Mother’s Day – and my children will send greeting cards with pink glitter and pretty flowers on the front and even more flowery verses inside. Someone will take me out to eat, everyone will stop by or call or at least send me a text message.
I read the cards carefully, touched by the tribute to unconditional love and appreciation for having always “been there,” but am never really sure whether they selected this message specifically for me or if this was just the first card in the display rack.
Whether this card was selected just for me or not, however, I know my children love me.
What I struggle with is whether I deserve such love.
I questioned my worthiness even in those long ago years when the day meant a bouquet of drooping flowers that looked suspiciously like the ones I’d admired in a neighbor’s garden, thrust toward me in a grubby, sweaty fist as my child beamed at me with a happy shout of “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!”
Those were the days of impromptu hugs and easy “I love you’s,” when we all looked forward to T.G.I.F. television, I tucked my children in at night and they thought I was a genius when I knew the answer to the most obscure questions in “Trivial Pursuit.”
They still turned to me for advice and assistance back then, whether it was how to deal with the bully who pushed my youngest son off his bike on the way home from baseball practice every afternoon, or how to pull together a legitimate science experiment that still looked cool even though they had forgotten all about this assignment until the last minute.
But I was never quite as confident as I seemed and always secretly worried that they would realize at some point that I was just winging it most of the time. I am still amazed that my daughter actually listened to me when I suggested that perhaps baby blue eye shadow and pink blush weren’t the most flattering make-up palettes for her bronze complexion.
They never caught on.
It was with a mixture of guilt and relief that I waved good-bye as each of my little fledglings spread his or her wings and flew from the nest to begin their own lives, and eventually their own families.
But then a curious and unexpected thing happened.
I noticed that my children were doing a lot of the same things as parents that I had done. Whether this was for better or for worse is certainly debatable, but I found it remarkable nevertheless that all those family game nights that everyone had moaned about (“This is so lame!”) and that more often or not ended with tears and accusations of “Cheater!” were suddenly remembered fondly, nostalgically, and introduced to their own children.
The idea of opening one gift on Christmas Eve – which I had introduced purely out of desperation, as otherwise nobody would ever have gone to bed at all on that magical night – became a cherished tradition; and the Easter bunny hid baskets at my children’s house as a matter of course, just because he had always done so at my house.
Amazed, I watched my kids introduce their children to “Haunted Puppet Stories” and automatically say “Buckle up, little duck” when my grandchildren got in the car.
I didn’t do everything right, and I will be the first to acknowledge that my kids discarded some of my parenting habits in exchange for better choices.
But this year, as I watch three of my children raising families of their own, they can keep the cards and the calls and even the obligatory dinner. I’m happy with the best Mother’s Day gift of all: Seeing my children become positive, nurturing, loving mothers and fathers themselves.