lessons learned from surviving four mother’s days without my mom

mother's day 2014For those of us who find mother’s day a little tricky—there are plenty of circumstances that complicate this fête—it’s natural to prepare for the fuss and bustle with a few coping mechanisms at the ready. In the past four years, I’ve employed a few tactics, with limited success.

I’ve tried avoiding all social media and sappy commercials. Blocking out the parade of sentimental mom tributes helps, but sticking your head in the sand isn’t the healthiest strategy.

I’ve tried focusing on my own motherhood to a sweet little one. That brings me joy, but it doesn’t satisfy the longing to honor my mom with a heartfelt gesture.

I’ve tried celebrating all the mothers in my life that I admire and appreciate. While I’m honestly thrilled to salute them, and am truly grateful for their influence on my life, I still feel the unfinished itchiness of needing to include one more person.

What I’ve learned is that these methods will never entirely soothe the mother’s day blues for me, because my unease isn’t due to the emphasis on moms making me miss mine more. That is not possible. What I feel on this day is more of a fidgety restlessness that comes with unexpressed sentiments.

On the day when everyone is professing that no, MY mom is the best!—I have things I want to say, and I want to say it to her (lovely) face! 😉 Nothing was left unsaid before my mom died (our relationship was not reserved), but becoming a mother has heightened my awe of her and increased my gratitude for everything she did for me. I have a new-found respect and wonder, and I want to gush at her.

So I’ve decided I’ve been doing it wrong. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be an exercise in divert, distract, deflect. Yes, I will continue to direct my attention toward cherishing being a mommy and esteeming the wonderful mothers around me. (And I’ll probably still give a wide berth to my online feeds.) But I’ll also deliberately spill my admiration of her. To my husband. To my family. To my friends, to God, or anyone else who will listen. And to her, even if I can never deliver the note.

This approach may not be helpful to those who dread Mother’s Day because they have a strained or absent relationship with their mom, or a yearning for a child unborn or lost. But I pray we can all find healthy ways to face the hubub, because mothers certainly deserve more than one day a year to be revered.

And this lucky mom feels very honored, loved, appreciated, and encouraged by my amazing husband, son, and family. It’s been a wonderful, near-perfect day.

graham at eighteen months: mister independent

walking collage

folks, we officially have a toddler!

soon after he turned fifteen months old, graham finally started standing without assistance. of course, it wasn’t long until he worked up the courage and motivation to take his first steps. 

with his new-found walking freedom came a strong sense of independence. he has never really been inhibited by new people or situations, but now he can and will charge down the sidewalk or across the park or into the crowd at church if given the opportunity. although he is a boy of few words (plenty of jabbering, but almost no actual words), he certainly knows how to make himself understood. from playtime to mealtime, he would much prefer to handle it on his own.

friends and strangers alike continue to comment on his laid-back personality, and if he weren’t getting so heavy (26 pounds!), i would take him with me everywhere. he is truly happy and smiley almost all the time, but if we ever do get an attack of the crankies, we have three sure-fire cure-alls: food (obviously), sunshine (or just stepping outdoors in any weather), and music.

music is his most favorite thing in his world. he asks for it when he wakes up (signs for it), and all day any time he can. he often chooses to carry around our small bluetooth speaker rather than any other well-loved toy. he seems to favor rap and rock, but has been known to bliss-out to classical compositions, sway to acoustic songs, stomp his feet to 80s jams, and pump his fist to pop tunes. as music-lovers ourselves, lee and i couldn’t be happier.

