Making Mother’s Day memories, without a Mother

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Lauren (22) and Caitlin (15), my blondes

 

It’s hard to miss the ominous presence of the love and celebratory preparations for Mother’s Day, if, like any other person, you have gone into a store or mall recently. Everywhere I look, there are flowers in pretty bouquets, banners welcoming shoppers eager to spoil their mother, and special menus popping up in all of my favourite restaurants. May 14th in the US will see yet another Mothers Day pass by, where I do not have my mother to treat, take out, or visit.

Mothers do not have to have passed on, like my own has, in order to be absent from your life. Sadly, there are many stories going untold, that leave women hurting everywhere. Emotions are usually far from happy and joyous on this day for many of us, and for me, it took a long time to learn how to live through a day that so many are enjoying, while I felt lonely and isolated.

I am a mother myself now, but being a mother, and being MOTHERED are two very different things. I also had a stepmother for a beautifully brief period of time, but that too, doesn’t replace the void I feel.

I learned to live through this day and find ways to still make it beautiful, and to honour my mum, so that I wasn’t sad and weepy, or jealous, like I was many times during school when I was a child. The obligatory craft making that ensued in the run-up to this day, often left me feeling miserable.  I couldn’t fill in the blanks on the teacher made cards with what colour she liked, what made her happy, and what I loved most. To me, those precious memories were in my heart, and with her gone, they simply didn’t translate onto paper and glue daffodils with the ease my classmates displayed.

I remember a beloved art teacher telling me once to make my gift for someone else. My grandmother was often the recipient of endless “motherless day” crafts I made. As an adult, now that she, too, has passed on, I am looking at mothers day in other ways to avoid the grief and pain that always slips into my current pleasant life, every time this day approaches. I’m sharing some of these things here.

  1. Place a photograph of your mother/motherly figure, somewhere in the open, and light a favourite candle. Reminisce with those around you, and share a special story, or talk openly about what you miss. I often find that sharing positive feelings and stories helps keep my mum near, and lets my husband and daughters get to know her.
  2. Buy some flowers from the array of beautiful displays for sale. Then either keep them or give them to a special woman in your life. I don’t need a special day to have something beautiful in my home, to enjoy, and to love. Also, there are many women I know that can be made to smile in presenting THEM with something special too. I know many ladies feeling lonely, or who are childless, and I love to bring a little light to someone else. I think my mother would have loved this.
  3. Enjoy being treated nicely by those in your life who love you! Whether that’s a husband or partner, children, nieces and nephews or siblings. Allow people to treat you and do nice things for you, because you are so special to them! Again, there is a diffference to being mothered, and being one, but Ive definitly loved my early morning mothers day raps, homemade “lovebots’, funny made by hand cards, and many days worth of burnt toast and ketchup sandwiches in bed ( a long story!), that my children “treat” me to.
  4. Turn the day into a new celebration! Invite friends over, or family members, and people who are spending the day alone, or not celebrating others. Make it about love and friendship, and a gathering. It doesn’t have to be limited to mothers. This way, you are bringing together a little tribe of people, and starting new traditions.
  5. Music always ignites emotions, so load up a playlist on your device or phone, and get into your car and drive. Cry, laugh, grieve, miss her, remember her, and spend time alone (with her). It is ABSOLUTELY ok to NOT BE OK. It IS hard, and setting aside some time to privately mourn and think about things you wanted to say, seasons she has missed, or joys she didn’t get to encounter, is understandable and normal.  You are not alone in doing this.
  6. Start a small collection. I used to think of my mother when I saw a lighthouse. On her birthday and mothers day I would seek out little ornaments or memorabilia, and buy them as a “gift”. This way she was around me all the time, and I always had the intention of sharing these with my children one day. Or, make a donation as a gift, each year, to a charity she liked, or one that would be a cause in her memory. I even want to buy a star, and name it Elizabeth, after my mother, a perhaps silly to some, but positive way, to have her in my “universe” again.
  7. Lastly, don’t be alone the entire day. Do something that will bring you happiness. See a film with an available friend, go to the beach, enjoy a show. Do something that will surround you with laughter and fun, excitement and life. I have done this many times when I feel lonely. It truly helped remind me that I am still here, and still meant to truly live my life!

The hard stuff, from a seasoned mother. Part 1.

When I was a child and I drew pictures with my sister depicting my future wedding, husband and children, they were picture perfect. If there was a slip of the crayon, or a smudge or smear to damage my future life, I erased the image and started over. I am a brunette, yet  I drew blondes. Except the mystery husband to be. He was tall, dark haired and oh so handsome (though slightly resembling George Michael). Fast forward 20 years, and let me just tell you straight away, besides stating the obvious that I didnt marry George, you cant just rip out a page and start over ever time life makes a smudge on your family.

I told you Id be honest in this series. Right from the get-go of parenthood for me, my proverbial crayon slipped. I gave birth younger than I “dreamed” at 20, to a very premature baby, born with gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. The hole can be small or large and sometimes other organs, such as the stomach and liver, can also stick outside of the baby’s body. Immediately I aged in maturity 20 years. Having lost my mum when I was very young, I really didnt have guidelines or counsel when it came to this, so trial and many, many an error gave way to a somewhat regular pattern. Two surgeries within 18 months corrected the defect itself though Lauren doesnt have a belly button, a fact that doesnt bother her, and I feel like I got through a tough time and earned some sort of invisible kick-ass mummy award.

Crayon slippings continued throughout my new mum years, as a navy wife to my ex husband, life became tough. I was living in America, and very homesick. One baby more (blessedly healthy) and a divorce later, I found that I was in a oh-no-Im-a-single-mother-what-the-heck-will-I-do status. Except, that wasnt a social media status. I had to put that as “divorced”, but it may as well have been ostracized, because thats what I felt like at times.

To say I was on the ramen noodle diet was putting it mildly. However, I did survive. So did my girls. Who, sidenote, DID turn out to be those picture perfect blondes I was drawing about.

Life, well, it can be very hard. Big hard and little hard and all kind of hard stuff in between. You protect your children yes, naturally, as people do when they become responsible 24/7 for another human being.

So I think that the lesson Ive most learned from the hard stuff in my life, the stuff not like the pretty pictures I drew, is that Im preparing these “babies” to be strong. In hardships. To show them and explain to them that it IS hard. Its not all puppies and play dates and bubble guppies and pony tails. And as hard as it is for some new mothers to accept when they are in the beautiful bask of newborn love and adoration: one day, they WILL leave our homes. They will be out there, potentially facing life outside a perfectly coloured page. So we have to be open about hardship. Transparent about mistakes. Sincere about life and her lessons. Most importantly, encouraging them to not let these things close their little hearts off to the sunshine and flowers that come after the mistakes. To hang onto hope that these things lead to better things. Rascal Flatts say it best “God blessed the broken road..”. So I feel that its up to me to teach them how to navigate a broken path, without Dora and her map. Instead, with faith, God, and a cell phone to mum!

Exactly HOW?? Well, I will share my experience with that in part 2.

Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes

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