I feel about Mother’s Day sort of how I feel about Valentine’s Day. I am really not fond of all the hype and the marketing ploys of these days at all. They both come with such high expectations that are nearly impossible to meet. But here’s a story about a time long ago when I didn’t feel the way I feel now. When my own expectations were impossible. Unvoiced. Unmet.
My first Mother’s Day was 24 years ago. I happened to be in Alaska with our 3.5 month old visiting my sister and her family for a month while my husband, Tommy, worked a month long project and would either be on the job or at home for a nap before going back to work. I’m pretty sure he called me and wished me a Happy Mother’s Day but that was all that could be done and all that I really expected.
The next year, however, was a fiasco. One for the record books. I woke up in all my mother’s glory and smiled and looked forward to a day of pampering and being treated like the queen that I was for crushing this mothering thing. *insert screeching tire noise… Reality quickly set in and I stomped through my morning saying nothing, feeling all kinds of something and doing EVERYTHING to get myself and our daughter ready for church, thinking about how I shopped for that pretty dress (that lovely floral number pictured below) that would make me look pretty on the outside (which is SO hard for a young mommy to accomplish) while feeling miserable on the inside. Tommy remembers watching me get our daughter ready and thinking about what a good mom I was while reading the morning paper. He also remembers handing me my gift and a card while I had our daughter on the changing table, on. the. changing. table., and me slamming the card down and losing my ever lovin’ mind. And Tommy was like, “what?” and returned to reading his paper. haha!
We went to church and put on our happy faces as good church people do and then went to my sister’s house to celebrate with her family, our parents and grandmother. Here are some gems from that day. A true test of my vulnerability happening here… How cool is it, though, that I matched the frame to my awesome shoes??
Now we find ourselves laughing about that day, and that hair, and that dress and those shoes… oh my… but 23 years ago, it was very real, very hurtful and very hard. Expectations are brutal.
Tommy grew up in a family with one brother. Their mom didn’t expect anything, ever. She was always just ok with whatever they gave her. For real. I learned so much from her in this area. Their approach to life was more practical and they did what most boys do. They didn’t do holidays big.
I grew up in a family with three sisters. (This is where you say, “Oh my, your poor dad!”) Our approach to life was more emotional. We did what most girls do. We did holidays BIG. We celebrated Mother’s Day BIG. My Mom loved being honored and rightfully so. Every mom loves and deserves that. It’s how we were raised and it worked for us and I’m grateful that we learned how to celebrate.
So the picture here was a young, first-time mom who loves being a mom so very much and wants to be honored and doted on with a young man who slapped a card on the changing table and…. you get the picture, I’m sure.
Fast forward about 20 years and Mother’s Day in my family is so vastly different. And wonderful. They really have been mostly ever since “that one” but it has taken me a while to reign in my expectations and just be grateful for whatever. Whatever my kids want to do and not feel like they have to do. Whatever my husband wants to do.
This weekend we spent some quality family time over crock pot chalupas and used leftovers for yummy breakfast tacos, the fanciest of all Mother’s Day lunches from Whataburger, games, playing with our dogs and just sitting in the same room together as much as possible. We didn’t even go to church, gasp! I think God understands. With a 7 month old and a tired young mommy and our others who drove nearly 9 hours to get here only to stay for 1.5 days, spending the time getting ready for church and the stress of that whole process was just not a priority. I know God understands. We chose to be a family of Mary’s and not Martha’s. We didn’t even get the obligatory Mother’s Day pic. For one, we were missing my son in law but honestly, we just chose not to do what it took to look good. I got this picture and it’s my favorite from the weekend. A mess means life happened and the game cards means it was fun. And then add in a few baby toys and this, my friends, is what Mother’s Day is all about for me.
Oh, goodness how much time I wasted with unvoiced and unmet expectations. I’m really not able to pinpoint when I made the switch but at some point it happened and now I am more than content with anything my kids want to do or give me. And even not do or not give me. Really. I know they love me and I never want them to feel like they have to do something out of guilt or expectations for me. Never.
All the kids left yesterday by about noon, except for the one who lives with us still, and she retreated to her room for some R&R while Tommy went out to spit shine my car for me. I caught up on some computer time and drank a nice glass of white and reveled in the silence that came after the chaos and in the fact that my grown up kids have wonderful lives of their own to return to. My heart is full, just like my gas tank. Thanks, babe! And thanks, kids!! I love being your mom and mother in law with my whole entire everything.
Our expectations will typically get us into trouble. I’ve made great strides in this area in my later years, but there’s work left to be done. I’m sure I’m not alone. What I’ve found, though, is that when I place such high expectations on someone, especially unvoiced expectations, they tend to shut down and quit even trying to please. Because they can’t! It’s when I let go of it all of that I find that I am so much easier to love and often begin to see the things happen that I wanted even without expecting them. Letting go of what I expected. Embracing what I have. It’s a beautiful thing.
Moral of this story is that if we don’t get bogged down with impossible expectations and we allow ourselves to trust God to do what we really can’t do in the first place, we truly can have a Happy Mother’s Day.