This past Mother’s Day I made a mistake. I know, I know – mothers are supposed to know best. But I didn’t live my Mother’s Day in the present.
It’s always been a “mixed bag” type of holiday for me. My mother was an alcoholic that I was estranged from for 15 years before her death two years ago, and my father took over both parenting roles from the time I was 10 years old, but he’s gone now, too. I have a wonderful step-mother, but even the best step-parenting situations have their intricacies, and Hallmark doesn’t help – there are either drippy sentimental cards that scream mother, or ones that simply scream step-mother. There’s no in between, just a proverbial neon sign that alternately flashes, “broken family” and “dysfunctional childhood.”
My ex-husband, whose behavior is mercurial at best, “over-gifts” me with things like flowers, chocolates, facials, etc. that are supposed to be from my children, who always seem as surprised as me. I know you’re thinking that sounds kind and considerate, but don’t forget the mercurial part. You can imagine that these gifts don’t exactly thrill my significant other, who is navigating his own way through the deep waters of step-parenting, and trying to handle these types of holidays with grace.
So, my preference on Mother’s Day would’ve been to be greeted with a quiet token of gratitude from my children, and then I’d have crawled under the nearest rock until the day was over. Or I could have been someone else that day, perhaps a famous professional writer weighing in at 118 pounds (approx.), with wrinkles in my brow only from inspecting pages of my own lilting prose. But I digress.
We all know, this doesn’t happen. Mothers can’t disappear on Mother’s Day because everyone else wants to be certain that they’ve openly honored the mothers in their lives to the satisfaction of said mothers, so there’s no consequence the following day. Or week, or month, or year. So why did I not put on my big girl panties and bask in the attention, praise and admiration my wonderful children and partner were willing to bestow upon me?
When I turned my head for a second to glance over my shoulder at my familiar yet twisted history, I let one of my feet slide into the Dreaded Past. The past is like quicksand – if you dip your toe in, before you know it you’re up to your waste in slimy memories, hearing the negative voices you know too well, and flailing your arms like you’re drowning at sea. Obviously not a pretty scene.
I write this wearing the beautiful necklace I got as a gift from my kids and my boyfriend. I’ve re-scheduled the surprise family portrait they had scheduled that I couldn’t pull myself together for that afternoon. My family will forgive me, or they know I’ll just make their lives hell with the power that only a mother has when she’s not hiding under rocks. And next year, this mother will know best.