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Friday, May 15, 2015

Mother's Day=Low Expectations

Ahh, Mother's Day. I've learned to set my expectations at a low-to-medium level for all holidays, birthdays, celebrations, etc. Alex informed me on Mother's Day that I need to set my expectations low. Medium is still too high. Low is the way to go.

My Mother's Day started out with pure awesomeness. Aidan dragged his bulky backpack all the way upstairs to where I was still lying in bed, hoping the day wouldn't start quite yet. He pulled out a pile of treasures from his backpack and snuggled up to me in bed. It was a purely lovely moment. He had worked so hard at school to make me so many beautiful things to show me how much he loves me. It made me feel so special. He was really 'present' too, as he showed me his gifts. He was chatting and engaged and snuggly and wonderful. A rare moment of clarity between us. That was the biggest gift he gave me. 

I love it when teachers have the kids fill out things about their moms. Aidan wrote for about 3 years that his mom was 29 years old. How I love that boy. This year I aged to 32. That's still a compliment. He also wrote that I am a great mom because I give him "good lovins." I love that. Lovins. That means hugs and snuggles and lovin' vibes. He also said I am "the best Recreator." Which he said means that I made each of my kids, and created them to be who they are! Whoa, man. That's deep! Aidan is such an intuitive, sensitive soul. I believe he 'knows' way more than this world lets him demonstrate to us.

My day proceeded with a beautiful breakfast with my family, and being overwhelmed with cards and gifts. Ben and Alex had gone shopping and Ben had picked out gifts for each of the kids to give me. He knows me so well. It was wonderful. Ella did fuss the whole time about how she wanted me to open her gift first, and then about how SHE wanted to open the gifts, and then when I declared that we would eat ice cream for every meal in celebration of me, she was mad that no ice cream shops were open at 7:15 am on a Sunday. But other than that, it was wonderful.

Those were the highlights of my day. It declined from there. Ella went to the bathroom. She somehow did a summersault off the toilet as she was peeing, flipped over, and hit her back on the little table in the bathroom. Tears. Many tears. Who does a summersault off the toilet?? How is that even physically possible? Leave it to my daughter. 

Alex had to leave for a business trip that will take him to Vegas all week. Must be rough. All by himself for a week. Eating at restaurants. Going to the bathroom by himself whenever he wants to. Flying on an airplane while reading his book. Watching TV shows that he wants to watch before bed. Humph. 

We drove Alex to meet a coworker so they could carpool to the airport. On the way out the door, the three boys commenced in World War III over who would play chess with whom at the ice cream shop. Physical fighting, swearing, yelling…ah, Mother's Day love. As they got in the van and continued to fight, I informed them we would not be getting ice cream. I informed them that their beautiful sister, who was sitting quietly in her car seat, and I would get ice cream, but those who were kicking each other would not be able to partake of the frozen delights.

The whole way to drop of Daddy, the boys whined about getting ice cream. Ben asked if they didn't play chess, could we please get ice cream. We all agreed. No to chess, yes to ice cream. We kissed Daddy goodbye in the rain and drove to the ice cream shop.

World War IV then began. Over- guess what--CHESS. Are you KIDDING me?? We had half of our order ordered when the boys started in again about that darn chess game. I calmly reminded them we were not playing chess. That was our agreement. While I haphazardly tried to get our order finished, I tried to tune out the quarrel that was brewing. I should have just gotten the kids and walked out. But I really wanted that chocolate peanut butter ice cream. So, stupid me, we stayed.

The boys continued to make the ice cream date a hellish experience. Ella had insisted on being Queen Elsa from Frozen for the day, so she was all decked out from hair, makeup, dress, to her high heeled shoes, in Elsa Fashion. She sat under the table at our booth as the boys fought at a nearby table. No matter how much I growled at them through clenched teeth, they didn't stop. I had told the waitress that we were staying, not taking our treats to go. So now we were stuck with glass bowls full of ice cream. I kept hoping the boys would snap out of it. I kept saying "It's MOTHER'S DAY! You have to be nice to me!" 

