May 8, 2011

an ode (of sorts) to motherhood

My first Mother's Day as a mom came when I was six months pregnant with Briton. Not technically a mother yet, I suppose, but close enough to count, I decided. I had all sorts of ideas in my head about what Mother's Day should be like. Peaceful and realizing and elegant and perfect. Which is strange because I'd spent plenty of Mother's Days with my own mother and they were never like that. But I guess pregnancy brain got the better of me and I had high expectations.
Will was just weeks away from his thesis project due date and had very little time to spare, so I set about planning my own Mother's Day Picnic. We were dirt poor. Will was still in school and I was an underpaid second year teacher; we couldn't really afford to spend a chunk of change on Mother's Day, but never the less I stocked up at the glorious (and pricy) deli at a local market and then headed to Target to buy picnic dishes, silverware and a blanket. Because it all needed to match. It all needed to be perfect.

Of course it wasn't perfect. By the time I'd shopped for everything I thought we needed and had picked up Will for the hour he had to spare from the day I was frustrated and angry and weepy. We were not supposed to be rushed. I was not supposed to do the planning This was not how it was supposed to be. Looking back I see the ridiculousness of my attitude. And I marvel at how Will managed to not smack me upside the head. But at that moment, it all seemed wrong.

How much I have learned since that day. I wish I could go back and shake (gently) the younger me out of that funk, tell her to enjoy the silence of a riverside picnic, not matter how quick, because soon enough being by a river, or near stairs, or in a car or anywhere, would be more about keeping the kids from falling in or down or out than it would be about enjoying a few minutes with good food and the man I love. But I'd also hug her, because I get it. Before kids, you think Motherhood will be perfect, and it is, but not that way you imagine.

Motherhood is messy. The other day I was holding the six month old baby boy of a friend. Her first. He spend most of the afternoon gnawing on my scarf, obviously enjoying the feeling of the knobby surface against his teething gums. My friend kept worrying, not over the baby, but over the scarf, telling me that she was sorry he was getting it wet. I kept thinking that baby drool was not the worst thing that has ever been on my clothes. It probably wasn't the worst thing that had been on my clothes that day, because, like I said, motherhood is messy.
And Mother's Day is messy, wonderfully so. Now a days, a perfect Mother's Day is feigning sleep while my children stand two feet away and whisper (loudly) about if it's time to give me my present. Or the feeling of a box being dropped, none to gently, on my stomach only to be snatched away by a different pair of hands who think that no, it's really not time. It's construction paper cards and funny paintings and running out to get milk before breakfast because a certain boy poured himself the last of it yesterday and then put the jug in the recycling bin without letting anyone know we were out. (But he gets points for recycling the jug instead of leaving it out on the counter).

I've been feeling a little nostalgic this week. Spending a lot of time in bed, exhausted but too sore to sleep, will do that I guess. My grandmother, my dad's mother, died 33 years ago on Friday, but even though we spent a mere nine months on earth together, she had a profound impact on my life, inspiring me from the beyond. I've been very lucky in my life to be mothered by a whole tribe of women. My aunties, who took me to museums and drove me around in their VW bugs and bought me ice cream and Barbies regardless of whether I was supposed to have them or not. And Grandma, my mom's mom, who taught me to sew and cook and make and who made me feel like I was the most important person in the world, even though I was one of many grandchildren.
And then there is my mom. I found a card yesterday (too late to mail it of course) that said "Even if she weren't my mother, I'd still go out of my way to be friends with her" which perfectly sums up how I feel about my mother. She has taught me more about motherhood by example than any book could ever do and I probably don't tell her enough how much she means to me. But she knows it anyway I bet. Because that's how mom's are. Still, just to make sure she does know it - I love you mom.

Happy Mother's Day everyone.