Seventeen years ago I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. The sun was out, though it was a little chilly, I wore my favorite purple sundress with a cute blue cardigan over it. We took baby Cooper for a ride up to Morrison Lake so Eric could show me where his family cottage that had been sold a few years before stood. We stopped and got ice cream and walked along the river in Portland. It was sweet and simple, I felt overwhelmingly lucky to be in the club, to be a momma. So in love with my little boy was I.
Fast forward seventeen years and Mother’s Day isn’t nearly as simple and that sweetness that accompanies new found motherhood has dulled, the duty and responsibility of motherhood has taken away some of its shine. The expectation of duplicating those early Mother’s Day memories is impossible. When the boys were little, my expectation of Mother’s Day were almost always met. My boys loved me, snuggled me, their faces lit up when I walked in a room. I didn’t need flowers or a brunch ~ their little arms wrapped tight around my neck and their little sweet mouths saying “You are da best momma evah” was all my heart needed to beat on.
They always love me, and I get my fair amount of hugs, but their lives are busy and I am not what lights up their face when I walk in a room anymore. I am the one reminding them of deadlines, asking (for the fourteenth time) if they have their classes for next year scheduled yet. I am the one begging on hands and knees for them to please, please, please put their damn laundry away. I check their grades and monitor their spending, I remind them to make good choices and feed them dinner. I am a sounding board and a go to, for certain. I am who they ask when they need something, or need me to negotiate with their dad (the latest negotiations involve a tattoo as an eighteenth birthday present). I’m who they tell when a speeding ticket lands in their lap or when a teacher “didn’t give them enough time to study!” I do the grunt work and the logistics and the planning. I keep the balls in the air – largely what I do is unseen and unnoticed. To them, a lot of what I do is irritating and frustrating.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining. There is no job on this planet that I would rather do than take care of my family. Ever. Even on days when all I do is scrub the walls with bleach because Cooper dragged a bag of field corn into his bedroom and a hatch of meal worms infested the upstairs. Or when I spent hours cleaning honey off of the stone of the fire place because Jackson needed his hands to be sticky like Spiderman’s so he could climb up the wall. Or when I took Aiden into to get ice cream when Eric was so mad at him for riding his bike too close to his Cadillac – scratching it from end to end. Or when I am up ironing a dress shirt at 11 o’clock at night because Jackson didn’t plan out his dress clothes for game day very well. Or when I am driving a missing cup to a game across town (or cleats, or a jersey, or a lacrosse stick …). Or when I am sitting in ER with a boy who can’t remember what day it is because he hit his head so hard, or when I am sitting in ER with a boy who jumped out the second story of our house with a rope he made of belts, or when I … am sitting in ER period. I can’t count how many times I have done that.
Raising boys is different – it just is – and I can’t explain all of those differences because I don’t know exactly what it’s like to mother a daughter – I only know what I was like to parent. And I know I spent time organizing my mom’s birthdays and Mother’s Day gifts. We never had a lot of money – but I always made sure she knew we loved her. Flowery hand written cards, hand made gifts. Girly things. Motherly things. There isn’t anyone in this house that heads that cause. There’s not a lot girly here but me.
There is no daughter here to buy me a pedicure, or make sure I have flowers, or make sure her brothers have bought me flowers, or make sure her dad remembered that it’s Mother’s Day. That’s not to say they ignore the day – they don’t – it’s just that I have spent a fair amount of Mother’s Day fishing. Fishing. I don’t love to fish, but they do. When you mother only boys – sometimes you have to read between the lines.
My photo will never come up on Instagram with the caption “2 the best mom ever! I ly so much! U do everything 4 me and I wouldn’t b anywhere without u!” That ain’t happening. They aren’t putting up any billboards proclaiming me as the best mom ever. They won’t write me a flowery hand written note that they spent hours on. They won’t give me a gift they spent days picking out. They won’t get dressed up in a frilly dress and take me out to a fancy brunch that they made reservations to weeks ago.
What I do have is breakfast in bed from Aiden, complete with strawberries laid out in a heart on my plate. What I did get was a small pink potted rose from Jackson who went with a friend to Meijer all by himself – on Saturday! What I will make for dinner tonight are grilled panini sandwiches with my new panini grill that Cooper got me – because I mentioned a few days ago that I would really like one. What I did get to do was watch Denver beat down Brown in the NCAA D1 Lacrosse playoffs with Jackson laying in bed with me. I also got to have lunch – at a sports bar, no fancy, pretty brunch for us! – with all three of my boys and E and my mom and brother and family. I watched Cooper talk with his little cousin Elin as if she was the only girl in the world. I did some laundry and helped Cooper send a few college emails. I took a nap! I read a little bit of a book. I smiled as Cooper took Aiden fishing in the rain. Just the two of them, big bro and little bro. I ate Cold Stone ice cream and went for a rainy drive. I got hugs and I tucked them all in.
No mimosas or fancy fruit plates. No beautiful flower arrangements or reservations. No Instagram posts of undying love and gratitude (although Aiden did post our picture and say “Happy Mother’s Day!”). Just my boys. Being themselves. Bickering some and laughing some too. Just E cleaning the kitchen and dusting the house. Just my boys. So much more than what I thought I would have wanted. It’s a good thing expectations can often be impossible to meet. I never would have set the bar this high.