Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mother's Days Past

When J and I were engaged he told me about his plans to make me a ring (I heard "every year" but upon reflection, I doubt he was that ambitious about jewelry, even then) out of elements readily available in the foreign land where we'd be living.

We were going to travel the world, and save it, one micro-credit loan at a time.

We had plans to go to Bangladesh 6 months after we were married and begin our adventure.

Then I got pregnant with Bo. This was a big surprise (anyone who says pregnancies can't be a surprise hasn't done 2 things: 1, been around when I've found out I am pregnant and 2: passed me in the hallway) for us and we were suddenly compelled to change our life plan.

Of course, going to Bangladesh 4 months pregnant and giving birth to our first child in dirt hut in Southeast Asia wasn't really going to happen.

Because when it comes to saving the world, we're more of uh, what you'd call "Excuse Makers".

I often think about those dreams to travel the world and get clay rings, when I'm weary from dropping subtle hints to J that a made-up holiday is about to happen and he needs to revere it with something sparkly or chocolate.

My first Mother's Day, married to J, I was 9 months pregnant.

J got me nothing. Because technically, I wasn't a mother yet. This is true, but I was furious.

The next year was a wash. It's just not in J's DNA to acknowledge holidays. He loves Labor Day. It's the best holiday of the year because, you don't have to give anybody anything, and your main requirement is generally to show up with something to grill.

The next year I had a newborn Avee and almost 2, Bo.


Then we moved to Texas. J had a real job and he wasn't a stressed out, underpaid student. And to be honest, I was pretty much the most awesome mom ever, so I was really looking forward to Payday.

Nothing. In fact, he even booked his flight out of town about 4 hours earlier than necessary and never once acknowledged it was Mother's Day.

Whatever people say hell hath no fury like---that phrase was defined by me---Monday morning, the day after Mother's Day 2006.

I consider myself a pretty easy-going girl. And most days, J will agree. But this was a massive error on J's part.

His reasoning was, he had forgotten. Fair enough. Traveling was very stressful on all of us, and probably him the most. And because he had forgotten, he was sure anything he said or did would come across as fake, forced, rushed, insincere, Walmerts check-out line impulse buy-ish. Basically he was sure I'd call his bluff (as if I would ever!). So his response? Say nothing at all.

At this risk of smudging my good name, I will say this: I sent him an email that got bounced back to me with this message, "We have detected this email contains harassing and abusive language and will not be sent to recipient." True story.

In the moment, it infuriated me. Now? Probably one of the more funny moments of my married life.

We worked through some issues and I felt like J finally understood that I needed some acknowledgment for all my hard work. There are no pay raises, no quarterly reviews, minimal feedback---I felt like it was his job to take advantage of Mother's Day to show appreciation. AND I wanted him teaching our children to show appreciation.

The next year---we were still in Texas, I was muy pregnant with Danyo and I was confident we had arrived at a place where I could keep my expectations reasonable, and J could understand my need for acknowledgment.

Total and complete repeat of the previous year. He forgot, and again assumed the best approach was to ignore.

I still have to see a chiropractor because of that day. My head spun off of my neck.

I had unwittingly become the definition of mentally ill. I kept beating my head against a brick will, expecting a different result. I really truly thought I'd get a different result. If you know J, you know that this expectation wasn't unreasonable. He's a good guy, he cares about me, I was sure I'd get a response.

So, after about 4 days of calling his hotel room and threatening dismemberment, and calling at 3 am and hanging up when he answered, and mailing him a box of toenails and slugs---I had worked through some of my anger and we communicated. J said some things I was sure indicated he understood me, and that this would not happen again.

Last year: He took the kids to get cards and wrote what they dictated. He got me something I wanted/needed. He "acknowledged" me. And he taught the kids to do the same. It was wonderful.

This year: I didn't say anything. I try so hard not to put him to the test, but I am a woman, and I simply can't help myself.

He and the kids brought me breakfast in bed. Avee ate all my bacon and Danyo face planted in the strawberry syrup trying to wrestle Avee for the last piece of bacon. There were fresh flowers in a Bubba Gump beer glass that lit up.

It made my heart smile.

But. I also got myself a little ring "for J to give me".

I thought that ring would fulfill me. I thought people would look at it and say, "Oh, your husband loves you." Or, "Oh, you must really be a good mother."

I was going to wear it proudly, knowing I had been treated well on Mother's Day.

I took it off because it hurt when I lifted weights.

Then I went to go put it on afterwards and remembered how much I really don't care to wear jewelry.

And no one had really even noticed it anyway.

