I just realized that Sunday is Mother’s Day. Holy crap, you guys. This holiday? My ongoing nightmare. And it’s not even The Cherubs’ fault. (It will be once the day passes and they’ve done nothing but throw together a magic marker card at 5pm because they saw a commercial on TV and thought, “Oh sh*t! We better to do something or she might make us eat protein…” But for now? Not their fault at all.)
Here’s the thing:
Back when we were going through our decade of infertility and miscarriages (awkward hugs to all the little green-eyed Ryan babies up in heaven – isn’t THAT gonna be interesting when Steve & I show up?), this was the one Sunday a year I where I HAD to skip church. It was mandatory. I just couldn’t take the awkward mumbled nonsense from the front where, after they acknowledged all the mothers, the women’s pastor would put on her gentle voice of false inclusion and invite us non-moms to stand up also because, well, we’re all mothers in different ways! It was AWFUL. I’d be flinging fervent prayers heavenward, trying not to swear at the earnest guys going up and down the aisles passing out red carnations to make us feel appreciated.
Thanks. But no.
But then there were three wondrous years where I was spared this ritual because Steve and I were leading a church and so could opt out of the nonsense. We didn’t have a women’s pastor, and I lacked a gentle voice of soft inclusion. Not to mention that we had a number of people in our small congregation who’d experienced foster care. So we made this Sunday – gasp! – about God, and didn’t mention Mother’s Day at all. And at least one family was furious with this decision, and insisted that we needed a special day that was all about the moms.
I felt like Ross on Friends:
In the Evangelical church world? Every day is ALL ABOUT THE MOMS Day.
As I thought about this post, I wanted to make sure to acknowledge that I did have one nice Mother’s Day with the Cherubs. It was our first year together. They made me a sweet sign and we took this cute picture that is still on my desk in my office:
But then I looked closer at the sign and realized it says HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Oh well.
Based on recent precedent, my expectations this year are low. One Cherub intentionally did not get me a Christmas present (although the other one got me a cell phone case that was exactly what I would have picked if I even knew it existed, so awesome full credit for that), and they both ignored my birthday. And their annual visit with their real mom is the day before, so emotional land mines everywhere.
(Side tip for future adoptive parents: When negotiating future visitation with bio-parents, don’t pick May. It will seem like a good idea at the time – not near the holidays, nice weather, not too close to the beginning or end of school. But even if you toss the grenade that is Mother’s Day off to the side, May is the busiest month in the whole year once the kids get older. #1 Cherub has prom and work and soccer, #2 Cherub is off on an international class trip and has approximately 12 chorus concerts. It’s a miracle of scheduling that there is one day when they are both free AND it overlaps with a day that works for their Mom. Praise. The. Lord. But remember that post about whether there’s anything I wish we’d done differently? I wish we’d picked March.)
Okay, so strategies for survival (in case I’m not the only one who finds this one Sunday in May painful…):
My top tip? Corny but effective: Plan ahead and have something to look forward to that day. Something that is not about kids, or parenting, or “making memories.” Resolve to make no memories. Is there a book coming out this month you’re excited to read? (This is random but Allie Larkin’s Swimming for Sunlight is inexplicably unique and wonderful – it’s about an aquatic mermaid troupe, and therefore hard to explain – and would be perfect for this purpose). Do you love karaoke? Have you been eager to try axe throwing? Do you not yet have a dog? Sunday would be a WONDERFUL DAY to make one or more of those dreams a reality.
My second strategy is to craft a perspective. This is a day of your life, and you get to define it. Opt out of anything that will feel lousy, and focus on other things. I don’t mean make a gratitude list (although that can be fun once you get going). I mean figure out an outlook for your life that is bigger than these events that tempt you to feel small. I’m finishing up an online psychology course, and one of the exercises was to craft a personal philosophy. After a bunch of work, I realized that mine is this: In every situation, I show up knowing God makes a difference.
THAT’S bigger than Mother’s Day, right? I think I’ll survive :)
And finally (because tips should always come in groups of three) reframe the day into a holiday of your choosing. What are you proud of? What’s something awesome about who you are or something you’ve done that should be commemorated every year so you remember that you can do incredible things? (Okay, I’ll confess I just typed all that and then went completely blank on what that might be. Whatever. Keep thinking…) Learn something new. Try something difficult. Start something when it would be easier to procrastinate. Then get a 2020 calendar, mark this day, and plan to celebrate who and what you are.
Or just celebrate Odometer Day and be done with it.
Need some extra encouragement? Here you go: The sun is finally shining here in New England after 4,392 days of rain, and I am inspired by this tree:
Look at all those flowers on that intrepid, skinny trunk! It’s punching WAY above its weight class in bloom production & seasonal enthusiasm. Every time I walk by it I think, Keep it up little tree! If you can imagine it, you can achieve it!
And so can we.
(Not sure what that means in terms of Mother’s Day, but the ending had the right feeling, so I went with it ;) )