This Mother's Day, I Want the Impossible
This Mother’s Day, I don’t want jewelry. And while a spa day sounds divine, massages always seem to finish too quickly, and I’d be sure to chip my mani/pedi within an hour of tackling a sink load of dishes and the tangled-up hair of my progeny. Also, I’m practical, and we’re trying to save money; I can live without that kind of indulgence.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t even really want a sweet little homemade card, or a macaroni necklace, or a friendship bracelet or a lump of Play-Doh that’s (kind of) heart-shaped. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are excellent gifts, and I hope to see at least one of them on my next birthday. But this Mother’s Day, I don’t want gifts.
Instead, I want the impossible.
Welcome to my fantasy Mother’s Day tour. Shall we begin?
When: Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023, 8:30 a.m.
I awake in my house to the sounds of — nothing. My body, feeling luxurious and well-rested, is simply ready to get out of bed, so I stretch and yawn and give my husband a good morning kiss.
No fighting has erupted in another part of the house. No one has burst into our room with complaints about his or her sibling. No one has even come in holding a handful of chocolate chip cookies, saying, “Can I have these for breakfast?”
My son and daughter are getting along while feeding themselves fruit, or toast and orange juice. They are not making crumbs. They have agreed on a Sunday morning show to watch. Wait, scratch that — this is a fantasy. They’re reading.
Yes, both of them are totally engrossed in books like “Charlotte’s Web” or “Little House on the Prairie.” Even the “Goosebumps” series is fine with me. They don’t notice that it’s 9 a.m., and I haven’t come out of the bedroom yet.
I’ve showered, dressed and done a little yoga. I walk to the kitchen to greet my children and make tea. I kiss both of them on the heads, and they cheerfully say, “Good morning, Mama!” They’re such angels. Such darling children. So well-mannered and independent. So pleasant to be around.
“We’re going to eat brunch at a restaurant!” I announce.
“Is it IHOP? Is it In-N-Out?” They ask.
“No,” I tell them. “It’s the new French place that I heard has an amazing goat cheese and arugula omelet and a crème brûlée latte.”
“Oh, cool,” they say. “We love trying new restaurants with lots of different kinds of foods and no kids’ menu. A goat cheese and arugula omelet sounds delicious!”
(Hey, it’s my fantasy. They can say whatever I want them to.)
The kids have brushed their teeth and hair and have dressed themselves in clothes that are neither stained nor tattered. They haven’t argued over bathroom rights. When I say, “Bring a jacket in case it’s windy later,” no one pouts, protests or outright refuses to do so.
Shoes are located easily and put on feet without any drama whatsoever. No one has lost their lucky penny, magic wand or iPad (wait, this is a fantasy — no one is bringing an iPad to brunch). In fact, the whole process of leaving the house is easy, smooth and so fast. All I had to say was, “Please get ready for the restaurant, my loves,” and they did it all themselves while my husband and I sat on the couch sipping more tea and reading back issues of The New Yorker. We have taught them so well.
We’re eating a delicious brunch. The goat cheese and arugula omelet is amazing. My two don’t spill drinks or spit food into their linen napkins.
They make eye contact with the server and say “please” and “thank you.” No one has to be escorted to the restroom right as the food arrives. No one makes fart jokes.
While enjoying some dessert, we talk. Like really talk. No, not about fun topics like, “Why is the food taking so long?” and “When can we leave?” but about interesting things, consequential things.
For instance, my daughter tells us stories about what she did at school last week that did not at all go on too long. (For the record, she helped another child in her class peaceably resolve a conflict with a classmate and then graduated to the next grade-level math all before lunch on Monday.) My son details his next invention, which thankfully won’t include the purchase of new materials.
Then, I tell my kids about my work. Great news: An agent gave me positive feedback on my book proposal — an offer of representation may be on the horizon. My kids seem interested. They really do.
I suggest a walk on the beach, and everyone’s game. No, it’s not a beach day — we didn’t bring our suits or towels or sunblock or sand toys. I just want to stroll along the shore and get our feet wet and point out the pelicans on the horizon without dealing with bathing suits or sand in every crevice. It’s a clear and bright 74-degree day.
The waves caress our feet as we take in salt-infused breaths and contemplate our places under a wide Southern California blue sky. We walk for a mile or two, sometimes even holding hands, and no one complains about — well, no one complains about anything. Let me repeat that one more time for those in the back row: NO ONE COMPLAINS ABOUT ANYTHING.
It’s magical, wonderful, perfect. Everything I could have asked for.
2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
My kids spend the afternoon playing imaginatively and not all dangerously at a friend’s house. Meanwhile, my husband and I get in a little more reading time on the couch. Then, we take a nap, wake up when we feel like it and have some special mommy-daddy time without anyone texting me that my kid just sprained her ankle, has a sore throat or suddenly remembered a giant science project due tomorrow.
It’s so nice to make love to my husband without a knock on the door about a bad dream or a middle-of-the-night vomit fest. (You laugh, but it’s happened.)
5 p.m. - 7 p.m.
My kids get home ready for dinner, not hangry. They don’t complain about what I’ve made to eat, nor do they treat me like a short-order cook. Instead, they happily eat their protein and their veggies, and — get this — help clean up the dishes. We tidy up the house and prepare for the week ahead by folding laundry and making a grocery list.
My husband even helps without being asked or reminded! We have so much free time after all that cooperating that we bust out a few games, put some mileage on “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and — why not — we have a family dance party!
Bedtime is not a knock-down, drag-out pain in the butt. Nope. There’s no roughhousing, angry shouts from the bathroom or missing toothbrushes.
They take care of their hygiene without being prompted, put on pajamas and willingly climb into bed.
“Good night, my darlings,” I say. “I love you to the moon and back.”
“Good night, Mama,” they call back in their sweet voices. “We love you, too!”
No one gets out of bed for another cup of water or trip to the bathroom. I join my husband in our bedroom soon after, and we get a full night’s sleep.
And just like that, the tour has ended — back to reality ...
Fantasy vs. Reality
Will you think I’m a complete lunatic if I admit that, once upon a time, I actually thought raising children would look something like this? Pregnant with my first child, I imagined family life as harmonious and fun as a matter of course. I believed that adult needs and kid needs would rarely conflict, and that meeting all those needs would come easily. OK, OK … so I have a wildly active imagination.
Nine years in, I know that the whole thing — for pretty much everyone — is messy, imperfect and really, really hard. It’s not just me. All of my parent friends have similar struggles, though each has unique ones, too. And yet I know how lucky I am to have two healthy kids and enough resources for everything we need and some of what we want.
Embracing It All
Even with all of its messiness, I love my imperfect family. I accept all of its arguing, complaining and fart jokes. All of its sick days, inconveniences and sometimes impossibly slow pace (which is particularly painful, though predictable, when we’re running late in the morning).
Each member of my family has a place: My dependable and funny husband. My inventing, building and occasionally scheming son. My curious and kind daughter. And me: a mostly loving, mostly patient, sometimes distracted, frustrated or tired mom. The four of us are in this together, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it all.
Except maybe I’d trade one day of the usual struggles for my fantasy of Mother’s Day. Is that really too much to ask?
OK then. I’ll take a homemade card, a macaroni necklace and breakfast at IHOP. Those can be great, too.