Happy Mother’s Day to all the Dads (who have to be moms too)

You can read this article again at the Huffington Post Canada.

Paul Bradbury via Getty Images

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day we traditionally honour and celebrate the mothers in our lives. Moms, grandmoms, great-grandmothers, step-mothers, adopted moms, surrogate mothers, mothers-to-be: they all get at the very least a nod of appreciation (if not a full-out display of love and affection).

So they should, of course. But I have been thinking more and more of the unofficial ‘mothers‘ who never get recognized on Mother’s Day, and I’m talking about the dads.

This is not to say that dads are mothers in the truest sense of the word. They will always be first and foremost a father — and as such, will always place most importance overall on their interactions with their kids as it concerns their being a father. But for some families, particularly for those who have lost a mother due to death or separation or some other form of difficulty, dads are playing both parental roles to the best of their ability.

Let me pause to say that I also recognize women do these very same things (act in dual parental roles), but let me save that blog article for Father’s Day when I recognize mothers.

Back to the fathers. These guys are moms to their kids, all while they are still being that incredible father they always were. I can think of one such dad close to our own family’s heart who lives this reality. He is currently dad and mom to his girls (girls who are still needing his love and attention in both a maternal and paternal way), as well as he is doing what his girls’ mom formerly did for them prior to her death.

As I watch the various dads I am coming to know and truly appreciate, many of whom have lost wives to cancer, I can’t help but observe the grace with which they have handled the passing on of their spouse. I am amazed and humbled to see that being a mother has been added to their job description. In true motherly-form, they are willing to do what it takes to be there for their kids.

What a legacy they leave for their beautiful families.

These guys are doing things they never use to do (as per the varied division of labour that occurs in any given family), and they are doing some of the things that Mom only once did. And playing these dual roles, solo; without the benefit of another partner to complement their parenting.

Things like being that sole parent there when their kids get home from school.
Things like planning birthday parties, attending festival performances and watching shows they aren’t accustomed to watching.
Things like attending meetings, appointments and practices without the advantage of tag-teaming with their other parenting counterpart.
Things like letting their kids know it is okay to cry — because they do too.
Things like arranging work schedules around their children.
Things like brushing hair and putting up ponytails.
Things like being that soft, warm place their kids can fall when life gets rough — because kids need this sometimes.

Are these aspects of parenting solely mom’s domain? Of course they are not. Surely, there are fathers out there who take charge in all these areas at the best of times, freeing up their wives to do other just as important parental tasks. But for those dads who NEVER had to take leadership in some of these areas before (or weren’t quite comfortable assuming this predefined role), this is new territory for them. These are unchartered waters.

And the fact that they are doing these new tasks solo is what endears them to me, a mother myself.

Rather than being criticized, these dads need to hear the words that they are doing an amazing job at parenting their children — playing the role of both partners in the absence of their female counterparts.

To all the dad-moms out there: “I know Father’s Day is coming up, but it is never too early to say that we appreciate you. As moms, we support you. You are doing an absolutely fabulous job at being there for your kids. Keep on keeping on, Dad. You make us all proud to be a parent.”

Happy Sunday to one and all — mothers, fathers or otherwise. And for all those dads out there who are both dad and mom: “you’ve got this, man.”

We’re all rooting for you.

For All Those Who Cannot Face Mother’s Day

When my mother turned 65, my sisters and I had pre-planned a quiet celebration for her at a local café called Samuel’s.  We met on a dreary Sunday afternoon for chai lattes, specialty coffees and cheesecake, while rain misted the windows and sidewalks outside the old heritage building housing the restaurant.  Upon leaving, we huddled together in the parking lot for a picture of this momentous occasion, quietly celebrated between three sisters, one sister-in-law and our beloved mother.  Shortly thereafter, we left and went our separate ways- unaware of what was to transpire just mere hours later.

That evening, my mother received a phone call from the manor where her sister and mother both resided, living side-by-side in adjacent rooms.  Her one and only remaining sibling, her sole (soul) sister, was physically very low.  Would she please come?  There were no guarantees of how much time was remaining.  My mom gathered up her belongings and left the next morning for Fredericton, and for the remaining two weeks prior to her sister’s home-going to Heaven, my mother stayed by her side.  Holding her hand.  Rubbing lotion into her soft skin. Adjusting pillows and uttering soft words of comfort.  Loving her sister the best way she knew how.

