Missing Something on Mother’s Day

Being Mother’s Day, I wondered if I should write a post about my mother but then I thought, no. It’s too sad, really, and not the kind of tribute others want to read. Many mothers, it seems, left dark mysteries and heartaches as legacies to their daughters. Mine was no exception. It would be more fitting to write about MJ on some other occasion, like a cold rainy day, when there’s no sunshine to compete with my pen or my memories.

I then thought maybe I should write about my kids, but everybody who reads this blog already knows how much they mean to me, and Lis and Mac have heard it a thousand times over. We celebrated Mother’s Day early this year, and I was beautifully spoiled, but in a grown-up way I’m not sure I’ll ever really get used to. Not that I don’t appreciate the thoughtful and lovely things my children pick out, but let’s face it — they’re not exactly finger paintings or handcrafted dinosaur dioramas. They’re not rhinestone studded potholders or construction paper cards. They’re not Mommy presents, but presents for a Mother. With a capital M. Meaning mature, meaning older.

I miss the days of getting misty-eyed over Crayola drawings. I miss reading children’s books out loud. I miss writing stories for my own kids. I miss the smell of freshly shampooed heads, and the feeling that the crook of my arm had a divine purpose. I miss having a little person to go places with, and I miss how everything that was old and boring to me was brand new and exciting to them, like light switches, twinkling stars, ice cubes, and telephones. I miss the grade school essays they wrote about family, even when they were embarrassing. Along with “I love my mom. She is funny and good and paints my fingers,“ my daughter also once wrote, “My mom’s favrite thing is be naked and eat spaggetti.” (Meaning — I like to take baths and eat spaghetti. Separately. One is a naked activity, the other is not).

My son once told his school principal that I gave him fifteen names, and then proceeded to tell him all the derivations, terms of endearment, and nicknames I gave him. The principal called me and told me I was confusing my son, who apparently didn’t know what his birth name was. Of course MacKenzie Richard Cooper Ross Love Honey Boychik Sweetie Handsome Boo Bear LittleMan Mackie Deega Daw knew his name. He just thought it was funny to string the principal along. The same way he thought it would be funny, at three years old, to sneak to the top of my closet, where I kept a whole bunch of promotional materials left over from radio remotes. One of the boxes contained colored and glow-in-the-dark condoms. Mac decided these would be great for preschool. We were living in uber-conservative Montana then, and the preschool owner was a devout Christian. I got the call about an hour after dropping Mac off. She was not amused, and Mac was kicked out of preschool. (Is there a doubt which of my kids were the problem child? Of course, it was the one most like me).

I really should have had 10 more kids, spaced two-four years apart each, so that I could always have one in tow. It’s strange to me being the mother of grown-ups. I still have a lot of child left in me, and am often surprised by the mirror image of a 46 year old woman. I am nineteen, fourteen, ten, and five in so many ways. I remember viscerally every moment and milestone of childhood — my own, and my children’s. I remember the taste of Pixie Stix even though I haven’t had one in years, and I still get a little thrill over seeing old favorites like Old Maid, Chinese jump ropes, Jacks, and real roller skates in the toy section of the department store.

I coo over other people’s babies and toddlers, and think how very lucky they are. And I have to admit I feel a small pang of envy every time I see one of those big toothless smiles from an infant, or watch a toddler doing the it’s-all-new-to-me mummy walk. I still browse the children’s section in a store, and wish more of my friends had babies so I’d have an excuse to buy tiny shoes, jeans, and dresses.

Neither my recently engaged daughter or my college-attending son want children any time soon. My daughter hasn’t decided if she wants children at all. She dreams, instead, of an inter-species ranch, with dozens of feathered and furry beings to fill her time.

So I’m in the in-between stage. No longer a mother to little ones, and not yet a grandmother. (Yikes. If I don’t feel old enough to be the mom of grown-ups, I sure don’t feel old enough to be called grandma. Still, if it happened tomorrow, I’d be thrilled. And I’d be called Nana). In the meantime, of course I think about it. Adoption. Giving birth. Doing it all over again, but better, with more experience, more wisdom, and more purposeful intentions.

Then I look around. The world outside is growing colder by the minute. People are just a shade crueler than they have ever been before. Apathy not only abounds, but has become a way of life for millions. Irrationality is still acceptable, and even promoted and catered to in some circles. Opportunities slip and slide and no matter how good or smart a person is, there are no guarantees of success. There are pains involved in raising children, and those pains almost always involve other people, like bad parents, bullies, and tired teachers. The rest of the world will never care about or want to protect your children as much as you do.

