I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel.
This is the thought that kept going through my head on Mother’s Day this year. I wanted to take joy in my small son, and half of me did. He wanted to stay up for a few extra songs at bedtime and so I let him. He held my hand, and smashed his cheek against mine, and we watched the orange stars projected by his nightlight on the ceiling glow while we sang many more invented verses of Old MacDonald than the three he is usually allowed. This night there was a Baby on the farm (his name for his stuffed kangaroo), who went jump, jump, jump while a “go-soar” (not a dinosaur, as one might suspect, but rather a rhinoceros) roared. There was a farmer who went for a drive and a camel that went mmm and even a turtle that swam. There was a mommy kangaroo and a cow and a red bird. But there were no daddies on the farm. For us, from now on, there will always be only Mother’s Day.
I wanted just to hold my son as I sang him to sleep and enjoy the way that small children love their moms, for one day too soon he will be grown and learn that I am fallible, sometimes fragile, certainly damaged, possibly even ordinary. He said “love you, mama,” in his sleepy, sweet toddler voice as I left the room and I wanted to enjoy the sounds of his syllables, drawn out slowly and punctuated by a yawn. But how could I enjoy holding my son on that day of all days, when there were other mothers, mothers I knew, mothers I didn’t know, here and everywhere, who would never get to hold their sons again?
Was Mother’s Day, in fact, a thing to celebrate or to mourn? And if I couldn’t decide which of the two it was, did that perhaps mean it was like all my days lately, something that was a bit of both?
I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, but most of the time I want the answer to simply be “less.”