Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

I was inspired by the folks at Rants From Mommyland to rethink Mother's Day this year.  I tried to rethink it last year, but I didn't rethink far enough and I ended up disappointed.  No, not disappointed.  How could I have been disappointed with a wonderful husband, a beautiful baby girl and another one on the way?  I think I just felt a little....empty.  I'm fairly new to the receiving end of Mother's Day and I've had to make sense of all the jewelry commercials, radio ads, and the evil, evil, Pinterest ideas that all shouted: YOU'RE A MOM!  YOU DESERVE BREAKFAST IN BED AND A DAY THE SPA! YOU'RE WORTH IT BECAUSE MOMS ARE AMAZING AND YOU'RE SO TIRED!!!  I worked really hard last year to drown out that noise and focus on what I already have...and to be grateful.  But honestly, that was hard.  I wanted.  I wanted something.  A card.  A gift.  Okay, a day at the spa.  I didn't want to want it, but there it was, on the morning of Mother's Day - a "where's mine" feeling and I hated it.  So when I saw that Rants From Mommyland was doing the same project this year, I knew it was the only way to counteract those noisy, consumer-driven marketing ninjas.

I slapped up a post on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in joining me for a stuffing party to make swag bags for mothers in need in our area.  Turns out...LOTS of people were interested.  I got excited.  My brain was rethinking and my heart knew we were headed in the right direction. I contacted the Women's Crisis Center, a place where women and families can go to escape domestic violence and sexual abuse, to see if they could use goodie bags full of fun mama things: lotion, chapstick, nail polish, make up, jewelry; and fun kid things: coloring books, stuffed animals, bubbles.  The lady on the line sounded very happy to hear of our project and mentioned that the women also love to get flowers.  Something they can put in their rooms and take with them when they leave. 

Easy, I thought.  I can totally make that happen.  I think.  I'll try at least.  We'll see how it goes.

 I made the stuffing party Facebook Official and the donations came pouring in!  I was in awe.  My mom called around and got a great deal on flowers.  People from out of town sent checks in the mail.  Friends I haven't seen in years were knocking on my door with donations, stopping by for just a quick second on their way to other places, but stopping by because they knew.  They knew the secret mama code.  They knew that all moms are important.

I want to make this clear, to myself and my girls who will one day read this:  I wanted to do this project because in my heart I know the right way - the only way - to celebrate Mother's Day is to lift up other mothers.  Because I know how hard it is to be a Mom with all of the blessings and resources I have, so I owe it to my fellow mothers to share the love.  And oh my word, how much love we shared!  Check this out:

Sylvia and Cici making Mother's Day cards

Ann, Michelle, and Justin sorting Mama gifts.

Swag bags!

Sylvia adding bubbles to the kid buckets.

Margot was useless, but at least she's cute! Can you see her mohawk?!

Shelby - quality control for all volunteer snacks.

Justin and Ann sorting jewelry while Sylvain supervises.  To be fair, Sylvain was on baby duty. 

Shelby and Margot keeping each other busy!

I knew this would be a fun project, but my heart was split open in so many unexpected ways.  When I'm going through the day to day motions of motherhood, the exhausting and consuming tasks that never seem to end, I forget that I know wonderful people.  I forget that I'm surrounded by people who love me, who love each other, who love making the world a better place...people who love to love!  It was truly inspiring.

And one more thing before I climb into bed - Sylvia.  I wanted her to be a part of this project because I wanted to show her that she's blessed.  She's old enough to understand the concept of giving, so I wanted this to be meaningful, but not a burden, to her.  Obviously, I couldn't explain "domestic violence" or "sexual abuse" to such a tiny girl, so instead I chose to talk about an easy word and one she knew...


I explained to her that we were making gifts for people who had to leave their homes because they were not safe.  I told her that all of the bubbles and the teddy bears were going to kids who had to sleep in a different bed than they usually do and these things might help them feel a little more cozy.  I asked her if she wanted to help and she said yes.  On Sunday, she didn't throw any fits when I told her to put all of those shiny new things in the kids' buckets.  Every time we gave her a new item she asked, "Are these for ME?!" And I always said, "No, they go in the buckets." And she never complained, not even once.

Then, yesterday, as we drove down to the Crisis Center to deliver our gifts and the flowers, Sylvia and I had this amazing conversation:

Sylvia: Mommy, are we taking those buckets to the shelter?
Me: Yes, remember when we made them?  You were very helpful.
Sylvia: Are those kids safe now?
Me: Yes, honey, they are safe.
Sylvia: They had to leave their house?
Me: Yes, they had to leave so they could be safe.
Sylvia: My house is safe.
Me: Yes, your house is safe...(holding back tears)...and your house will always be safe.
Sylvia:  Yes, I am aaaalllllways safe at my house!  With you and me and Daddy and Margot!
Me: Yes....(at a loss for words)...yes, honey.

And I held back tears all the way there.  We got out of the car and I started unloading our goodies onto the sidewalk.  Sylvia grabbed a bag that was way too heavy for her.  I watched her tiny blonde head lean to the side as she hauled that bag toward the door and I said a silent prayer of gratitude. 

I didn't want a gift because I wanted this year to be different.  I was planning to distract myself from the noise.  I was not prepared to find myself drowning in the real meaning of Mother's Day, feeling blessed beyond words.  I forgot that sometimes, that's what giving to others can do. 

So, to all my friends and fellow mothers, to everyone who makes a mama's load lighter, to the mamas I'll never meet who are doing the best they can with what they've been given, to my own mothers and grandmothers...Happy Mother's Day.  I love you.

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