I envisioned a tray of freshly squeezed orange juice and beignets set next to my bedside by two cherubic little boys who smile sweetly as they harmoniously sing out, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I proceeded to imagine flowers decorating every surface and two little boys dancing happily beside me. Minus the small birds dressing me, it was the perfect fairytale.
This, of course, was a fantasy perpetuated by the greeting card industry and the Hallmark channel where every movie purports that these perfect, special days aren’t only possible–they are a reality.
Perhaps. They are just not my reality.
I learned, after my first Mother’s Day, that celebratory days beset with great expectations are doomed to fall flat. Life rarely adheres to the anticipated enjoyment of a date dogeared on the calendar. Knowing this firsthand, I knew my answer.
I gave my husband a simple request. I wanted a day where everyone was happy. No fits. No tantrums. No crying. No whining. No complaining.
And I wanted all four of us (well, five with the dog) to spend time together without the disruption of daily life. No to-do lists. No floor sweeping. No laundry doing. No discussion of insurance payments. I wanted a relaxing day of movie watching, board game playing and coloring.
Unfortunately, I again unwittingly set expectations.
The day started happily with two sweet little boys jumping on my bed as my husband set a tray of oatmeal in front of me. It was made with so much love and pride that every cold, lumpy spoonful tasted delicious. And we did watch a movie snuggled together.
However, it turned out that the designated day for the appreciation of mom didn’t heed my fantasy nor the reality of two overly-tired little boys, which caused a rapid deterioration of the day.
By noon, my youngest had a total, losing-his-mind, screaming meltdown spurred by my fatal mistake of flushing the toilet for him. By one o’clock, I had repeatedly reprimanded my oldest for his new game of pushing his little brother down the slide–backwards. By three o’clock, both boys had mini meltdowns regarding the scheduling of bath time. And by four o’clock, I’d declared, with resignation, the end of Mother’s Day.
So most of my Mother’s Day wasn’t the one shown in sappy Lifetime movies or in smiling still frames on Facebook. But I am sure it’s the one most moms have had at least a few times in their life. Why?
It’s because that’s life. Life is complicated, messy, uncontrollable and chaotic. Strangely, it is what makes life interesting, fun, and beautiful. It’s a good sentiment to remember not only as a mother but also as a writer.
As writers, we make a connection with readers by creating stories that are authentic, believable, and relatable. How?
By creating multidimensional characters whose lives are not photographically perfect but rather are both maddening and magnificent in equal measure. Why?
It is because the imperfect experience of life is the common thread that ties people together. We know joy because we know sadness. We understand success because we experience failure. We feel love because we feel its lack. And what we want to know most as readers, as people, is that we aren’t alone.
So, was my Mother’s Day frustrating? At times, disappointing? Yes. Was it also happy? Definitely.