Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I Want for Mother's Day (sarcasm alert)

I've been a Mom now for 17+ years.

I can't say it's the toughest job you'll ever love, because let's face it, being a parent can suck.  You have to clean up shit and various other bodily fluids and emissions; change sheets when the kids wet them; deal with various friends/pets/enemies of your kids', etc, ad nauseam (literally).  Not to mention the financial burden while your kids are unemployable (and often thereafter).

Yeah, it doesn't seem like there's much to recommend parenthood at any age.  I always tell people who are in thrall of their sweet little newborns and infants that God makes them cute and helpless when they arrive, so that you fall hopelessly in love with them and don't lock them outdoors when they most deserve that treatment.  And let's not even get into the general behavior that makes you want to leave them out in the cold. Kids can be ungrateful little monsters to you, the person who brought them into the world, and who pays for everything, while giving up their lunch money, time and love to almost everyone else (see aforementioned friends/pets/enemies).

But I'm getting off topic here.  Once a year, for my efforts, including but not limited to car rides, cooking, rides for the friends (doesn't anyone else with kids have a car?), trips to the mall, clothing, laundry services, lunches and dinners for all citizens of the house at any time; once a year, I am permitted the small honor of being a Mom on Mother's Day. 

As if.  Yeah, I try to time it so that I don't have to do laundry on that day. (My husband, bless him, is pretty good at all that shit; in fact, he's often cleaner than I am when it comes to chores.)  Sometimes I get to go out for breakfast or brunch; often we'll have dinner with my in-laws, and my father-in-law (an amazing cook) will make dinner.  When I lived in Jersey and my Nana was still alive, my mom and her sisters would have us all go out that day to celebrate the matriarch of our little clan.  That was pretty cool.  My kids and husband will make me breakfast now and again, and bring it to me in bed.  Sadly, there's not room for the food and everyone else on our bed, so that's kind of a clumsy affair.  We normally just use the kitchen table nowadays.

Once in awhile I'll get to go shopping, alone, which I confess is my greatest joy at an age when my kids seem to think the umbilical cord is still attached.  Their father, a part-time military guy, has sometimes been away for long stretches, and they tend to forget about Dad as a viable alternative to Mom.  I mean, is it wrong to want some time for yourself, a room of one's own, to quote Virginia Woolfe?  I try not to barge in on my kids (unless I believe they're doing something they shouldn't be), so why do they do that to me constantly?  Is it just for the fun of it?  My younger child seems to find particular joy in sneaking up on me silently (carpet) and scaring me out of what's left of my wits.

So, back to the main question: what do I want for Mother's Day?  Well, a card would be nice, for a start, especially one I didn't have to take the kids to buy for me.  That's my husband's job.  The list of things I don't need would be: perfume (I have about a dozen kinds and frequently don't wear it at all); scarves (ditto); clothing or shoes (too hard to find the right item); jewelry (especially that Pandora shit; WTF?); and most practical items (i.e., mixers, blenders, knives) unless specifically requested.  Before you go thinking that I'm a gold-digger, please note that I've been very happy on Christmases past to get things like a roasting pan or a new crockpot, because I asked for them.

I don't necessarily need big-ticket items, like a fur coat; but a new car would sure be nice for my daily commute.  A trip is also out of the question, unless a special event happens to occur on that date.  Tickets to see a favorite band or other show would be terrific, but I can normally buy those myself.  No, I guess the thing I'd like most is time: time to go shopping alone, time to work on my writing, time where nobody's going to ask me to do anything for them. 

I'm not trying to be selfish.  Well, hell: yeah, I am.  But I'm trying to make it into the best kind of selfish.  The kind that allows me the peace of mind I get when my needs have also been met, and not just the needs of everything and everyone around me. 
When you have kids, all other needs are eclipsed.  You fuss over them, worry about them, feed them, change them, find them a good sitter, work to support them; their needs are more important than yours will be for many years.  This is necessary. 
But not forever.  They're supposed to leave the proverbial nest at some point (mine are still too young), and be able to deal with life themselves.  And you're supposed to have properly prepared them, and be able to let go.  Or maybe they can just find the scotch tape themselves.

When my older daughter was about four, I drove to Illinois and took a train into Chicago to see a performer I very much admire.  My husband was in charge of taking care of her for a day or two.  I still remember the train ride into the city, as well as the rest of the trip, as being one of the most exhilirating events of my life.  That was the first time since our daughter was born that I'd actually done something for me, and not just for her.  I didn't feel bad, though, because I knew she'd be taken care of. 

I did think about her much of that night and the next day, of course.  And while I enjoyed walking around the little neighborhood where my hotel was, having breakfast alone and wandering into a couple of shops (she scored a new book that morning, too), I felt peaceful in a way I hadn't in a very long time.  It was like being freed from everything, but still anchored to my little family.  When I picked her up from our sitter on my way home, I felt like a different person.  And I want to feel like that person again, as often as possible.

And if you're still stuck on buying me a gift, I'll be happy to accept a new night light for the bathroom.  I'm easy.

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