Mother’s Day is a tough holiday in our home…and I would venture to guess, many people’s homes.
Wrought with high emotions and feelings of anger and grief, that stand in stark contrast to commercialized expectations, Mother’s Day has evolved from my favorite Sunday of the year, to my most dreaded.
As Mother’s Day approached, my feelings of joyful anticipation of having all my kids home with me on this holiday that celebrates the role I cherish most, soon morphed into solid dread. The signs of impending doom rolled in, much like a dark and threatening thunder head. Weeks before the actual holiday arrived, my adoption treasures began to escalate in anticipation of the holiday that celebrates the greatest source of hurt and heartbreak in their lives.
Seeing the escalation led me to suggest that we simply cancel Mother’s Day this year. It was clear that the mixed emotions tied to the day were too much for some of my kids to handle. Parenting biological children with no trauma history, while raising adopted children with severe trauma histories, is a challenging balance. And while I found myself leaning toward scrapping the day completely, Toby and the three oldest kids argued that they had things planned and wanted to be able to express their love and celebrate my role as mom. When the other kids insisted that “they were fine,” we proceeded, but it was with a knot in my stomach that I stepped into Mother’s Day weekend.
The attacks began days before the actual holiday, as my adoption treasures began trying to push me away with their words and actions. I became mortal enemy #1 as feelings of grief and guilt ate away at their hurting hearts. Being told by Hallmark that they needed to love me and show me that love, only heightened their resentment and anger about the word “mother” and all the heartbreak tied to that word.
Much of their knee-jerk response to the impending holiday was instinctual and not a direct attack on me as a person. Rather, it was an attack on the role I hold and the threat that role represents to their traumatized inner child. Amid the directed and seemingly personal attacks of anger and hate, I had to keep reminding myself that this was not about me, I was simply a living representation of the greatest heartbreak of their life.
But when the attacks are so direct, and targeted, and seemingly personal, it is hard to not feel hurt and even a bit resentful.
I had to keep reminding myself that each angry declaration of “I hate you,” was actually a hurt child fearfully asking, “Are you the next mom who will leave me?”
With each item of property destroyed in a fit of anger, there was a child telling me through his actions, “The grief within me is tearing me apart.”
And the choice to flee, as one child ran away and his choice resulted in a six hour search for him on Mother’s Day, came the unexpressed question of, “Do you love me enough and want me enough to come after me?”
It was a hard, hard day…and a fitting conclusion to a month of hell, but we did our best to navigate it. We opted to stay home and avoid the triggers we anticipated at church, knowing that talks about the blessings and love of mothers would be too much for some of our kiddos to handle.
We hunkered down and rode out the storm…
And what a destructive storm it was.
We made it through the day, exhausted, battered, bruised, and weary…but we made it. And the next day we emerged from the destruction ready to begin clean-up; both physical and emotional.
Much like the devastation that follows a category 5 hurricane, the clean-up will take time, but we are seasoned pros at storm clean-up. We will pull on our work boots and heavy gloves and get to work. We are restoration specialists and cleaning up messes is our calling.
But the day was not without some sunshine. Before things derailed, the kids sat me down to give me my Mother’s Day gifts. The boys bought me earrings and made me cards.
Toby, knowing my #1 coping skill is to recharge my emotional batteries in a bubble bath, bought me bath supplies and chocolate to indulge in.
Molly, my words of affirmation child, expressed her love in the form of a beautiful and touching framed poem.
And Grace put her talents to use with a beautiful painting.
This painting is special because it is the manifestation of a conversation we had months ago. While carpooling to our Thursday night college classes, I shared with Grace an image that I had in my head that illustrated how I was feeling emotionally. I told her, that I saw myself from the back, standing in front of a dam. And behind that dam was a lake. As I stood there, the dam began to spring a leak, then a second, then a third…
I described the image in my head of me trying to hold back the flood of destruction by plugging the holes that were leaking. I explained to her the physical excursion I displayed as I reached, and stretched to plug each leak, using every digit of my hands and feet. With my face pressed against the hard, rough surface of the crumbling dam, even my nose was utilized to hold back the water.
Grace remembered that conversation and used that image I described to paint a picture as a Mother’s Day tribute. I was moved to tears to see the image I described, so beautifully illustrated on the canvas, especially when she began to explain the artistic license she took in changing my described image to account for her perception of my efforts.
She explained that she painted me in a dress, posed like a dancer, while plugging the leaks in the dam, to illustrate the grace she feels I show as I fight to hold back the destruction that threatens to burst forth.
She also added cracks in the wall where the water was dripping free, painting flowers beneath those cracks to represent the beauty God can create, even amid chaos and destruction.
Her gift of love is a treasure beyond all measure and a powerful reminder of what this journey is all about.
Happy Mother’s Day, to all the women I love.