A few weeks ago, Mike came home from work and announced, “I have to go to London again. I leave the weekend of May 10th.”
I said, “That’s Mother’s Day weekend.”
He looked surprised. Defeated, almost. “Fuck,” he said. Or something like that. If he didn’t say it, he was definitely thinking it. He clearly didn’t realize it was Mother’s Day weekend when he planned the trip.
“Can’t you go another week?” I asked.
“I can’t,” he said. “All of the developers meet in London that week. I have to go.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I understand,” I said. “Go,” I said.
But I wasn’t okay. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want him to go. I held back tears for the rest of the night.
I was mad at myself. I didn’t particularly like the selfish version of myself that thought Mother’s Day was more important than his career, but I also hated how easily I put myself last.
I was mad at him. Why didn’t he know it was Mother’s Day weekend? Why did he have to go?
Because he had to. Real life isn’t “50 First Dates” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. In real life, husbands go on business trips on Mother’s Day. In real life, guys don’t make books about the story of your life so that every morning when you wake up scared, you can be reminded of all the people who love you and that everything will be okay.
Earlier in the week, Mike asked me, “Is there is anything I can buy you to make up for this?”
My answer came fast. “No.” It wasn’t because I wanted to make him feel bad, but because it was true. All I wanted was to feel loved and appreciated. To feel important. To matter. Sadly, the whole situation made me feel the opposite.
In the end, he planned to leave on Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday, which meant he’d be here for Mother’s Day morning, but I feared the trip and the prepping and the packing would monopolize the day and only serve to make what was already a tense situation worse.
I began to seriously dislike all of the hilarious blog posts I read about “What Moms Really Want On Mother’s Day.” To pee alone! To be alone! To sleep alone! To bathe alone! To eat alone! I began to think those moms were taking Mother’s Day for granted.
So was I, by the way. Sick of feeling sorry for myself, I looked outward.
I thought about the mothers (and fathers) of the young women kidnapped in Nigeria. About the mothers (and fathers) of the children murdered at Sandy Hook. About kids who’ve never known their mothers. About friends who’ve lost their mothers. About friends who’ve lost their children.
I let it go. My Mother’s Day would be a day just like any other day. Even if it was crappy, I would be grateful, because not being thankful for my husband who works his ass off to provide for his family and not appreciating my kids who are happy, healthy, and kind, and not feeling fortunate for the light Gertie has brought into our lives would make me an asshole.
But here’s the funny thing. It was the best Mother’s Day I ever had.
It began on Saturday morning when I heard through the grapevine (i.e. Daddy) that Dylan said, “I’m going to score a goal at tomorrow’s game for Mommy for Mother’s Day.” I mattered.
That afternoon, we took two cars to a birthday party. Riley rode with Mike, and I thought for sure Dylan would join him, but instead he said, “I’m riding with you, Mommy, because it’s Mother’s Day.” I mattered.
That night, we watched “Frozen” and sang “Let It Go” as loud as we could while eating big bowls of vanilla ice cream, and after I went to bed, I heard whispers and giggles from the kitchen. Mike and the boys were signing and decorating my cards. I mattered.
On Sunday morning, I opened everyone’s cards while getting ready for Dylan’s hockey game. Each one, including this ridiculous one, was perfect.
I mattered (despite the awkward Hallmark moment).
And then this happened.
I honestly don’t know how Mike will feel about me sharing this on the blog, but I can’t help myself because he absolutely stunned me with this precious gift.
The words and illustrations (and the owl sticker and fancy paper) made me realize that real life – and marriage and motherhood – is hard, but it can be just like an Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie. Real life isn’t perfect by any means, but a guy can make a book about the story of your life so that on mornings when you wake up scared, you can be reminded of all the people who love you and that everything will be okay.
His gesture of love brought me to tears. It assured me that I. do. matter.
The rest of the day had highs and lows. Dylan didn’t score a goal at his game, but he played the best I’ve ever seen. All the players yelled “Happy Mother’s Day” while banging their sticks on the ice before the game started, which was awesome, and when Riley announced, “I HAVE TO POOP!” at the end of the second period, Mike took him to the bathroom because, after all, it was Mother’s Day. (I mattered!)
We spent some time with my mother- and father-in-law in the afternoon, which was nice, but dropping Mike off at the airport for a ten-night trip abroad wasn’t, and when we returned home, I discovered the washing machine was leaking. Ugh.
At very the end of the day, when Mother’s Day morphed into an ordinary, exhausting, and messy Sunday night, and I was the sole water fetcher, popcorn maker, bath giver, story reader, and bedtime kisser, I mattered more than ever.
This perfectly imperfect Mother’s Day and the emotional journey I took from anger to disappointment to sadness to annoyance to guilt to acceptance to joy made me realize the only person who didn’t think I mattered was me. Now, I know I do.