When I was a kid, I used to roll my eyes at my mom because she cried at everything. TV commercial for orange juice? She’s crying. Cute picture of puppies? Crying. Now it’s me. I cry at softball games, middle school plays, honor roll, high school concerts, library day, clay, 5th grade promotions, ice cream, swim lessons, parent/teacher conferences, and the 2nd grade wax museum. I can’t even attend Back to School Night without crying. The moms at our school like to give me a hard time about it, in that good natured way that only true Jersey broads can do. What can I say? I’m a sap. You can imagine what Mother’s Day does to me.
Mother’s Day is always a little weird in my head. Nobody in my family ever leaves me out; on the contrary, CC and the kids always do something over-the-top nice.
Often as a stepmom I feel like a hypocrite, as if I’m totally faking my way through this parenting thing that I am completely unqualified for. There must be a million other people that could do this better. I didn’t take a test, there was no apprenticeship, and I am baffled that anyone thinks it’s okay for me to help raise children. Yet it seems that at my darkest moments I meet real parents who tell me that sometimes that’s what being a parent feels like.
On Mother’s Day in particular I’m acutely aware of my shortcomings. I’m hypersensitive to that other maternal semi-absence in their lives that I can never fill, or fix. The thing about absences is that our minds fill in the gaps with details that are not entirely true. I compare myself to ideal images of ideal mothers that no one ever asked me to emulate and fall far short. Then, just when I’m really feeling like a piece of crap, the kids give me something that says that they like me.
One year CC and the kids gave me personal training sessions at our community center, something I’d wanted since I became aware of the twenty pounds that showed up shortly after they came to live with us. Last year they gave me an iPad. Sometimes I get the feeling they’re scared I’ll leave. But I think they know I’m easily bought with homemade chocolate chip cookies. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t need the trainer.
My favorite gifts without a doubt are the things that come home from school. I am honored beyond words that they give me this stuff, and I’ve kept every last card, paperweight, ornament, and macaroni art.
This year, the awesome thing they did for me is let me leave. I’m back in Indy seeing my shiny new nephew:
Look at those ears!
And that itty-bitty foot!
I got to give my own Mother’s Day cards to my own Mom and Stepmom in person, which is good, because I’m also a crappy daughter, quite possibly a worse daughter than I am a parent, and I never mail that stuff out on time.
Before I left for Indy, there was a moment when the kids all suddenly realized that the trip I had mentioned was happening on the same weekend as Mother’s Day.
#2: NOOOO! YOU’VE RUINED EVERYTHING!!!
That may not sound like a gift to the outside observer, but trust me, it totally is. #1 had a similar comment and even pouted a little. I was touched. I’ve thrown off their plans, whatever they were, and so I’ve already won.
#3 keeps trying to string me along, speaking cryptically about the thing she made me in school, much like I try to do to her at Christmas and her birthday. She doesn’t know it but she already gave me the best gift ever by finally selecting an appropriate dress for the Bar Mitzvah she’s invited to later this month, as opposed to her previous selections which were appropriate only for getting a fake ID and stealing a car to go into the city on a ten-day bender.
#4 asked if she could give me part of my gift before I left. She had made an awesome card on full-size posterboard that had this on the back:
(I realized while uploading this picture that at some point on this blog I will have to explain about #4 and I bonding over KISS.)
Most worried by the realization that I would be gone on Mother’s Day was #5. He walked into the kitchen and placed a tissue-paper-wrapped bundle and a card on the counter in front of the coffee pot, and then kind of backed away and looked at the floor. There was a gift tag on the package that said some crap about a mother’s light and I couldn’t get any farther than that because I was already tearing up. I unwrapped the bundle. It was a votive holder that he had decorated with dried flowers and paper, so that it would glow when you lit the candle. It was really cool. (It also explained why he walked up to me the other day and asked, “Are you allergic to any kinds of flowers?”) At this point, he made sure to show me that there was a candle inside, and told me if any paper came up over the top of the glass to tear it off so it wouldn’t catch on fire.
Then I read the card. I knew as soon as I saw that careful, super-neat printing, that I was done for. And I was; it was the sweetest card anybody could ever hope to get and I was a damned faucet. And then I got to the part after he signed his name:
P.S. I love you more than bacon.
If you need me, I’ll be at Costco setting up camp in the aisle with the tissues.