Little did my mama know that not even one year later- this time again just weeks prior to her 66th birthday, she would again make the trek to that same New Brunswick manor.  This time in the hopes that she would arrive in time to bid a tearful goodbye to her mother who had sadly fallen ill over the winter months and rather quickly took a turn for the worse mid-March.  Sorrowfully, Mom was not to be there for this quiet home-going.  She arrived to a closed door shut on an empty room, no welcoming smile to greet her.

All was silent.

I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to have seen the door shut like that.  To have realized that behind that closed door was no longer that comfort of the living. No tender smile or warm touch.  To my mom, there was the realizing that this chapter of her life- life lived with the constancy of family and heritage: it was now over.  Every one of her immediate family members- the ones she grew up with, lived with and loved- were now gone.  And all that awaited her upon arriving at the residence she had visited for so many years was the shell of the one she had forever before known as MOTHER.

This Sunday will be her first ever Mother’s Day lived without her mom.  I really can’t yet even imagine what this must be like.

There are so many people grieving the loss of a loved one in these difficult days leading up to Mother’s day.  There are children wondering how they will navigate the days leading up to this hugely celebrated holiday with its focus on cards, crafts and trinkets all made for mothers.  There are teenagers trying to process their feelings about what this all means and young adults trying to be there for their siblings in ways that a mother would, even though that is not entirely their burden to carry.  There are grown women who still crave their mother’s words of wisdom on the other end of the phone line or who yearn for the physical presence of their mother at the kitchen table; and there are husbands who are faced with being both mother and father to their Littles and Bigs, in the wake of their chosen partner in life’s passing to the Great Beyond.

How do we as people do these hard things?

Jason Tippetts, husband to Kara Tippetts of the beautiful blog Mundane Faithfulness wrote transparently these raw and beautiful words about life and its ebb and flow for those left behind:

“These are the events that I dread. I remember asking Kara to help me plan this year of firsts. I assumed a long and hard conversation, I would take notes and then feel better about the plan. But instead Kara’s answer was, “You will be great. You will know what to do!” Not the answer I wanted but it was the answer I needed. I needed to know that I could fumble through this, that I would do okay. That I could process through decisions without her input. I needed to know that whatever we as a family decided to do was okay. I so appreciate that freedom she gave me.”

To all those who are hurting right now and who dread this upcoming Sunday of celebration for one reason or another, know that whatever you decide to do (so as to pass the day, celebrate the day, commemorate the day or skip the day entirely for this year) it is all okay.

There is no right or wrong way to work through the pain of these difficult years of firsts.  You will know what to do when the day comes.  Do it and feel no guilt for your decision.

I know that there is no way to compensate for the loss of a loved one- no one human being can ever take the place of another precious soul.  But may we all be cognizant that there is much pain and heartache around us.  Sometimes the most beautiful of holidays can evoke the deepest anguish.

To all those out there who are hurting this Mother’s Day, may you find peace and strength and comfort from Above.

Love and light and hope to your and yours.

Why I Don’t Have To Be An Expert

On Friday afternoon, I held a Mother’s Day tea in my classroom for all mothers of my current students. And it was a lovely tea for all those who were able to attend. Most of the moms came, along with one grandmother.

When we got to the part of the program where I told them I would be reading some answers to questions that students gave me about their mothers, I heard an audible groan go up from the moms. Of course, there was concern about what their child might have said about them, things said which could inevitably bring embarrassment to the given mother (no matter how cute or adorable it might sound when I wrote it down- word-for-word with the intentions of reading it aloud).
I assured them, in not so many words, that there was nothing to be said that would make anyone want the floor to open up and swallow them alive. Although some of the answers were pretty cute, along with their amateur use of grammar at this age.

Isn’t it interesting how concerning it can be when we know our children have expressed their thoughts about us to someone else.

