While it’s easy to think of Mother’s Day as another one of those “Hallmark holidays,” i.e., holidays that exist as a way to boost card, flower, and chocolate sales, Mother’s Day is more than that. It’s really more of a birthday celebration in my mind – the birthday of your motherhood, as it were.
As Mother’s Day approaches, we see the aisles of stores begin to fill with cards and plaques featuring sweet quotes, flower displays pop up with greater prominence, and our inboxes flood with deals and specials for spa packages, jewelry, etc…you know, the things that “moms REALLY want for Mother’s Day.” And I have to admit, just like on my actual birthday, I do awake on Mother’s Day expecting a bit more from the day. I expect a certain amount of pampering and special attention from my loved ones – after all, I give tirelessly day after day to my family. It’s not too much to ask to be honored and rewarded for my sacrifice one day out of the year, right?
But this year, I found myself a bit more reflective. Perhaps it’s because my kids are a bit older and naturally more distracted. Or maybe it’s that I know that since they are no longer in preschool where they’ll be carefully guided in creating a special card or gift adorned by their tiny handprints and a poem, I am a little more apprehensive about what sort of celebration I might actually receive. After all, teenagers aren’t likely to get up before me to ensure that I get breakfast in bed on any given day, much less a Sunday.
So this year, I started thinking a bit more about what it is that I DO actually want for Mother’s Day. And I realized that my greatest desires are of an intangible nature. The gifts and flowers and adoration are great, don’t get me wrong. And just like on my actual birthday, I do love being celebrated and made to feel the center of attention. But on this day, the birthday of my motherhood, I realize that I want more. Specifically, I want things that only I can control. I want things that don’t just honor me for being a mother, but that honor the kind of mother that I am.
So while I will expect a certain amount of extra attention today, there are a few things I want my kids to know about my real desires as their mother.
To my kids on Mother’s Day…and every day:
Being a mother is, without question, the greatest challenge I’ve ever undertaken – and unarguably, it is the greatest joy I’ve ever known. I know I don’t always show it. I’m often tired, frequently grumpy, and, sometimes, I yell – but to be fair, only after I’ve asked five times nicely. That being said, I hope that above all else you know that I wouldn’t trade my role as your mother for anything in the world and there is nothing that will stop me from continuing to love, labor, and sacrifice for you day in and day out for as long as I live.
But let’s be honest, even martyrs have motives. There are some things that I expect in return for my hard work – a certain return on investment, if you will. However, just like with any job (as you’ll find out one day), you usually only get out of it what you put in. And so, today and every day, I want you to know what I hope for in return for my tireless love and hard work as your mother. And I want you to know that these are not things that I expect to be given as obligatory gifts, but rather as a result of the concentrated efforts I’ve made to my job, my role, and my privilege as your mother.
1. I want you to forgive me.
I am going to screw up with an almost dizzying frequency, although I may not always admit to it. There will be times when you are furious with me and feel as though a horrible injustice has been done – and four out of five times, your sense of indignation may very well be justified. But please always remember I am learning the steps as I go, just as you are. Know that no matter how much I mess up, I am always trying my hardest – and I will never stop trying to be the best mom I can be. And just as I will ALWAYS forgive you, I hope that I am teaching you to do the same for me through my example of unconditional love.
2. I want you to be proud of me.
I know that an inherent part of childhood is to see your parents as an embarrassment at times. And maybe that time I made all of your friends stay in the car while it was parked in the driveway so I could finish singing ALL of the words to Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” was a bit much. I can see that now. But in the greater scheme of things, I want to know that you are proud of me and the choices I’ve made, the obstacles I’ve overcome, and the successes (both great and small) that I’ve achieved. I get that you may not understand or even see these things until you’re an adult – or perhaps not even until you’re a parent yourself – but know that I will continue to do everything in my power to not just gain your admiration, but to truly deserve it.
3. I want you to want to make ME proud.
Just as I crave your admiration, I hope that you want the same from me. I want to be the kind of person whose praise matters. I know that I’m tough on you at times, but I don’t ever want to be so hard as to make you think you are not enough or that you have failed. I want you to know that my “criticism” and correction is only intended to guide and shape you – to push you to be the best version of yourself. You are my greatest accomplishment and I want you to know that. But I also want you to take pleasure in my praise, knowing that you have earned it by right of your achievements. I want you to know that your accomplishments are great because of the person you are, not just because you’re my kid.