But that didn't work. Eventually the boys stopped fighting, but I was totally worn out from anger and depression, my medium expectations shattered. I sat with Elsa in our booth and ate my ice cream in silence. Too frustrated to even look at the boys. I looked out the window into the gray fog and guiltily wished I was somewhere else. I felt terrible because it was Mother's Day and I should be washed in the glow of loving feelings about my children, but I really just wanted to be somewhere else where life wasn't so hard. Just for a little while. I watched the other families having ice cream, all happy and calm, and I wished we could be like them. I felt guilty, but it's true. I wished we could be "normal." 

Then I decided that I wasn't going to feel guilty anymore. Mother's Day (and Christmas, Easter, my birthday) is really just another day. Yes, it's special. But my kids had given me special moments earlier. And my kids give me special moments on random Tuesdays. Or sometimes in the middle of a night. Or whenever. I was content with that. I had felt washed in the glow of love earlier in the morning on Mother's Day, and now we were back to normal. We were back to difficult family chaos. So I decided not to feel bad about my feelings. I decided not to feel guilty that I was mad at how my kids were acting. I decided not to feel guilty about yelling at them in the restaurant. I decided not to feel guilty about how I wished I was somewhere easier at that moment. Even on Mother's Day, life is real. It's not like a Hallmark commercial. Not for me, at least. I was showered with adoration for a brief time at breakfast, and I really was happy with that. Now we were back to reality.

As I sat in the booth by myself, I watched another mother watching my table of four children. The mother smiled the smile you smile when you see other mothers' children acting completely adorable. And you just think they're perfect and sweet and so cute. I tried to see my kids through the other mother's eyes. Yes, they were adorable. My twins, looking so twinish. My 9 year old, playing the chess game just as well as my 12 year old. My daughter, decked out from head to toe in her Elsa gear, watching her big brothers play their game. Yes, it was completely adorable. 
But the other mother hadn't been in the restaurant when I was growling at my children because they were acting like beasts. She hadn't heard them raise their voices so they echoed through the high ceilings and everyone could hear them arguing about ridiculous chess. I decided I was not going to feel like a bad mom because I wasn't completely overwhelmed with adoration at the cute picture my kids painted. I was still itchy with the remnants of aggravation left over from how my kids were fighting earlier.
I think "special" days, like holidays, make my children stressed out. Even just Mother's Day. Routines are thrown off, Daddy was leaving, we had sugar for lunch…all holidays are a minefield for my kids. So Alex is right, I should set my expectations low, not even medium. And then I might be pleasantly surprised. The rest of my Mother's Day was normal. Challenging in spots, a lot of work, but some joy too. We made it through. 

I think it's important to not be too hard on ourselves as mothers. I don't think you have to force yourself to experience a loving, warm feeling about your kids (even if they are adorable) when you've been trying to break up a fight for 37 minutes and it's Mother's Day and your husband just left you with four kids for a week and all you want is chocolate peanut butter ice cream for crying out loud. There are plenty of moments when my heart is bursting with love for my adorable munchkins. Like when I come to wake Ella and Aidan up in the morning, and they're snuggled under the covers in Aidan's bed, playing with his Minecraft figures together. Or when Ben and Jonah have a twinsie slumber party in the basement, and I hear their giggling as I close the basement door. Plenty of loving, memorable, adorable moments in this house. 

Let's not be too hard on ourselves, Mamas. There will be countless beautiful moments with our children. But if they don't happen on a day designated to be special, oh well. That random Tuesday will pop up again and the gift of sweet children will return when you least expect it. I learned a long time ago not to let disappointment over how a "special" day actually turns out get me down. Not for too long, at least. Sometimes I wallow for a few minutes, but I get over it pretty fast. I cherish the beautiful moments and move through the yucky ones. That's all you can do. Keep on trekkin' through the adventure called Motherhood.  

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