Today, I was standing next to another young mother and she and I laughed about the fact that we are always wondering how our kids can come up with such flattering, complimentary professions of love for us in their cards and notes when what we really wonder is if we’ve scarred them for life with our constant bellowing and nagging. Not to mention our cranky monologues.

Yesterday, the day before Mother’s Day no less, I had an absolute meltdown regarding Some Children Of Mine who for three consecutive days in a row have left me “surprises” in the toilet and forgot to send them to the undergods at the septic level. I never intended to blow a blood vessel…it just gradually progressed to that point without any real warning to either me or them. In about five minutes flat, I went from concerned, compassionate caregiver to crazed psychopath.

There we are few of us crying and a few of us screaming. And those not doing either of those two things were considering ways in which to prematurely disable their hearing by first blowing a hole in their eardrums.

It was not my finest moment as a mother.

And I have thought a bit over the last twenty-four hours about my meltdown, along with the fact of the matter that I am still an amateur at this gig, even after fourteen years of practice. I still could use a handy manual or helpful little nanny to step in and intervene on those days where I have just “HAD ENOUGH”. Which leads me to my next level of thinking: that we are not mothers because of what we do, necessarily. But rather- mothers because of who we are. Added to that fact is this little bit of encouragement: we are not expected to be perfect at this mothering gig in order to make an impact. In order to be effective. In order for our children to love us.

Because it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to still be a work in progress. To be a wrecking ball at times.

And I often fall into the trap of thinking that in order to take something on- something as monumental and life-changing and all-important as mothering, I ought to at least be a bit of an expert before I begin. Don’t we all do this at times? And we later fall prone to believe, as time goes on, that the more we do this work of mothering, the better we ought to get at it. So that when we do fail and make mistakes, as we are so prone to do, we are left baffled. Wondering how anyone could ever think of us as competent, let alone wondering how our children could ever come up with so many descriptive words to use in the acrostic poetry entitled M-O-T-H-E-R. Words like…

Mesmerizing, memorable and meek.
Optimistic, out-going and organized.
Tolerant, trustworthy and terrific.
Happy, honorable and helpful.
Energetic, effervescent and enthusiastic.
Role-model, realistic and responsive.

If it were up to me to write my own Mother’s Day card, here is what I might come up with on any given day:


I think there is a bit of truth in both lists, tbh.

Because to be honest, moms don’t have to be perfect so as to be the perfect-fit for their kids. They don’t have to be mesmerizing to the exclusion of once in a while being viewed as a meanie. Nor do they have to be either always organized to the point that they don’t consider themselves a wee bit overworked.

We are mothers after all. Not saints.

We can be tolerant while brutally truthful.
Happy while still being honest and true to what we see as the obvious.
We can be the enthusiastic cheerleaders our children need us to be, while inside feeling absolutely exhausted and unable to put two coherent thoughts together.
Responsive and real.
At one and the same time.

The truth is, we don’t have to have our act together- have our ducks always lined up in a row. Mama, we have permission to mess up. We are not perfect.
But we are perfectly right for the children we’ve been blessed to love.
And that is why they love us anyway. And why we joyfully can carry on in spite of it all.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!

The Art of Appreciation

I was reading a blog the other day that gave kudos to teachers, in support of Teacher Appreciation Week. It talked about the work that teachers do and acknowledged teachers and educational assistants as doing important, worthwhile things, in both academic and other areas, so as to support children and young people in their growth, learning and development. It talked a lot about the little unnoticed things that teachers do, things that often fall below the radar as far as visibility. It was a nice article- it made you feel good to read it.

Particularly if you were a teacher.

And then I scrolled through the comments.

And as I did, I came across some negative feedback- as there so often is- to counter the opinions of the author. Comments placed there so as to undermine the author’s attempts at acknowledging her intended audience: teachers. Comments placed there to whine about why other groups of people hadn’t been thanked. Comments placed there to diminish the efforts of individuals committed to their calling and willing to make sacrifices so as to continue doing so. They were rather hurtful comments to read, whether one was a teacher or not.

