I should’ve known how Mother’s Day was going to go based on how it began.
“You have to do everything I say because it’s Mother’s Day,” I told my husband as I crawled out of bed.
“Why? You’re not my mother.”
“Really?” I whispered under my breath as I picked up two of his Batman action figures and threw away a piece of last night’s floss he left on the counter.
We are a low-maintenance couple. We pick out our Christmas presents to ensure we get what we actually want. No surprises. Ray has only genuinely surprised me once in the sixteen years we’ve been together and that was when he agreed that we should start a family. I was touched by the unexpected gesture, but the pressure to wear that emotion on my sleeve is a burden I’d rather do without. And merely saying, “Wow. Cool. Thanks,” tends to ring false–especially when talking about getting pregnant.
For this Mother’s Day, we agreed to go out for a family breakfast. Over our meal, I announced my plans for the day: workout, nap, beach and dinner. And therein lies the difference between Mother’s Day and the other days: I didn’t feel the least bit guilty for acting like I was the center of my universe.
Of course, I wasn’t the center. I was hanging off the edge.
By noon, I still hadn’t done one thing for myself. I cleaned up the dishes that Ray claimed needed to “soak” in the sink. Then I handpicked confetti off the floor from my daughter’s snowflake craft and swept cat litter sprinkled throughout the kitchen (will someone please teach that cat to wipe?). But I lost it when Ray indicated that the space under his desk needed to be swept as well.
“What’s the matter?” he asked when I came at him with the broom, swinging it like a blindfolded kid desperate to decapitate a piñata.
“It’s Mother’s Day and I’m cleaning!”
“Well, stop it.” As if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Then are you going to do it for me?”
He stared at me. The man has many gifts, but none of them come in the form of helping around the house.
“Can’t I just buy you something?”
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want anything. I did. I wanted, for the first time in my adult life, to be surprised. Not with gift, but with a gesture that says, “I know what you want” without me having to ask for it–like folding the laundry or brewing my morning coffee. But as surprises go, if you have to ask, it’s no longer a surprise. And if I ask, it’s “nagging.” I’d given every hint I could. I threw the laundry on the bed with a heavy sigh. I banged the dishes in the sink. I even talked out loud to myself: “Time to make the beds!” Then I opted to take Ava to the beach, giving Ray three hours alone to figure it out.
He didn’t. When I came back, the house was exactly like I left it, except more dishes had collected in the sink.
At that point, I had two choices: I could kill him and hide the body or love him in spite of himself. Reluctantly, I chose the latter. And today I’m glad that I did. Because on this regular ol’ mid-week day, Ray put dinner in the oven. He washed Ava’s hair in the bath while I showered. He changed the air filters and reset the router for me 6 times. It was how I imagined Mother’s Day should’ve felt, but didn’t. But who cares? Ray didn’t do these things because it was some special day and he wanted me to feel appreciated. He did them because I am appreciated.
I didn’t need Mother’s Day to prove to me what I already knew. My husband and daughter show me they love me every day. It shows in the way they talk to me. It shows in their eyes and their smiles. It happens naturally without me asking for it. Maybe this year’s Mother’s Day wasn’t the most memorable, but there are 364 other days with a lot of potential.