I look, too, at my clean apartment. There are no crumbs on the floor, no piles of school papers on the kitchen table, no mountains of laundry waiting to be done. Didn’t I wait for this? Didn’t I long for the day when I wasn’t mopping up after muddy shoes and endlessly folding clothes? Didn’t I yearn for the day when I could take a long, uninterrupted bath, or write for hours at a stretch? Of course I did. But the frustrating part of parenting was the smallest part. The larger part — the gold stars and long talks, the small hands in clay and the school age dramas — never got old. Only my children did. I, on the other hand, hardly aged at all, unless one counts in years and biology. I don’t. I count in words and memories. In experiences and feelings.

And on this Mother’s Day, I feel both fulfilled and empty. Like a mother, of course, and one who is well-loved and appreciated, but one who’s also missing the days of being a Mommy. Missing the goodnight kisses, the tuck-ins, and those sweet hours between their bedtime and mine, when I actually relished my “alone time” and felt compelled to do something grand, special, or important with it. Now there are many such hours. I fill them as well as I can, with work, writing, books, projects, friends, pets, and more — but.

I just miss being a stroller-toting, school work correcting, dinner fixing, Band-Aid carrying, bath running, toy buying, tickle your back, love you to infinity and bigger than the universe, crook of the arm Mom.

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19 comments

  1. Just read this alone in my apartment after a wonderful day with two of my three adult children and one delightful grandson…

    And there are tears spilling, blurring the screen.

    So much of this mirrors my internal reality…

    To know I’m not alone, that it’s part of someone else’s experience…well, it’s comforting.

    Life, rife with paradox…

    Thank you for this post, Jane.

  2. I can relate … our daughter is 11 and navigating all that prickly pre-period hormonal stuff that she can barely stand talking about. She came home from school Friday rolling her eyes because her science teacher, Mr. SpaceCadet, gave them the human reproduction lesson she finds so excruciatingly uncomfortable. Then, Sunday morning, when she was giving us, her two Moms (I’m Nana — pronounced Nonna, as in Donna only with an N — and Leslie is Momma) our gifts and cards, she was like a little kiddo again. Our precious little chickie. Completely uninhibited, excited about the gifts, and rejoicing in the double whammy mom-dom that none of her other classmates have, but frequently voice envy over (and really, they do). It was like she was five years old for a while, and it was so cool.

    When she was a year old, we used to marvel at how fast she was growing, and talk about what she would be like when she’s big. Now, I wish I’d taken the time to enjoy her when she was smaller, instead of spending so much time at work.

    Every once in a while, I’ve asked Elizabeth if she can stop growing. And she scrunches up her eyes and holds her breath, and tries to push out the growth activity that is always in her body. It never works.

    Ah well … such is life, hm?

    Take care, Jane.

    D~

  3. That was a nice trip through “mommy-land” for those of use without children. thanks.

  4. (this is part of a longer post on my blog)

    I love newborns….i love meeting new parents and being part of that blurry eyed, wonder, amazement and flat out terror that comes with new life. I mean, there aren’t any words for how it feels. If there is anything I wish to impart to them in my little sessions it is to slow down….sloooooow down. Breathe and try your best to embrace and savor those first months. Those middle of the night feedings when the world is still and it’s just you and your baby. Because all too quickly they will be kicking their little feet to be put down and then they are off.

    In a blink of an eye, the years will pass.

    i have this little project going with my boys. i just did the latest installment and i was absolutely floored at what i saw…..

    http://whohaugh.deviantart.com/art/david-times-three-83620310

    http://whohaugh.deviantart.com/art/wyatt-times-three-83620471

    where are my little baby boys??

  5. I, too, had a mother I couldn’t connect with after puberty. Before that, it wasn’t too bad. I married, at 36, a widower with 2 children ages 12 and 10 who didn’t want more children. I adopted them after 4 months of marriage so there would be a stable home should something happen to dad. The older managed to be the drunk driver at 19 and killed himself. The younger is now 31 and an MD. She tries but I’m still the “step-monster”. I dread Mother’s Day. This year I took it in my own hands and sent myself flowers from the cats. I received a card from daughter.

    So, I’m the loose screw in the middle who had no relationship with my mother (deceased now 8 years) nor with my daughter after 20+ years of marriage. I do feel I’m responsible for the breakdown of communication and emotion with my daughter but I’m not sure I can “re-connect” unless she helps and she doesn’t seem to want to connect. She’s connected with her mother’s family and that’s what she wants and I suppose needs.