I am a teacher. But these comments didn’t irk me because I am a teacher. They irked me because I am a human being. A person with a desire to continually acknowledge the best in people and thus see and commend the value of other human beings in service, whomever those individuals might be. And I do this, quite often, through the art of appreciation. Which is to say: I try to watch others. And whatever they might be doing or saying or being matters to me. So much so, that I try to extend to them, as often as I can, a word of appreciation. Thanks and gratitude. It’s not rocket science- but it is pretty important stuff: actually, it’s how I was taught to be by my own gracious mother. So I continue to do so as often as I can. And it is what I now teach the next generation to do as well- my students and four children as well.

It’s quite easy really. Appreciate people. Tell them once in a while what they mean to you. Carry on and repeat.

Couldn’t be simpler.

But I am finding, at times, that this ability of ours as people, to appreciate others: it is passed over in favor of the all-important critique. It is more trendy to critique someone on their performance, abilities or job and less favorable to find the best about them instead. It is more interesting to find fault. Less interesting to build up. More interesting to point fingers rather than to join hands.

As a result, we are losing much, not the least of which is a dying art. That is, the art of appreciating people and things and ideas. The ability to recognize possibility. Particularly, the potential in another human being and then acknowledge that same person for their endeavours. I think that we as people can never do enough appreciating in this life. And it certainly should never come at the expense of a lost opportunity taken instead to undermine another human being’s worthy attempts at celebrating other human beings for their efforts.

Appreciation matters.

My students had a tea party for their mother’s today. It is my third annual tea party for mothers. I once also threw a pizza party for fathers. It is possibly in the works again for this year. The point of me telling this is because the whole event is organized so that my students can take time to think about and reflect on their parents and the hard work they do at raising them. The important work they do in loving them. And thus come to appreciate them a little more. We spend time thinking about what parents do. How they look after us. How they provide for us. We take time to thank them. We sing songs in praise of them. We prepare things that we know they will like and then we serve them. We let them eat and drink first, for a change. In short, we take time to honor their legacy.

It’s very important work- and not just for five and six years olds. It just might be some of the most significant work I do with my students all year. I take it very seriously.

What I am trying to say here is this: we need to instill in our children, our young people and thus in adults as well, the value of appreciation. The worth of acknowledgment. The importance of telling people what they mean to us. The art of appreciation.

Not because we as receivers of this praise need it so as to shore up our self esteem.
Not because we are needy of accolades.
Not because we can’t function unless we have a set number of compliments.
Not for our egos.

But for our souls. Because quite simply, we matter.

No matter what we do we matter. That’s because people matter.

And because our person matters: our contributions thus matter, our influence matters and our legacy matters.

And when we are told as much, it causes us to want to do the same for another human being, starting a chain of appreciation to begin to form.
One can only imagine what ways this world could change with such a chain. Such a possibility for seeing worth in the world around us.
It is quite simply the power that is the art of appreciation.

And I believe that when we appreciate, there is no end to the possibilities for hope.

It’s just that influential.

To Thine Own Self Be True…

Post-Mother’s Day 2013 (survived!).    And so here I am reflecting now, on a few of my favorite things.  Mothers and holidays and good old-fashioned truth-telling.   Blog style.   And I got to thinking about motherhood.    About the mothers I know and love, and about how each special mother, from those who are steady and patient to those who are more boisterous and bold: each Mama I know is to her own self, true.


True to her calling.  True to herself.  True to the mama she is and was meant to be.

And truth matters.  Because it is reveals who we really are.  I was confused today by a writer claiming to be  truth-teller.  A beautiful mama whose blog writing I follow.  And what confused me was this.  She has always been characterized by certain behaviors and traits- which she has carefully revealed to her reading audience through selective choice.  She staged it to be this way.   And then, out from nowhere, came something  completely opposite of what she had built herself to be.  Nothing bad, nothing harmful.    Just confusing.  And in and of itself, what was presented was perfectly acceptable behaviour for another woman’s style of mothering.   But because it was HER writing, it was confusing.  Because I always thought she wanted me, the reader, to see her in a certain light.  And now she was completely changing the rules.

And this is what I was really thinking.  If she is who she always said she was, I wish for her to stand by that philosophy.  If not, then she should be whomever she says she is now.  It is confusing for those who have come to know and love you for who you are only for you to then change your authentic self to something else so as to please another group of people.  To gain popularity or favor.    I just wish I could say to her, “To thine own true self remain true.  Whomever that self might be.”

