked the girls if they’d made the beds and tidied the room they’d slept in. They solemnly assured me they had, but when James went in for a quick inspection, he reported that they’d left it messy. They know better, for sure. I made no attempt to conceal my annoyance as the girls and I got in the car and headed down the hills. I lectured my daughters on their behaviors during this short trip and informed them that they’d really killed my Mother’s Day buzz. After some strong chiding from me, they both apologized. Once we were out of the canyons and again in cell range, Sabrina texted her friend to find out exactly where the partygoers were meeting, only to be told that the party was postponed until the next Saturday. So, we’d gotten up and on the road for nothing. Lovely.
At that point, I steered the car toward home and firmly decided that I was done with Mother’s Day. No more. As I told James, I will no longer be “celebrating” Mother’s Day. From now on, I just want a normal Sunday in my wonderful home with my family that I love. That would definitely make me happier than whatever “specialness” might mark the day for me.
The good news is that once I threw off the Mother’s Day mantle, I had a nice day. A good long nap, followed by some time in my yard weeding, and capped off with a welcome home party for James’ eldest daughter. A perfectly quiet, relaxing, renewing day.
Yes, indeed, I think I’ve finally figured out how to thwart the Mother’s Day goblins that ruin my day each year — no longer give them a day to ruin. I am happier in my everyday life than most people, so I believe I’ll just take another everyday, thankyouverymuch.
And to the rest of you, Happy Mother’s Day. I hope it was everything you wanted and nothing that you didn’t. And I hope you still like your children now that it’s over. Mine are starting to grow on me again.