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Mother's Day: Notes from a Veteran

Mother's Day: Notes from a Veteran

Mother's Day: Notes from a Veteran

Ah, here it comes... Mother's Day.

There is no avoiding it. That second Sunday in May is bound to roll around each year. And with it comes the reality that a family simply cannot pack all of the appreciation a mom deserves into that one day.

But give them credit: Your family will try. And like a local beauty queen in a parade whose float follows a horseback riding group and its pooper scoopers, moms across the nation will paste on that plastic smile, wave, and endure the ride.

Why? Simple answer. We love our families.

If I sound a tad bit sarcastic, I really am not trying to be. At least not trying too hard, that is. It's just that after 15 years in the motherhood business, I've come to realize that expecting too much from one day is a recipe for disaster. My husband and the children are after all flawed human beings, just like me.


A Rocky Start: Mother's Day #1

My first Mother's Day in 1996 could easily be titled, "The Day I Put Them Through Hell."

My husband and I had been married about nine months. My two oldest — stepchildren Josh and Denise — were 11 and 8. The end of school was still six weeks away but they were eager for their summer visit to their biological mother. (We were in New Jersey. She was in Florida.) They also not-so-secretly hoped that their bio mom would show up on this special day to be with them, as this was a legal option outlined in the divorce papers. I know. While I wasn't around for their divorce five years prior, I had read those papers just to discover for myself if what the kids were telling me was indeed true. Their innocent souls thought somehow we could all have this big day together. Ha, I wasn't dealing very effectively with this never-came-true notion. It was completely irrational, but I feared beyond anything else that she would show up and ruin my first Mother's Day.

We went to church. To this day, I remember the words of the pastor as he talked about the true meaning of motherhood and how biology had precious little to do with it. I felt as if he spoke only to me that day. But that reassurance wasn't enough to squelch my outlandish notion that my new family should just delight in spending the afternoon browsing through the myriad upscale novelty shops catering to the tourists in the beach community where we lived. Yeah, right. What in the world was I thinking?

The kids droned on about not wanting to miss their phone call with their mom. I took lingering looks at stuff we couldn't afford and really didn't need. My husband's patience was completely worn — although I do give him credit because somehow it took me several years later to figure that out. He must have been just holding it together at the time. God bless him.

Breakfast in Dread

Fast forward a few years. With the addition of my now 13-year-old son, Ian, there were now three kids in the family. Josh and Denise, a teen and tween respectively, wanted absolutely nothing to do with anything parental — let alone a Mother's Day celebration for me, their stepmother.

I remember being told to remain in bed. Breakfast was coming to me. Super slowly. Um, okay, I think. My mind flashes to the unrealistic images shown on television of a perky, pretty mom with neatly styled tresses, relaxing against a bevy of pillows. Quickly I realize this woman does not exist. Staying in that fantasy would have been oh so enjoyable, but alas, the noise coming from the kitchen thrusts me back to where I actually am.

It sounded as if a war was being fought in there. Clanking, banging and the all-too-frequent utterings of "no, not like that" or "no, make it look right" reminded me to find my plastic smile and not worry about the rat's nest condition of my hair. (Of course, my husband regularly calling out to me in a loud voice asking for the location of specific kitchen items did little to add to the tranquility I was supposed to be experiencing.) But the tray presented to me that morning was lovely, adorned with dandelions picked by my youngest. And the meal was delicious. My husband makes quite an omelet.

The joy had a short shelf life. When I went into the kitchen, it looked like someone set off a bomb. Somehow nearly every pot and pan had something sticky in its bottom. Batter was on the ceiling. Cupboard doors were flung wide open. Several kitchen dish towels were doubling as sponges absorbing whatever it was that had been left swirling on the counter and dripping to the floor. This one still puzzles me, but for some odd reason there was cat food in the middle of all of this.

Despite the assurances that this too would be handled and I should go relax, I knew quite a bit of it would be waiting for me the next day. While they did clear the larger items, the little details (scraping the spilled stuff off the range, cleaning the explosions in the microwave, the actual turning on of the dishwasher, and the scrubbing of that mystery mess off the floor) were all left to Monday morning, when the "real momness" would kick back in.

Lessons Learned

In spite of these stories, my darling family has given me great reasons to smile on Mother's Day over the years. I sense the effort they make. I have beautiful cards with illegible handwriting, misshapen pieces of pottery crafted just for me, enough body lotion to keep my skin moisturized until I become a grandmother, and fond memories of several plants I killed by Father's Day without any effort. I truly cherish it all. I adore them for all these attempts.

However, I've also learned a few tricks to survive this day. If there is a particular gift I really desire, I email an online shopping link to hubby. This year, I've got my electronic eye on an autism awareness bracelet to honor the fact that my youngest has Asperger's Syndrome. I've learned to leave teenagers behind if there is some place I really want to visit without the accompaniment of complaints. (For instance, several years ago, I really wanted to spend the day at the Musk Ox Farm and see the newborn calves. The fact that these big beasts are so darn ugly makes them just the most adorable critters. The babies are simply sweet. Josh and Denise promptly dug in their heels, and the shock on their faces when I said, "fine, stay home" was priceless. Of course, this was followed by my husband adding that they could do some yard work in my absence. They at least did rake up the front yard.) And I've learned to opt out of a meal prepped at home unless I want something on the barbecue. My husband also makes an amazing hamburger.

This year my husband has to work on Mother's Day. It means Ian gets to rise to the occasion on his own. It also means I'll be busy with a real mom activity: teaching the man-boy just a bit more about how to take care of a lady. Well, actually, make that two ladies. A friend whose husband is also going to be away is coming over for the afternoon. The back deck gets great afternoon sun and I am thinking that for just one day Ian can fetch ice water, tea or lemonade and perhaps even serve a meal. It will either be Chinese take-out or the macaroni and cheese he's become an expert at preparing. But at least I won't have to cook it and the residual mess won't be too tough to clean up Monday morning.

Happy Mother's Day to each of you amazing women on this journey called motherhood. Don't forget to pack your sense of humor and your trip will be much more enjoyable.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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