As we creep toward Mother’s Day, that Hallmark Holiday of flowers and chocolates and too many regrets, here is the most important thing for all of you moms out there to remember: Mothering is an imperfect art. No matter how hard you try, you will never get it right 100 percent of the time.
Just to make you feel better, here is a brief list of my regrets:
Not Paying Attention
Once, I turned my back on my oldest son, then just a few months old. He chose that precise moment to roll off the bed. Boom! His little head hit the wood floor like a bowling ball.
“He’s really pale,” I wailed into the phone when I reached the pediatrician’s office.
“Take a look in the mirror,” said the nurse. “I bet you’re even paler. Take a deep breath, honey. Babies bounce.”
Another time, I was pulling that same son and his little sister, then ages 3 and 1, on a plastic sled through town, and thought, “Wow, those arm workouts at the gym must really be paying off. This hardly feels like any weight at all!”
It wasn’t until I’d gone a whole other block that I turned around to check on the kids. Guess what? There was only one left! My daughter had fallen off the sled and was upside down in a drift, only her purple snow-suited legs wiggling in the air!
Having two children 18 months apart, then getting divorced and remarried to a man with two young children of his own, and finally adding a baby to our blended family (if you’re counting, that’s a grand total of five kids), nixed any chance I ever had of becoming a gourmet cook.
A fast food place with an indoor playground and toys that come with the meals? Count me happy!
“How about macaroni and cheese again?” was a regular suggestion.
“Nothing wrong with sandwiches for dinner!” was my battle cry.
One night, even that was too much to handle. “Let’s have a cracker dinner!” I cheered and pulled out the box of Ritz. “It’s a make-your-own buffet!”
We had Ritz crackers with cheese, with peanut butter and jelly, and with Fluff. My son, then eight, made a website devoted to Ritz cracker recipes. A win for all!
It’s true that two of my kids wouldn’t eat anything other than white or yellow foods for the first decade of their lives, but hey. Today they’re health and exercise junkies. Reverse psychology is key.
My father, a Navy officer, really wanted us to make our beds every morning. I did not once ask my children to make their beds.
Did I know where the matching lids were for the plastic containers? I did not.
Did I know where the scissors and tape were when it was time to wrap gifts? Absolutely never.
Once, I took the iron out of the closet when my daughter was seven years old. “What’s that?” she asked.
If making a fort with the couch cushions and every towel in the house kept the kids busy so I could get some work done, great. Ditto for dumping out the laundry baskets so they could use them as boats for their stuffed animals in a game of Titanic.
When I sorted through old photos recently, I realized you could barely see the floor of the living room in any of them, because the floor was carpeted with toys. “See?” I said to my husband. “It didn’t matter whether I vacuumed or not.”
Being So Embarrassing
There were many times when my children wished for a different mother. More than once, I forgot to send Valentine’s Day cards to class on that hallowed day, and several times I was guilty of buying goodies for bake sales instead of, well, baking.
When I attended cross country meets or lacrosse games or soccer, I was the one cheering the loudest and trying to hug my kids at the end of the games, win or lose, even when they were exhausted and sweaty, or with their crushes and did not want to be touched, or even seen, by Mom.
Now that my children are adults, I still manage to embarrass them. I have spilled secrets I shouldn’t have spilled, failed to call them or called too often, forgotten my Spanx and bungled my speeches at their weddings. My hair is often a disaster.
“Why do you always hold us around the waist like that for photos?” one child complained not long ago. “It looks so weird.”
Another, out to dinner with me, remained steadfast as I doled out life advice to our cute young waitress and hugged her when we left. “You can’t do that, Mom,” this child said later. “You can’t just go around hugging people like that.”
Can’t I, though? Really? I don’t believe that for a second.
I am just so embarrassing. That’s because I love my children as much as I hope they’ll love their own one day. That’s my recipe for making the world a better place.
Happy Mother’s Day!