So, a few years ago, I wrote about my dislike for the way Mother’s Day is thrust upon women. I thought maybe my feelings would change once I had a baby. It’s such a strange holiday.
Because it is Mother’s Day, Sweet Man (already a doting father) goes out of his way to take care of Frabjous Baby. It is one of the strange paradoxes of this holiday that I am permitted to take a break from the logistics of mothering. As though one could ever take a break from being a mom. Sweet Man’s hands change the diaper, soothe the crying, play peek-a-boo, but my heart helps anyway.
Sitting in church, watching my two favorite boys, the spectre of a thought from FB’s first two weeks of life rises up. If anyone knows how miserable I am, they will take him away from me. The only thing that would’ve been harder than being a brand new mom then would’ve been not being a brand new mom. I shudder inwardly at the emotional disaster of those to weeks. Another thought from then joins me: Surely there are other women who would be a better Mom to him than I can ever be. It terrifies me as much now as it did then. I think of all the ways I’ve failed him as a Mom. There are very few specifics on which to hang my guilt, but it hovers around me nonetheless. Frabjous Baby reaches a chubby hand up towards Sweet Man’s nose, trying to grab it. Adorable.
It occurs to me that my mother is, as Meghan O’Rourke says, “unmothered.” So is my father. So are my in-laws. My brain seizes on a wild hair. If my mother is now the grandmother, and I am the mother, then it must be my job to mother my unmothered mother. Which makes no sense, is presumptuous, and is impossible anyway.
There have been ads on the radio and tv promoting this or that product as the best way to “tell mom you love her.” Yes, the most appropriate way to thank someone for not only giving you the gift of life, but also teaching you how to enjoy that gift is to give that person an iPad. Or diamond earrings. Those are equivalent gestures.
I remember my favorite thing I ever gave my mother as a child. It was some roll-on perfume, rose-scented (which, now that I think of it, was her mother’s favorite scent). I also gave her a pink pen with her name engraved on it. My mother is allergic to most scents. They give her migraines. She also hates pink. She said thank-you and kissed me. She carried that pen in her purse for years.
I did not receive much of a gift in the traditional sense this year. I am ok with that. This year is just a practice run. I could say that I feel like a total fraud, like I’m still just playing at being a Mom, but that is uncharitable. It’s like being the new kid at school again. I don’t know who to ‘sit’ with– the moms or the “differently mom-ed.” Anyway, the best gifts are yet to come. Someday, my little one will give me crayon wall art, muddy footprints through the house, boy stink, and sweet sticky kisses. Someday Frabjous Baby will say, “I love you, Mommy.” That will be the best gift.
I am pretty sure that the thing my mom likes most about me is my son. It’s ok. I’m pretty sure he’s what I like best about myself, too. I sent her a picture of him to celebrate today. She won’t get it on time. Instead, my sister is giving her a scented candle as a proxy gift from me. These — the picture, the candle– are not equivalent gestures.
Frabjous Baby plays on a blanket on the floor. He shrieks gleefully at me. I look up at him and smile. I make motorboat noises on his tummy. He grabs a fistful of my hair and roars at it, dragging it inexorably towards his mouth. I extricate myself and attempt to distract him with a toy. Instead, he just looks at me. I am the best toy. He shines a gummy, four-toothed smile at me and claps and claps and claps. I love you, Mommy.
What a strange holiday.