Before my kids came along, Mother's Day was just another Sunday in May for me. In fact, I once went to brunch that day, not even realizing it was Mother's Day.
"Why are all these kids here?" I asked my boyfriend at the time.
"Shoot, it's Mother's Day," he said with a palm slap to his forehead just before he jumped up from the table. "I need to go call my Mom. What's the number for FTD?"
Now that I am a Mom -- an older Mom at that -- there are some things I need to tell my kids (now 17 and 14) this Mother's Day.
1. I am not perfect.
I'm pretty sure that you knew that already. I mostly want you to know that I know it too. I do, however, remember when you were little and thought I was perfect. There was nothing more that you wanted than to be around me, for me to hug you, hold you, be with you. My touch was curative, my words healing. I made you laugh when you felt bad. I made you feel secure when you were scared. In turn, you made me feel like a goddess. That was pretty heady. Once in awhile, I like to think about the good old days before you figured out that I'm not perfect. I told you: I'm imperfect and that right there is just more proof of it.
2. I have always tried my best.
You are the lights of my life. But mothering didn't come naturally to me the way it does to some women. I am still the one who doesn't like to hold newborns. I followed my instincts a lot and sometimes they were wrong. I approached motherhood much the way I approach reporting: I read a lot and talk to a lot of people and then go with my gut. I learned that parenting is indeed the hardest job out there. And screwing it up is far worse than having to run a correction.
3. I'll always have your back, even when you don't need me there.
I am your Mama Bear, the bane of a bad teacher's existence who hollers at unfair soccer refs and is ready to dismember any child who thinks about bullying you. I will protect you long after you need my protection. That probably includes now. I think you will just have to get used to it. Remember: I'm not perfect.
4. I have every picture you drew me and every handmade gift you ever made me.
Nowhere does Dr. Spock ever say exactly how long a good mother is supposed to hang on to this stuff. I know a mother of six who gives everything a shelf life of one month. Me? I'm not ready to part with any of it. I know one day I will, but just know that the praise I showered you with when you gave me all this stuff was genuine and real. And so will be my tears when it comes time to toss the lot of it away. Until then, I am perfectly happy to park in the driveway and sacrifice the garage to your creative efforts.
5. Letting go is hard.
One of you will be leaving for college in a year and while I am so proud that you got to this place in your life, I simultaneously hate it. Hate, hate, hate it. I will miss having my baby girl around. With your dad, the four of us are a family. I knew the day would come when you would leave the nest, but I just never imagined that time could fly by so quickly. Please forgive me if I cry when The Day comes. This isn't me being imperfect; it's me nursing the ache in my heart.
6. Teenagers are hard people to understand.
Hormones are crazy-making, aren't they? Thank you for not being as wild and crazy as I was when I was a teenager. I sincerely appreciate the fact that you never did half the bad stuff I did. Thank you for believing that maybe your parents know more than you do about some things. Thank you for not testing us too hard, not pushing the boundaries too far, not making us sick with worry. You are both great kids. You know right from wrong and are kind people who forgive those who don't. Your only crime is your insistence on growing up.
7. I thank you for forgiving me.
I have my Mommy Dearest moments. Sometimes I yell (OK, scream) loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Sometimes I go all cold on you (that's pure manipulation on my part). And sometimes I over-confide in you, forgetting that you are my children not my adult friends. I shouldn't put my adult worries on your shoulders. No parent should. I know that. But again, I'm imperfect.
8. Our house is too quiet without you.
My dear daughter: Do you remember how as a toddler you would sing all the time in the car? We'd strap you into your little car seat and just as soon as that seatbelt snapped closed, the orchestra in your head began playing. You sang loud, pure, and from the heart. Yes, you sang off-key and when I hear your song coming from the shower now, I always flash back on those car rides. Your Dad once suggested that we needed a soundproof glass like they have in taxis. When you would fall asleep in the car, we'd joke how the silence felt like a mini-vacation. We didn't mean it. Really.
My son, you are the quiet one. A man of few words. But what is it about your presence that so fills the room? Without you two around, I swear I hear an echo in the house.
9. I love that you embrace differences, not shun them.
I've been so proud of both of you for not letting others define you by your differences. You are both Chinese, being raised in an Anglo society. You are both obviously adopted, unlike the 15 percent of the population who is adopted but you can't tell by looking at them. You have two old geezer parents and a full-time working mother-- both anomalies where we live. And yet you thrive.
10. For Mother's Day, what I want from you is ...
Absolutely nothing but you. OK, maybe a nice handmade card for me to save too.