Yes, the punctuation in my title is intentional. Today is Mother’s Day and once again, I have a choice to be a happy mother, or not.
I learned that lesson only too well one Mother’s Day in 1992. I had four boys and one girl then, ages 9, 8, 6, 4 and 1. They had breakfast washed off their faces, hair combed, shirts tucked in and we were actually on time for church. I was happy to fit into a bright yellow dress that accentuated my newly recovered waistline.
We found a seat not far from the front of the small, single-aisle church where the old-fashioned, dark-stained pews hugged the outer walls. An older widow sitting alone slid over to make room for us and our family filled the pew. She smiled at my youngest, whose chubby face broke into a responding smile. Although the kids could wiggle and chatter like any, I was proud of their ability to keep quiet in church and I had quiet toys and Cheerios for the littlest.
After the sermon, the pastor, moved I’m sure to urge his flock to obey the fifth commandment, called a representative from each family to the front to choose a carnation from a vase and present it to their mother.
All around us, husbands and children rose and made their way forward in a buzz of activity. My family, introverts all, sat stolidly in their seats. The kids probably hadn’t heard what the pastor said. Any second now, I thought, my husband will surely whisper to one of the kids, sending them to the front. But no. The wretched choosing of flowers ever so slowly went on; all around me the smiles and hugs of other mothers by their grateful children continued interminably. Still my family remained quietly glued to their seats.
“For any of you who don’t have family to bring you a flower, we’d like to bring one to you,” the pastor said at last. At least I wouldn’t go home empty-handed. Three or four teenage girls scanned the small congregation distributing fragrant flower joy. Finally, I saw one of them coming in my direction. I took a deep breath, preparing to graciously smile my thanks. She had to scooch past my husband’s knees as well as four of the kids. She held out a pink-tipped carnation with one hand. I reached out for it. She reached past me and handed it to the lady to my right.
That was when tears filled my eyes. While the pastor thanked God for mothers and all they do for their families, I opened my eyes wide to keep the tears from dribbling down my cheeks. My throat was tight and my smile was stiff as we left the church, flowerless.
They say expectations destroy relationships. The problem with expectations is that you never know you have them until they’re not met. That silly little hurt took a whole lot of big serious praying to put in its place. My husband later apologized – he had misunderstood the pastor’s directions. But every Mother’s Day since then, I’ve made a conscious choice to expect nothing, and to fill my thoughts with gratitude for my healthy, wonderful children and the faithful husband who raised them with me. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:17)
I try hard to ignore the advertising telling me all the treats and pleasures I deserve and even the sermons that extol my mama role. It’s Mother’s Day, I remind myself. It’s a day for grateful mothers, not self-pitying, disappointed, miserable ones. Be a happy one.