My children had an especially poignant way of celebrating mother’s day this year.
The festivities kicked off at 3:44am with my fifteen-year-old throwing up in the bathroom. The ensuing mayhem of coughing, groaning, toilet-flushing and door-slamming punctuated with “MMMMOMMMMM!” every eight seconds was a hearty reveille for the entire household.
I am a bit hardened to this late night calamity because it is a semi-monthly occurrence at our house. It is my son’s physical response to gobbling popcorn drowned in a full stick of butter before bed, an act which is not condoned by his mother or his stomach. But he’s happy to invite me to share in the post-feast cleansing ritual.
I hid my head under my pillow, hoping that if I just lay there quietly, Scotty would beam me to Tahiti.
The next installment of mother’s day merriment came at 4:19am with my eight-year-old banging on the bedroom door. “MMMMOMMMMM! I need to use your bathroom. There’s throwup all over mine, and I stepped in it.” How sweet of her brother to leave a lovely trail of vomit-stained towels, toilet seats and countertops as a nice little present for one of his sisters to happen upon during a groggy early morning bathroom visit.
And to further commemorate the dawning of this special day, my five-year-old stood at my bedside in tears at 5:02am. “I wet my bed, mom, and my rainbow blanket is soaked,” she sobbed. “Can I sleep with you?” This heartfelt plea comes from a violent sleeper who delivers roundhouse kicks to whoever else happens to be in the bed. Sleeping is generally out of the question once she crawls under the covers.
But a few hours later, all was washed away with paper towels, laundry detergent, and the smiles of my little cherubs as they delivered artwork, poems, flowers and a painstakingly crafted shrimp omelet to my bedside. I chose to ignore the burning smell wafting from the kitchen (luckily, it was just the toast). Their father, bless his heart, had gotten up with the kids and taken care of the wet sheets and vomit footprints, letting mother sleep in for a glorious three hours. Three hours! Note to self: do not comment on the state of his half of the closet for at least three months.
The richness of motherhood is derived from its own unique blend of bitter-sweetness. It is the tranquil scent of your baby’s just-shampooed hair at fifteen months; and the putrid reek of your teenager’s buttered popcorn vomit at fifteen years. It’s taking out the load of freshly washed charming pink sundresses; and throwing in the load of pee-stained bed sheets. It’s delighting in your second-grader’s hard-won “A+” on the book report; and panicking as you review your teenager’s school suspension notice, wondering whether your particular brand of maternal incompetence is the reason for their misstep.
As Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” Perhaps the brilliance of motherhood lies in its contrasts, and that shrimp omelet wouldn’t have tasted nearly so good without the burnt toast.