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we are still nursing first thing in the morning and right before bed, and while i thought eighteen months would be the longest we would last, neither of us seems ready to end that part of our relationship, yet. it feels like the last bit of baby i have left. because the rest is all toddler.

love, love, love this kid!

graham at fifteen months: first-timer

DC_5701-quilt

for an infant, everything in the first few years–and especially the first twelve months–is a first. clearly, they’ve never done anything before. but the firsts of a pre-toddler are different from a newborn’s, in my opinion, because they revolve less around the passing of developmental milestones and more around participation in experiences.

since turning one year old, graham has experienced his first costume party, first snow day, first concert, first haircut, first busted lip…annnd his first time being sick.

oh boy, mamas, this has been the hardest part of mommyhood so far. for his entire life up to this point, i have been able to almost immediately alleviate any discomfort. soggy diaper? no problem. hungry? i’m on it. tired? i’ve got a solution for that, too. with an illness that takes a little more time to remedy, i feel like he’s looking to me to fix it right away, and i can’t. i fear that he’ll think i don’t understand when my response to his whimpers from a painful cough is only to hold him tighter and stroke his hair.

but we made it through, avoided medication, and hopefully came out with a stronger immune system. and our happy little redhead (yes, the auburn hue seems to be sticking) is smiling again. oh, that smile! i can’t get enough.

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*top photo by andina wiley.

graham at eight months – demanding

8 months*

being a parent to our happy, smiley baby continues to be a ridiculously uplifting experience, but after eight months as someone’s mother, i’m beginning to understand the increasingly real truth that

motherhood is demanding.

my son’s expanding curiosity means that i have to be ready at all times to feed (and supervise) his insatiable inquisitive nature.

my baby’s increasing mobility means that i have to be more and more vigilant in removing the perils inside the widening “baby zone.”

my intensifying sense of  devotion means that i feel an ever-growing emotional demand to give more than everything to this unbearably precious little life.

this month i celebrated my very first mother’s day! graham (ahem, daddy) got me a truly wonderful gift that will be a sweet tradition for years to come.. we’ve played around a little more with first foods, but the exploration has not been frequent or consistent. i’m sure both mama and baby will be more motivated soon enough. we started early potty training, since i figured the sooner we begin, the sooner we’ll be done. right now we’re just getting used to the potty chair, and graham gets super excited when he sits there like a big boy. i think he is really proud that he finally has steady control over that long body. he’s gotten strong enough to bring himself upright after folding himself in half to reach a toy. and, of course, the daily photo-ops continue…

seriously, how can each month be more fun than the last?

mother’s day – the middle

fair warning: if you arrived here fresh from the stream of happy mommy-lauding status updates on social media, then this post may give you slight whiplash. don’t worry, i won’t get all debbie downer on you. but, as always, this is one of my outlets to vent, to spill, to purge my thoughts and emotions. to be honest, and acknowledge my messy and ugly parts so i can accept them with grace.

and so i find myself conflicted when faced with the day we all appreciate our mothers in unison. now that i have a child of my own, i can begin to relate to my mom in the biggest role of her life. this is the first mother’s day that i’ve felt i could properly honor her with a more appropriate level of awe and understanding. today, especially, i want nothing more than to share in the overwhelming phenomenon of being someone’s mom with her. instead, i’m left with this terrible itch i can’t scratch.

because when this date on the calendar approaches, i’m still conditioned to think upward, toward my own mother, rather than downward to the one that i am mother to. i’m sure in another year or two i will more readily identify with my new role and my instinct will shift to think of myself when i hear “mom,” but this year, i’m caught in the middle.

i fight the disappointment of a sappy card unwritten. i battle the regret over a grandmother’s embrace forfeited. i struggle with the guilt that my selfishness robbed my mom of the chance to extend her excellence as a mother to another generation. (i fully understand the ridiculousness of that line of thought, but that doesn’t make it disappear.)

oh, how i wish the the cascade of mothering–her to me, me to him, her to him–was still flowing at that source! this is true every day, but more difficult to ignore on mother’s day. and so i redirect my attention toward the other mothers in my life that deserve to be revered, and toward the little one who made me a mother myself.

writing my heartache in the midst of this day of celebration helps expel the traces of bitterness so there is room for the full joy of being someone’s mom. because what a joyful and uplifting thing it is!