4. I want you to respect me.
As you’ve grown up hearing me say, respect is earned, not given. That is to say, people don’t get to demand your respect while behaving in a way that is undeserving. To be perfectly clear, however, there is a difference in respecting someone and treating them with respect. I expect you to always treat your teachers, other adults, your employers, etc. with respect, for that is how YOU earn respect. But I want, as your mother, to be someone that you truly respect and admire because I’ve earned it, because I’ve always treated you with respect, and because I have behaved in a way that is truly deserving.
5. I want you to trust me.
You’ve often heard me say that trust is a two-way street. If you want me to trust you, you have to behave in a way that is trustworthy. However, I want you to know that I do not exclude myself from this hard and fast rule. I don’t ever want you to make a mistake and think that you can’t come to me or to worry that I won’t be there for you. I don’t want you to fear my anger or disappointment, but rather to know that mom is the first person you can call any time of day or night. But I know that in order for this to happen, I have to behave in a way that is trustworthy. So my promise to you is that while I may be frustrated or upset by certain actions or situations, I will always help you find a way out – and I will never, ever leave.
6. I want you to feel bad when you do wrong, but…
Now that we’ve covered the whole trust issue, let’s be 100% clear on one thing – you should still feel a sense of wrong if you’ve done wrong. That is to say, I hope that I’ve raised a child with a conscience. By now, you should know right from wrong and you should feel bad when you make a mistake. However, I want you to know that mistakes are a part of life. They are inherent to human nature, but they do not have to define us. I do not want to be the source of your guilt, rather I hope that your own conscience is the thing that guides you. I want you to see each mistake as a chance to do better next time – and I hope you are able to do this, not because I was perfect, but because I was a role model in how to constantly strive for self-improvement.
7. I want you to remember that I’m human, too.
Believe it or not, there was a time when my name wasn’t “mom.” There was a time when I was your age. There was a time I played and laughed and had big dreams. There was a time when I talked back to my own mother and saw her guidance as inferior to my own superior sense of omniscience. There was a time I only had myself to think about and care for. That is to say, I wasn’t born a mother. And because of that, I am still a person with feelings underneath my acquired title. I still need friends and fun. I still get hurt and sad and disappointed. I still cry some nights when I think no one is looking. I still dream about the future and build castles in the sky. So, really, you and I aren’t all that different. I just have a few more wrinkles, responsibility, and experience. Please remember that I am not unbreakable or infallible. Your words and actions do hurt me at times and there are moments when I need you to go easy on me.
PLEASE NOTE: I say all of this NOT to instill guilt or a sense that I need to be cared for, but rather as a reminder that one day when you are a mother yourself, you don’t have to lose yourself to the title, either. Rather you have the right to maintain a strong sense of self, to give yourself the care and love you need without feeling selfish, and to strive for and reach your own personal goals, too. By reminding you of my humanity, I hope that you will learn to preserve yours.
8. Above all else, I want you to know how much you are loved.
Spa packages and jewelry are AMAZING…make no mistake. But what most moms want more than anything else, on any day of the year, is the knowledge that they are doing a good job. I do take this motherhood gig seriously – and the most important aspect of it for me is making sure my children know how deeply, infinitely, and unconditionally they are loved. For really, it is love the guides and instructs all of the things on this list. It is my deep, undying, ferocious love for you that makes these things possible and drives me to do whatever I can to make each of them a reality.
So today on Mother’s Day, I certainly won’t turn away breakfast in bed or cards with Hallmark poems, and I definitely wouldn’t mind a little extra help around the house…but I want you to know that I’ve already received the greatest gift I could be given in being your mom. Each of you are a prize that I cannot fathom deserving. But on this day and every day that has come before and is yet to come, I will do my best to live up to the privilege I have been given. I will work to earn the things I really want from you. And I hope that one day when you look to your own children, you will strive for the same things, for while you had an imperfect role model, you had a mother that loved you to the very depths of your soul.
With all of my love for lifetime,