I finally understand now what my mother meant when she said to me every year, “You don’t have to give me anything for Mother’s Day.”
Last week, I told my 7-year-old son Noah that we’d be having a special lunch guest coming over.
Our lunch guest—we’ll call her Amanda, is also an expat from the States. She’s been living in Belgium just over 3 years, and also happens to be a former co-worker of mine.
Noah’s met Amanda before, but only once.
“When is Amanda coming over?!”
“Next Sunday,” I answered.
“But, mama, next Sunday is Mother’s Day,” he whined.
“But I wanted it to be just you and me.” He usually loves having company over, so he was clearly feeling conflicted.
I answered, “But it will be you and me. We’ll wake up and you’ll make me my usual Mother’s Day cereal for breakfast!”
This seemed to comfort him a bit. He asked, “Are you excited for it?”
“Of course I am! And I’ll eat it all up and be so happy!”
Noah’s smile reappeared missing front teeth and all.
“And you know what else? I asked him.
“Amanda is like me. She’s from American but she’s living here in Belgium without her family.”
“Without her mama? Like you?” His face fell. It fell the way it always does whenever he senses sadness or suffering.
I said, “Exactly. That’s why I thought it would be perfect to hang out all together for Mother’s Day.”
“Yeahhhh. Let’s do that!” Noah jumped up and down and cheered.
So this morning I woke up only to lie in bed until I heard Noah up and about preparing his famous Mother’s Day cereal.
“Can I come out?” I shouted from my bed.
“Okay! Come get your breakfast, mama!”
I was greeted with about half a gallon of milk in a bowl and a handful of my favorite cereal. An empty milk carton stood next to it.
So. Much. Milk.
I would have appreciated less milk and more cereal this morning, but it filled my stomach (and heart) just the same.
Noah then told me to close my eyes for my presents.
I answered, “Presents? You mean I get more than one?”
Noah shrieked, “Yes! TWO!”
“Well, maybe later. After I eat. Is that okay?”
“Okay. As long as it’s before Amanda gets here. I don’t want her to feel bad.”
I asked, “Why would she feel bad?”
“Because if she sees me giving you Mother’s Day gifts then it might make her feel sad that her mama isn’t with her.”
“That is so sweet of you. You don’t even have to give me anything for Mother’s Day. You already are my present.”
Noah laughed as if I’d just told the silliest joke. He ran and got me my gifts.
One of them was a handmade flowerpot holding a plant, and the other was a “Mother’s Day Newspaper”:
Aside from the little drawing of me, which I found funny, he filled in bits and pieces of it in his best handwriting.
“My mama can cook really well.”
“My mama is great because she is crazy.”
“I wish my mama a long life.”
I was flattered by the cooking thing, and a little shocked (in a good way) about the crazy thing, but the last one struck a very deep chord with me.
My dad died when I was only 29. Noah knows this. We’ve had lots of conversations about the grandfather he’s never met…
In these last two years, there have so many times that I doubted myself. Professionally and personally, going through a divorce, and adjusting to co-parenting—hoping that Noah would come out of everything unaffected.
What does that even mean? Every milestone and change in our lives affects us, as they should. So, all this time, “unaffected” was the wrong word.
I guess what I’d really meant was that I wanted Noah to remain a loving and caring and generous human being, through it all, regardless of the fact that his parents divorced.
As Noah and I prepared for Amanda’s arrival today, I felt so at peace.
Whatever this day means to you, I wish you all a happy day.