I wasn’t a very good mother on Mother’s Day. My husband Jack did everything right. He let me sleep in. He let me take a nap. He took the kids to the beach so I could go on a bike ride by myself. My kids gave me cards and presents telling me I’m the best mom in the world. Still, I was cranky and short-tempered. I blame my bad mood on the French Revolution.
Mother’s Day morning, 19-month-old Ben woke up around 4:55. “I’ll get him,” Jack mumbled as he headed down the hall to the room Ben shares with three-year-old Johnny. I heard Jack murmur to Ben. Ben complained louder. I fell back to sleep to the sound of Jack carrying Ben downstairs.
When I woke up again at 7:00, seven-year-old Angela stood at the foot of my bed. “Happy Mother’s Day,” Angela said.
“Thanks, sweetie,” I answered and reached up for a hug. I could hear Jack opening the ironing board downstairs and the plastic clack-clack of Ben playing with Duplos. Lucy and Rebecca, aged five and nine, respectively, appeared in the doorway. “Is Grandma meeting us at the restaurant?” Rebecca asked.
“No,” I answered. “She’s coming to Mass with us. Then we’ll go to lunch at Mimi’s together.”
Jack finished ironing shirts and got the boys dressed while I took my shower. The girls put on church dresses. I put on a new outfit I’d ordered especially for Mother’s Day — a long, floral skirt and powder blue rayon top. When I emerged from the bathroom, Lucy smiled. “You look pretty, Mommy,” she said.
“Thank you. So do you.”
Jack took his shower. I fixed the kids a quick breakfast, and we all headed off to church. In the car on the short drive, Jack told the kids, “The best Mother’s Day present you could give Mom would be to behave today. And try to be nice to each other.
“Okay,” they answered in chorus.
My mom met us in front of the church. “Happy Mother’s Day,” she told me.
“Happy Mother’s Day to you,” I answered.
As soon as we filed into a pew, Johnny announced, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Angela took Johnny down the side aisle to the bathroom. The moment they sat back down in the pew, Johnny said, “I have to go to the bathroom again.”
“No, you don’t,” I told him.
Johnny, who ordinarily spends Mass quietly looking at books, squirmed and complained for the next hour. “I’m hot,” he said.
“Let me roll up your sleeves,” I answered.
“No-o-o-o-o,” he whined. “I’m hungry.”
“You can have something to eat when we get home.”
“Stop the whining, Johnny, or no computer games today.”
“Okay,” he answered with sullen resignation and stuck his thumb in his mouth.
At the end of the pew, Jack wrestled with Ben. At nearly 35 pounds, Ben is too big and strong for me to hold for more than about five minutes. Every Sunday, Jack takes care of Ben while we’re at church. He entertains him with books. He whispers jokes in his ear. He holds on to Ben tight when Ben arches his back and tries to fling himself to the floor.
About halfway through Mass, Ben squirmed out of Jack’s arms and made his way down to me. He climbed into my lap. In the process, he snagged my new shirt and drooled on my shoulder. I handed Ben back to Jack. Jack spent the last 20 minutes of Mass chasing Ben around the back of the church. When we emerged after Communion, all I could say was, “Did you see what he did to my new shirt?”
At the restaurant, Ben got worse. We had made reservations for 11:45. When we arrived with five hungry children, the hostess told us our table wouldn’t be ready for another half-hour. The four older kids played outside. Ben stood by the restaurant’s door and tried to get back inside. When I tried to hold him, he screamed. When I set him down, he threw himself onto the sidewalk at the feet of other diners. When I picked Ben up, he snagged my shirt again.
While my mom, the kids, and I had lunch at Mimi’s, Jack took Ben across the street to McDonald’s then drove him around until he fell asleep in the car. I barely tasted my food. “This is not how I imagined my Mother’s Day,” I fumed to myself. “Can’t we have at least one meal without someone spoiling it?”
“How dare you complain about your Mother’s Day,” my internal voice scolded back. “Think of all the women in the world who live in mud huts, who don’t have enough food to feed their children. They would love to have your little problems.”
“Great,” I answered myself. “Now I’m annoyed AND guilty.”
That night, I apologized to Jack. As I got ready for bed, I thought about the French Revolution. Before the French peasants revolted, their lives had been getting better. When their new prosperity didn’t rise to the level they expected it would, they got angry.
So had I. Instead of looking at the wonderful Mother’s Day I had, I focused on the expectations that didn’t get fulfilled. I apologized again to Jack and thanked him for all his hard work.
“C’est la vie,” Jack answered and fell asleep.