And so, upon reflection, I have decided to highlight the many faces of authentic  mothering that I have known.  And admire each for remaining true to whomever they believe they should be.  As a mother.

There are some mothers in my friendship circle who have always known they wanted to be a mother.  From their earliest memories of being themselves a child, they knew in their heart they would one day love a child of their very own.  These mothers are natural nurturers.  From a little girl, they could find in a crowd that one person who needed a little extra love and attention.  And they could make that person feel accepted and included.  They were natural empathizers, knowing just what to say and what to do to make those around them feel loved and cherished.  These mamas are often put on a pedestal.  But really, they are just doing what comes naturally and easy to them.  They appear effortless in their mothering.  And it looks easy because it is: when you love something, it isn’t work.  It’s a joy.

There are other mothers whom I have known, who have grown into mothering.  It was a learning process.  They always wanted children but just weren’t quite sure what to do with the lil’ creatures when they arrived.  “You have to do WHAT with these baby wipes, and WHEN…?”  I can hear them incredulously muttering to their Hubbies.  And that, having been said during pre-natal classes only after having been stunned into reality from the grueling labour and delivery video.  These moms, love their hearts!, did their best to muddle their way through in the dark.  Finding their niche with every passing year.    Getting their groove back with every passing milestone.  And doing a bang-up job at this gig we call mothering in spite of their lack of experience.

There are some moms who were surprised with becoming a mother.  Perhaps it was the timing that threw them off-guard.  Perhaps the circumstances.  Perhaps it was a combination of the two.  And some of these moms, if they were to be brutally honest, would say they don’t love the act of mothering.   And that becoming a mother isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  But these moms, they love their children.  And they are committed to seeing their children through childhood into their adult years.  Committed to giving their offspring what they have- out of a heart of sacrifice and a heart of devotion.  They are warrior mamas.  They are soldiers.  And these Mamas are giving out of a heart of love as much as are those whom we might hold to a idealized stereotype.  It just feels a little different.  And that’s okay.

There are some Moms in this circle of friendship who are screamers.  Hollerers.  They love to yell.   They love to raise their voices in exclamation.  They might have once been a drill sergeant.   And they epitomize the mother attributed to in the infamous  Mom Song.  They might even have mailed in contributing lines for that piece which was sung by an amazing soprano singer (who might herself be a hollerer-mom.  I can just tell.)  These moms operate on one decibel, and it may or may not break the sound barrier.  But they fiercely love their children.  And they just might be the first of all moms to have the quick-wittedness inside them to impulsively jump in front of a bus so as to save someone or something.  Even if that might merely be their child’s cherished teddy-bear (incidentally, which is worth more than its weight in gold to their precious, screaming toddler.)

Some Moms are reckless.  They love to live life on the edge.  They live life large and loud and free.  Others are quiet and introverted.  Blink, and you might miss them in a crowd.  Some mothers love to do crafts.  They are the reason we have Pinterest.  Others hate the darn things (their motto: crafts=pinsanity).  Some moms are amazing cooks.  Some can’t even boil water.  Some mothers love to be alone, away from the prying hands of little children.  Other mothers long for hands held close and warm embraces.  Moms come in every shape and size, in every color and variety.

And you couldn’t find the same prototype twice.  They come custom-designed.

Some mothers, to the naked eye, just seem perfect.  And when you size yourself up next to them, you feel you can never add up to as much.   They just know how to ‘mother’ with such ease and grace.  They are models of what the stereotypical mother might be, were she truly a reality. And they give other mothers a source of inspiration and motivation of purpose.  Other moms seem to care less about perfection.  They would rather you and the rest of the world, know as much.   Because they love being the black sheep of the mothering crowd.   They thrive on being ‘good-enough’.  Anything more would be a little too much cotton candy for their liking, thank you very much.  But these moms- they still show up for their kids, in spite of the image they often portray.  And they are much better than their “good enough’ projection seems to indicate.