    I’m glad other’s have better relationships with children but I do get a tad lonely.
    marcie the bitch

  6. I don’t think I like Mother’s Day. 2 of my 3 children remembered- but I miss my other lost son too- & my lost granddaughter.
    It is a day to be reminded of every damn thing I ever did wrong- raising my son- & helping to raise my granddaughter.
    Recently, I counted up the years I have been raising or help raising children- it has been continous since 1958- when my little brother was born to my insane mother. Then I had 3 kids. Then my daughter became a widow- so helped her w/ my granddaughter. And now I help her w/ my grandson.
    But I have to ask myself- how good did I do? A parent/grandparent has to do more than just be there. My own depression harmed them. My inability to show affection hurt them. I probably should not have had children- coming from dysfunction. The funny thing is- I planned my kids. I wanted them. I was thinking on Mother’s Day- that I am grateful that I enjoyed them as babies- because there is little joy now.

    I actually thought as a single mother- that I was doing a pretty good job at the time. I looked forward to when they would be grown-up enough to appreciate the struggle. But that day never came.
    Some of the trouble was perpetuated by my parents. They lived long enough to mess w/ their lives. I don’t think my parents even liked me. They needed me- but no like or love.

    I must wrap this up. Jane said it was ok to talk about our lives.
    The lost children- my son, Mike, sided w/ my father in his diagnosis- that I was crazy. He disinherited me- & rewarded Mike w/ the family fortune. Mike will not talk to me.
    My granddaughter, Crystal, is a meth-addict. I had seen her every day of her life from age 3-
    to age 22. She will not talk to any family.
    All of that has gone on for years.
    So, Mother’s Day- no thanks.

  7. I find all holidays extremely peculiar. Depending on the person and experiences that life has handed them ; they can be one of joy, sorrow, pain, remeberance, etc. We are such a fascinating creature. Human Beings , we connect things. I do a lot. If there is a painful memory attachted to it , I want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Mothers Day is interesting for me too. This year I got to “celebrate” Birth Mothers Day on the 10th and Mothers Day on the 11th. Pretty cool I think. Needless to say it was empty to not care or feel anything to the person, the women that gave me life. As I have become a mother it is more apparent for me to realize how hard it is to “let go” of your children. I have also realized how important and healthy it is. God lets us go at times even though I am sure it is absolutely painful for Him. I have a hard time letting go too with being a divorced parent. It is hard to be a mother at 29 and have my Mom not see what she has done to hurt me has wiped away all her good. Harsh yes but when you betray your children it takes along time to forgive and trust. It takes along time to build again. Trust takes a long time to build but for me at least it is EASILY knocked down. Mothers or parents and family can be your greatest source of joy and your greatest source of pain. Sad yes. It is contradicting how we dream of the days ahead and then we find ourselves in them and wonder where the days behind us have gone. Life is full of ironic things. Life is delicate. Life is precious. Relationships are the same. So is love.

  8. So much here to respond to, I could probably write a whole essay. Instead, let me just say I read, I felt, and if I could I’d hug you Jan, Carlzbad, and Marcie! Bless you all.

    Your boys are so handsome, Kris!

  9. It sucks that when you write beautiful and meaningful posts I just comment on one word in the post. This time, it is boychik! Reading it made me think of my Nana talking to Tod.
    I need a kugel, now.

  10. Thanks Jane for indulging my old woman bitterness.
    I forgot to mention my ex-husband- who left when the kids were 9,8 & 1.
    No one in the family will allow discussion of the lost ones. I think that you have to talk- before you can understand or deal emotionally w/ pain.
    I wanted to share what happened after I wrote last night’s message. I have been enduring a nasty attack of arthritis since January. After writing & weeping- over half the physical pain went away. No awareness of how stuck I was in my own mad sadness.
    Thanks Barbara for including me in your hug list- even tho I would have not been able to do it for real.
    Jane- your sensitivity, acceptance & experience makes one feel safe.
    I know that you must be a great mother!

  11. Great story Jane.

    It’s funny because the Friday before Mother’s Day as my son was cutting my grass, the children on my street were coming home from school and they were all carrying a heart-shaped cake to give to their mother’s on Mother’s Day. I told my son, “I don’t ever remember schools give cakes out for Mother’s Day, neither did he. But I do remember all the wonderful craft items that I received, the torn out page colorings, and so many other handmade gifts my son would do and bring home to me.

