“Happy Mother’s Day,” my friend Madge texted from Harrisburg this morning, three hours before I rolled out of bed. “Your kids are so lucky.”
Madge raised one lovely daughter and through the years was in constant awe of how I managed the masses. From afar, her perception was that I did pretty darn good. But, we all look good on social media and all sound great through the stories we tell.
Mothers don’t have it easy. We can’t help but compare ourselves to the bounty of perfect mothers out there. The mothers who cook dinner every single night and whose kids willingly sit around the table with them. Every. Single. Night. The mothers who spend hours finger painting, play doughing, and splashing in puddles without ever once worrying about the mess.
There are those mothers who can do an ER run without having to call her best friend. And without saying, don’t drip your blood on the car seat. Mothers who get up in the middle of the night, at the crack of dawn, to answer a child’s cry without elbowing her spouse awake, so that he, who works 12-hour days outside of the house, will do the dirty work. Mothers who change the sheets every week, wash the towels every day, iron the wrinkles out of linen blouses.
There are mothers out there who bestow flowers upon their daughters as they finish their cheerleading routines, buy lawn signs praising their graduates (back when kids actually graduated), and post videos of the cute little things their cute little kids said or did, or didn’t do.
There are mothers who are fiercely protective, brag incessantly, and announce to the world that their kids are the strongest, smartest, and best human beings ever born. Mothers who make decisions with confidence and embrace their children’s decisions with calm.
And, yes, there are mothers who have never, ever thought, let alone said out loud, the F word in conjunction with, or as an adjective to one of their children’s names.
I hear from many of those mothers on Mother’s Day. Bonnie and Angela and Claire and Theresa and Tracy and Karen (even though I always yell at her for sending wishes in a chain with 30 other mothers included). Texts go round and round to all the mothers in the UNC gang, the college girls, the church ladies. I get texts from Heather and Susan and Janice and Betty and Ann and Holly and Kathy. It’s a lot for someone who doesn’t even believe in the “holiday.”
But, it’s messages from the kids who I’ve duped along the way that tug at my heart strings. The Oliva and Harleys, the Diana’s, the Chris Joneses and Koree’s (I know it’s coming), the Mike Chiaradio’s.
Every single year since I’ve known her, Liza sends me a text: “Thank you for always being an example of a great mother.”
I shake my head and smile, thinking please, please, don’t follow my example with Penelope, the most perfect two year-old ever.
And Tanya, who was there when I woke up from my mastectomy, who visited me after I had my knees replaced, “Thanks for being an outstanding mother and giving me my sisters Max and Molly and brother Leo.” I’m thinking that typo was a dig at Max.
I hear from Heather, the daughter’s oldest, bestest friend, who won me over twenty years ago and will be at the top of my list for the next twenty. Or forty, if I live that long.
I always say that I had the perfect mother. The one who never meddled. The one who never yelled. The one who loved every single minute of being a mother. And still does. I’ll zoom with her later and she’ll pooh-pooh the praise and lament over all the things she thinks she did wrong.
But, perception is reality.
And while I will continue to encourage my children to shelter in place, as long as it’s not my place, I will always and forever feel their pain, their joy, their heartbreaks, their hopes, their fails, their fun, and most of all, their love.
Because apparently, I’ve duped them, too.