A Mother’s Day Tradition

plum flowerBack when I was a child, Mother’s Day meant all three, and then four, of us kids “helping” Dad with breakfast. Our usual Sunday morning fare was fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and Sarah Lee Honey Buns—which if I recall, were a cross between cinnamon buns and glazed doughnuts. In honor of Mother’s Day, we might have substituted pancakes or waffles, but that was the extent of Dad’s cooking abilities and Mom wasn’t allowed to help. There were cards and gifts (sadly, often kitchen-related) that Dad helped select. Plus from school there were mugs, painted plates, and misshapen clay vases.

Dinner was typically spent with one or both sets of grandparents, maybe an aunt and a set of cousins. I suspect the women divvied up the cooking, but I don’t remember. I’ve learned Mother’s Day isn’t very memorable until you are the mother.

After an eight-year wait for a child, I had big expectations for Mother’s Day. I wanted breakfast in bed, flowers, a well-chosen card, and a tasteful gift. But my first year, when Katie was three months old, my husband was once again in rehab. I celebrated with dinner at my parent’s house, wolfing down food in a sleep-deprived haze while Katie napped. The next year, Michael refused to celebrate because the adoption wasn’t finalized. The following year, our marriage was in a slow death-spiral. How or if we celebrated I don’t recall. All I remember is my suffocating unhappiness.

Since then, my Mother’s Day has been no different than any other day. By this I mean it’s just one more day spent alone with my autistic daughter—who has no clue what the day is or means. Like every day, I do all the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. If I weren’t so tired, this might not matter. But I am tired, and the idea of a day filled with flowers and brunch and gifts (and someone else doing the cooking/cleaning/childcare) hangs in my mind like a mirage—yearned for yet unattainable.

So for the most part I’ve spent the day feeling sorry for myself. I tried buying flowers, but that didn’t help. I wanted the fantasy version of Mother’s Day I’d longed for since 1996—and had never once had. I’d never even had the non-fantasy version, and that made me feel both resentful and pathetic.

This year I wanted to change the script.

The first thing I had to do was accept reality. I’m the only adult in the house, and most days I’m happy about this fact. Furthermore, I can’t fault my daughter for not understanding the importance of Mother’s Day. She’s just managed to grasp the concept of birthdays and is working hard to learn basic social skills. I’m thrilled with her progress, and frankly, that’s the best gift I could receive. Besides, I really don’t need painted plates.

What we needed, I decided, was a new tradition—a mother-daughter tradition that factored in Katie’s special needs. My first impulse was a trip to the zoo. It seemed like a strange thing to do on Mother’s Day, but it also felt like a good choice. Then someone suggested we do something both of us enjoyed. Five minutes later it came to me: we would go to the mall. Katie loves to ride the escalators and look at shoes and jewelry. Usually when we’re at the mall I’m focused on running errands and she earns a trip on the escalator as a reward for waiting patiently. It’s taken a long time for her to tolerate the mall’s noise and activity, but now she loves it.

So for Mother’s Day we will spend the day doing something we’ve never done together: window shopping. We’ll wander wherever we want, and Katie can ride the escalators to her heart’s content. When we need a break, we’ll visit Starbucks for “milkshakes.” And if we feel up to it, we’ll stay for dinner.

Even if it doesn’t happen as planned, I’m fairly certain it’s going to be the best Mother’s Day ever.

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Autism, My Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A Mother’s Day Tradition

  1. Lora King says:

    Happy Mother’s Day Cynthia. I do hope it was the best one yet!

  2. Jenn says:

    the problem with holidays like Mother’s Day (or pretty much any holiday) is they are so laden with unrealistic expectations. I LOVE that you’ve taken control and decided to celebrate in a way that works for YOU and your dear dear daughter.

    and if we lived closer, I would make you breakfast and serve it to you on a tray with flowers :-)

    • cjpatton says:

      Aww, Jenn. Thank you for that lovely thought. If we lived closer, we could have brunch at that beautiful place in Taos where we ate in the outdoor garden. Remember that place? And yes, it’s the unrealistic expectations that get us into trouble, again and again. I am slowly learning how to manage them. :)

  3. Pingback: Random Acts of Self-Love | CYNTHIA J. PATTON

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