Excluding my own mother, and trying my best to be impartial!  I have to say.  Amongst the circle of mother-friends and acquaintances whom I know and love, there is not one mother I can say is the perfect prototype.  Not one I would hold up to the light and declare, “This one!  She is the true ideal!”  And neither would I want to.  Because every mother is best in her own right.  Every mother is perfectly suited to the mothering she was designed to do.  Because mothering is an art.  It is not an ideal.  It is a calling, not a job.  It is a life-long pursuit, not a milestone marker.  And it is mostly an act of the heart and the soul, not so much an act of physical reflex.

And all of us who call ourselves mothers need not compare ourselves to one another.  Because it is the variety that provides beauty and color.   And if not for the wide array of mothering prototypes, our children would not have the custom-designed Mama that was specifically chosen for them.  The travesty lies in trying to be someone we are not.  In believing we are not good enough.  In thinking we need to be more like one type of mama and less like another.  It is in our diversity that we find excellence in design.  In our weaknesses, we find we are made whole.  And each Mama must be the mother she was called to be.  For that is being a mother at one’s very best. That is being authentic.  That is being true.

To each one, be true.

To each mother: be true.  True to yourself.  To your family.  True to your world.  True to your Maker.  And true to the mother you were designed to be.  It is only in embracing who we truly are that we can then accept others for who they were designed to be as well.   And a mother does it right, most of the time, when she is authentically herself (allowing for a few mishaps here and there!).  She does it right when she is true.  That is, when she is truly the kind of mother she was meant to be.

Another one bites the dust…

And here it is again…post-Mother’s Day (in case you missed it the first time!)

Another Mother’s Day come and gone.  Let me hear a whoop-whoop from the peanut gallery.

Ah, Mother’s Day!   A day of great expectations and high aspirations.  Look it.  Here’s my unbiased advice for surviving the day.  Let’s just all take a b-iiii-gggg breath.  And then, let us exhale in unison.  Now.    Let us release all those fuzzy, pink thoughts about obedient, compliant children and doting, adoring husbands and allow them to go flying out of our heads.    Off to Never-Neverland where they belong.

Because let’s face it: Mother’s Day is every day of the year.  And the days to follow Mother’s Day Sunday are not really unlike the rest.  However, if you are one so inclined to keeping with Mother’s Day celebrations, I believe mothers should truly cut themselves some slack- and lower the bar.  Lower the bar, baby!  That way, if your children remember it is Mother’s Day and they make you a card, it will truly be a surprise.  And if your Hubbie gets you a breakfast sandwich from Tim’s, it will come as a complete shock.  And if you get  a dandylion, chapstick, flowers, chocolates, a sweater or a new Corvette: you will truly be blown away from the shock and wonder of it all.  Train yourself to expect little, and when great things happen (i.e. the children get along for the half-hour it takes to eat lunch), you will be pleasantly surprised.  It will come as an utter delight to your weary soul!!

Anyway.  I believe Mother’s Day should come as a complete surprise to us mothers.  We should never, ever know when it is coming.  Mothers always like to know things ahead.  And sadly, that gives us more time to ponder, ruminate, reflect and worry.  Wonder.  Speculate.  Plan and organize.  No mother should EVER have to plan and organize her own day.  So…Mother’s Day should  come on a day when we least expect it…like April Fool’s Day.  Or the middle of January, when we are all depressed about our friends and colleagues heading south.   While we remain behind, vegetating in our freezing cold houses.

Mother’s Day is nice, don’t get me wrong.  I just don’t want it to be the ‘be-all and end-all’ of my year as a mom.  When I say every day is Mother’s Day, what I really mean is this: if your kid gives you an unexpected hug mid-March, save that one as a Mother’s Day memory.  If your Hubby takes you and the kids out for supper in late-June, after arriving home from work to find you asleep on the kitchen floor mid-supper preparations, tuck that memory away for Mother’s Day.  If ANY of your children buy you a Christmas gift with their own money: Mother’s Day.  Cha-ching!

Voila!  Every day is then Mother’s Day! And when you are feeling down and depressed about your miserable existence and lack of attention from the adoring fans we call our children, you can turn your attention to the time, three months ago, when they got it right!  And Mother’s Day can be a carry over from day-to-day, to infinity and beyond!