    You write what so many of us feel inside. :)

  12. Such a hard day for me. My first without mom, and I feel so lost and like an orphan. On the plus side, I have really wonderful friends, and they took me out to lunch and let me cry over some mimosas.

    I have never had children, but my ex-partner did, and I loved her son alot. Luckily we still keep in touch, and he lets me know what’s going on in his life, but I was never the “other mom”. More like a buddy.

    I was though always a daughter, and now I’m not. That’s just the most empty feeling.

    Thank God for friends, other family, and you too, Jane, because like Jan said it has always felt safe here.

  13. Ooh, that was the most moving Mother’s Day post I’ve read. You describe the emotional joys and pains of parenthood so well even though you’re not really “explaining” anything. I’ve been looking at my father role a lot lately as my 13-year-old daughter careens into adolescence and a whole new world and as my wife and I continue our quest to have a baby while this 48-year-old tries not to flip out. Oy.

    What an exciting time, Danny! I wish you and Kendall every success! – Jane

  14. This was just lovely, Jane. I do not look forward to my baby growing up. She just turned seven, and I’m already missing certain stages she went through!

    I’m still in the “crook of the arm” stage though & am happy for that much, and will cherish every second of it!

  15. Of course, my arthritis pain came back- but not till 2 days later. If only I knew how to change my high-strung nervousness- other than numbing w/ pills or food.
    I have given up on the lost ones. Re: my son- it has been 15 years. Made the decision this year- to not try anymore for reconciliation- he said the only thing I ever did for him- was keep him alive. I cannot change his mind. As a parent, I have to accept the reality that your descendants have the freedom to dislike, hate & reject you.
    My granddaughter- 4 years- but she is drugged. I want to rescue her but she does not want to hear from me anymore either.
    Damn it- don’t they know that I will die of old age pretty soon anyway. I am 66.
    Besides, I am mad! To feel anger towards a family member is a burden!
    Come to think of it, I decided in January- to stop hoping or contacting both of them- that is when that arthritis attack descended upon me. How obvious. But I cannot afford hope either.
    Must stop myself now. Thanks for listening.

  16. Jane, just catching up on your posts. Some mothers really enjoy mothering, you and I are one. My mother, did not. I learned that lesson young and hard, and realized that it really means something to like, love and want to be your childrens mother. Remember folks, children are a gift that we have for a limited amount of time, enjoy it all, the good and the rough. Never is mothering bad!

  17. Really well written, so very true. It’s my first year of empty nesting after decades as a mom and 20 years as a single mother. I miss them too much right now and can’t figure out what to do with my time. I’ve have inertia all year.

    The kids bought me a big plant, a gift certificate and a book by Janine Turner on single moms. We went out to dinner and it felt like the old days–it’s weird how close we are. I was a little sad thinking about how I wish I’d had a husband to share all the everyday joys with and now they were gone. I have to rebuild my life as it was built around them–but where to start?

    Lost my own mom this year, back in February. She was 91 but it still came as a shock. She was a beautiful bridge-throwing, piano playing, church-going woman who looked at my dad like Nancy Reagan looked at RR. But my dad threw us against the wall on occasion until we were knocked out–and I was generally the scapegoat because I rebelled against his violence.

    My mother never stopped him and I feel guilty for not thinking more highly of her. I know she had her own childhood issues (not that I know what they were since she never talked about them)…but it’s hard to reconcile. She was never there for me, I took care of her and when I spoke out about the abuse in our family my siblings pretty much abandoned me. When I was married she refused to have her picture taken with me and said, “You’re the pretty one, not me.” It hurt a lot. When I learned my husband had an affair she said, “He doesn’t have the guts.” When I had no money for a lawyer she said she was ashamed I asked for help from them. I recently tore up a few pictures of her because I couldn’t think of any other way to express my anger.

    She had dementia the last few years and this may sound weird, but I preferred her that way because she was more honest. She also told me the only really nice thing she ever said to me in my life. She said I was her only compassionate child. Strange, huh? She said she wondered why that was.

    I love my mom and love my dad, too. They had their good points but the abuse is still hard to reconcile. Not that my dad was sometimes violent–I could forgive that and already have. What I can’t get over, what I struggle with is the pretending it never happened. I guess because that means I have to be “crazy” if everyone denies it… a single apology would have changed my whole relationship with both of them and maybe changed my life. The cover-up was what caused the damage.

    Anyway, happy belated Mother’s Day.

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