And it just didn't fulfill me like I had anticipated.

So, every day I see this ring, sitting on the shelf in the bathroom. It would be so easy to put on my finger. And maybe someone will see it and all my dreams will come true when they realize how much my husband loves me and how amazing of a mother I am...

I can't put it on.

It reminds me of the worst in me. The shallow part that thinks the world needs to see something to prove what an amazing person my husband is. It reminds me that when I said I would marry J and when I was so happy to say yes to that question, that intrinsic joy of marrying someone so wonderful, wouldn't always be enough for my greedy self. It reminds me I have lost sight of what matters the most.

A man who loves me in all my different "shades". A man who tells me he loves me everyday. A man who constantly picks up where I leave off, and doesn't think twice about it. A man who supports me, encourages me, trusts me, laughs with me, and gives everything for me and his children. He does this stuff every.single.day.

Who he is, is acknowledgment enough for me. How he is, is example enough for our children.

If they made cards that said, "Honey, I love you so much, that even when I'm in the bathroom and I hear the kids disobeying you, I will call out, 'I'm almost done in here, and when I am, I better see three little kids listening to their mom!'"

I'm sure I'd have a dozen.

Because that's the kind of man he is.

I'm keeping the ring. Probably right there on the shelf. As a reminder of what exactly it is I want. I want exactly what I get, every single day.

And on Mother's Day---I want to be reminded of what I get, every single day.


Heffalump said...

It's so much better to be appreciated in little ways every day than to be appreciated only once a year in a big way.
Thanks for posting this!

JJ said...


JJ said...

loved the post .. I have really fond memories of the rejected e-mail too!

Tori :) said...

What's funny is my fave "gifts" from Sei are his cards. I just love his mushy words. I don't need anything fancy either.

The email is AWESOME. AWESOME.

Adolescent Family said...

In all honesty, I have seen the ring a couple of times and thought it was your HUGE wedding ring that you just started to wear again. :) But you know me, and lovin' big jewelry, so its no surprise :) Just for the record though, I LOVED it!

Plain Jame said...

Oooh I love this. I've been thinking about my wedding ring saga and how much this helps put things into perspective for me. I worked at zales for petes sakes - I wanted a jonny lingo 10 cow wife ring, right? nonsense... I get to learn life the hard way.

omar said...

"J got me nothing. Because technically, I wasn't a mother yet. This is true, but I was furious."

I made this mistake as well. That week sucked.

Anyway, this is a nice message. Given that the message is that husbands don't have to do anything special for Mother's Day. That was the message, right?

Charlotte said...

I had a really rough Mother's Day a few years back. After that I have way low expectations and he (out of guilt) always tries to make it really great. I don't even have to remind him, he feels guilty all his own (It was a day WORSE than forgetting).

Rebecca said...

you have a great way of looking at things!! I always feel for the men, cause its kind of a no win situation, you have the right perspective.. but I have a finger to lend you.. if you wanna put that ring on it.. ha ha!!!

Howertons in Iowa said...

You should write greeting cards. I would totally buy your bathroom one.
Cory and I used to have a thing that on any holiday, we would just close our eyes and grab a card. So even if it was mother's day - my card could have said sorry for your loss, or happy 50th birthday.

Love this story- so true! while we appreciate the acknowledgment, it is just the fact that they love us for us that means the most.

Klin said...

You are the bomb dot com. Everyone needs to read this to put thing in perspective.

Anonymous said...

you must be my long lost twin or something...
I tell C I knew he wasnt mr mushy when I married him, and I dont expect mountains, but a card once a year that he picks out would not make him lose his GUY card membership. One of these days we may both get what we want, but I am not holding my breath. Last year, for mothers day...I sent him the email with a link to a shopping cart @ zales.com that had a ring I wanted. He bought a civil war black powder gun. This is how I got a new sofa for fathers day.

Code Yellow said...

We have a friend who has fourteen children (mostly grown now) who says that every year at least one person asks him what he got his wife for mother's day. His answer? "Not a thing. She's not MY mother." Makes me laugh.

Sarah Tilley said...

hee! ben never gets me anything, either. still love him, though. :)

Mycurlyhairdays said...

I want to come over and see your ring!!!
But really, you are an awesome chick, married to an awesome guy and you make awesome little ones!!! Glad we get to hang out sometimes and I hope we get to do it more soon!
PS I would buy your greeting cards for sure!
PPS The rejected email is HALARIOUS!!!

Yvonne said...

So beautifully written. It's not about things--is there anything better than "a man who gives everything for (me) and his children". Who he is and how he is is truly what it's all about.