And if you do not agree, that’s okay too.  I hope you still had a wonderful day as a mother yesterday anyway.  I, meanwhile, am enjoying a few moments to myself here on Mother’s Day # 2, May 13, 2013….

Mother’s Day Joy…

I wake up before 6:00 a.m. to a child stealing my pillow and a husband snoring.  Happy Mother’s Day, 2012.

I crawl out of bed to ready for the day of festivities…birthday present openings and birthday breakfast for the ten-year old, phone calls, church, dinner out, visits with family, church again, lesson planning for tomorrow, various other odds and ends…phew.  It is only sunrise, and the day stretches out before me like a rubber band, ready to snap under the slightest pressure.

We start the day off with one child emotionally put-out that we did not include him on morning still-in-bed birthday song singing, as is our custom here at the Gard household.  We are already negotiating and making deals, and the sun is just coming up over the horizon.  Upon quickly smoothing things out, our happy troop heads downstairs to open gifts with the Birthday Girl.

As soon as the gifts are opened, Little One immediately tries to steal and manhandle the biggest of the gifts, while the rest of the family watches with awe her ability to so easily get her own way.  Man-i-pu-la-tor.  And we will see more where this came from before darkness brings another day to a close.  Mark. My.Words.  Or my name’s not Lori Gard.  We schedule in time slots with ‘the gift’, and again, a near blow-out is avoided.

We’ll save that glorious event for breakfast.

While I am in the shower, Husband slips out to Tim Horton’s to pick up three breakfast sandwiches, two coffees and a box of Timbits.  Being that only three of us like egg on a biscuit, you would think that three little inoffensive sandwiches would go unnoticed.  But no.  The three sandwiches become the center of an all-out brawl.  While some are vying for the sandwich, others are fighting for those same children’s right NOT to get a bite.  We have one that leaves the table for the entire breakfast, and another that gets a stern talking to.  I divide my sandwich in half.

So far, so lovely.

After breakfast, we manage to get ready for church in record time and arrive for the first time all year before the service has begun.  This, in itself, is a Mother’s Day gift for the record books.   We settle in for a busy morning at church, and after things finish up for the morning, our entire family heads off to the busiest little restaurant in West Prince- the Chinese restaurant.  Things start off with a bit of a bang as our own family comes in last, and thus Hubby and I are secluded to the end of the table with the ten grandchildren and no other grown-ups.  We can hear adult conversation off in the distance, as the table is by necessity a mile long so as to fit the various Gard family members that must eat around it.  And we can see adults.  But we cannot converse.  I stare at an Oriental picture on the wall in hopes of getting inspiration, and it does come.   In the form of nature’s calling.

I head off to the restroom hoping to clear my head and avoid the confusion of our dining arrangements in the process.  As I near a completion of my visit to the Ladies Room, I go to grab some toilet paper from the dispenser, and the whole rig comes off the wall and lands on my head.  I am still without paper, so I secure the unit, and try again.  The machine falls once more and lands again on my head.  So, while I prop it up with my injured head, I manage to secure the paper needed to finish the job, all the while nervously looking under the next stall to make sure there are no recognizable shoes on that side.  Lucky for me, I was flying solo.

This day is going from crazy to insane.

I wrap things up, and get out of there, again in record time.  If anything, Mother’s Day 2012 has been about setting new personal bests in the area of speediness.  For that, I can give myself a big pat on the back.

And so it goes.   Or so it went, rather.  For now I am staring at a computer monitor trying to think happy thoughts about Mother’s Day and how much it means to all us poor mamas out there just trying to survive the madness.  It is definitely a “extraordinary” day.  That’s for sure.

So as Mother’s Day nears a close, I don’t know about all you other mamas, but it is rather a relief for this one.  So many expectations and so much pressure.  Not sure I can handle more than one day of special treatment for mothers per year…it might just do me in.  But whether I like it or not, next Sunday is a-comin’, and it is bound to be a doozy.  It’s my birthday, and I can only imagine what craziness, insanity and downright funniness might arise.  One can only imagine.  I’ll keep you posted.

