Mother’s Day with toddlers is like any other day. Unless your husband does the work for your kids, you won’t get breakfast in bed, or bath salts, or even a “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!” On Mother’s Day this year, my kids were sick: coughing, draining noses, poor appetites, and quick to tears. They didn’t understand why their dad told them to say “Happy Mother’s Day!” and they didn’t feel like doing much except fussing. At some point, my husband said to me, “Do you want to go upstairs and paint?” But Mother’s Day is about being a mother. I didn’t want the day to be a chance to get away from it all, the way I might have for, say, my birthday. I wanted to wipe noses, read stories, rub backs, and clean hands.
I’m looking forward to someday, when I get burnt toast and orange juice in bed on Mother’s Day. Or whatever other ideas my kids come up with to celebrate the day. But Mother’s Day isn’t really about being a mother. The day feels silly, really, because my kids honor me and my mothering every day. When my 2 ½ year old daughter cleans up after dinner and then says, “Look mommy! My hands are clean. Now I can touch you!” and flings her little arms around my legs. When my 16-month old son pats my back during a hug.
Like everything else to do with parenthood, Mother’s Day isn’t about the mother, it’s about the kids. It’s about teaching your children to figure out ways to make someone they love happy. We spend a lot of our lives trying to make people we love happy. The ritual of Mother and Father’s Day is a way for our children to learn how to show their love. As they get older, they’ll do it again and again. They’ll send sympathy cards, visit someone in the hospital, leave a Hershey’s Kiss at the desk of a co-worker who’s stressed out. When someone is sad over a break-up, or a dead pet, or a bad boss, they’ll make them dinner, or rub their back, or tell them a joke. Or sit in silence with them. Or bring them breakfast in bed, because they remember how thrilled it made their mom on Mother’s Day.