The Joy of Adoptive Mothers-at-Heart…

My “adopted” mother was an elegant woman with immaculate nails and gorgeous ebony skin.  She and her father lived in a neighborhood on the far side of town where they owned a little piece of land that boasted lush flower gardens and a bountiful vegetable garden.  I came to live with Alice when I was seventeen years old.  Our family had to make an unexpected move in my Grade 12 year, and I was not ready to leave my childhood home town in the final year of high school.  The dilemma posed for my parents was this: to allow me to stay in the area and graduate with my friends or to force me to move against my will and thus inflict on me feelings of resentment and anger.  They, with love and open-mindedness, allowed me to stay behind.  The next issue was deciding with whom I would stay.  After exhausting a list of possibilities, we thought of my mother’s dear friend who happened to be unattached to any other familial responsibilities, and the decision was made to send me to live with Alice and her father, Stanley.

Prior to my knowing, Alice had indicated to my mother that she was more than willing to let me live at her house.  However, being that she was a reflective woman, she was mindful that there might be unforeseen concerns on the horizon.  Most obvious of which was that I was an active, vivacious teenager on the go and in need of transportation, food and supervision.  But, a more subtle concern to Alice was the slight issue of my skin colour.  For I was as white as flour paste compared to her beautiful dark skin.  We had different histories, different stories, and different cultural understandings of self and our place in this world.  She expressed to my mother, unbeknownst to me, that she was worried about our differences.  My mother assured her that this was a non-issue in our books.  But still Alice fretted over it.

And so, it was decided.  I would pack my bags, even as my family were unpacking theirs in another province.  I would live with Alice for the remainder of my school year.

One day, after Alice and I had been under the same roof for quite some time, we found ourselves in the kitchen doing dishes together.  I wiped the wet bowls and plates while she carefully washed.  There was an easy banter between us, and then, out of the blue, Alice asked me this:

“Do you mind staying here?”

“Why?” I asked, looking at her strangely.

“Because we’re Black,” she said pointedly.

“You’re not black,” I replied, looking at her strangely.

“Yes, I am.” she said looking at me square on.  Challenging me with her eyes.  I looked at her as well, and then I shrugged.  Not flippantly, just nonchalantly.  I held her gaze and then smiled.  And as soon as I did, something happened.  We both started laughing.  And we laughed hard.   Because truthfully, it did not matter anymore.  It didn’t matter that I was white and she was black.  We released this difference, and it washed away as cleanly as the grease on the plates in the sink.

We were simply Alice and Lori after that.  And that was that.

Over the year that I lived with Alice, our relationship became more than just tenant and landlady.  We became fast friends.  And then a deeper relationship developed.  She became, in essence, a surrogate mother to me and continued to be one over the years that followed.  As I graduated from university, and later got married, Alice was there to share my joy.  In time, she made a visit to my home in Prince Edward Island after the birth of my second child.  Our bond continued to solidify over the years, and we remained close in spite of the miles that separated us.

She died just after Mother’s Day in 2007 while I was expecting our last child.  It grieves me that my four children never really knew their surrogate grandmother.   She took great interest in the older three during their early years, calling often to find out how everyone was doing.  Each birthday and special holiday was marked by cards and gifts specially selected by Alice for each child according to their interests and preferences.  She had a knack of picking out things that suited the receiver to a T.

Alice’s influence on me over the years has given me pause for reflection, not the least of which, for reflecting on what it means to be a mother.  Although she never had an opportunity to birth and raise children of her own, she certainly was a mother-at-heart to me until she passed on.  To me, Alice epitomizes what a mother truly is: a nurturing caregiver with the attitude to parent those in their protection.  Alice had the desire to be a mother.  She never had the opportunity to have children of her own, and this pained her, I am sure.   But she was everything a mother should be and more.  In my heart, I believe that I was part of Alice’s reason for why she was placed here on this earth.  I needed her influence in my life: to challenge me to accept people for who they are, where they are and how they are.  But on a personal level, I just needed her love.

And she gave it freely.

On Mother’s Day, I will celebrate the day with my own dearly loved Mom and my mother-in-law, whom I have come to care about deeply.  But a little piece of my heart will always be saved for Alice, for whom I was always known, and recognized as such in her lovely eulogy, as a “daughter-at-heart.”