Monday, May 14, 2012

And the Best Mom In This House award goes to...

Since no one else is a Mom up in this house... I graciously accept. 

This is going to come as a bit of a surprise to you, but I have never won Mother of the Year. Sure, I came close a couple of times when my children's father wasn't married to someone else, but I've never taken the big prize or walked away with the trophy. Frankly, much like a child who realizes she's been a brat all year long will straighten up at the beginning of December before going to sit on Santa's lap, I usually forget I'm supposed to be vying for the kids' vote until the very end of April. There have been a few times over the last almost 19 years that I would have settled for a certificate of participation or maybe even a red runner-up ribbon.

When I divorced over 12 years ago I honestly looked at my child custody agreement with a bit of joy. For four days a month and up to 6 weeks every summer I wasn't going to be the person kissing scrapes, making meals, getting up early, doing laundry, or being woke in the night with words like, "Mom I wet my bed." or "I got a bloody nose and I promise I wasn't picking it."

That's exactly how it was for about 2 years (give or take a weekend here or there). I instituted clothing optional weekends when I wasn't tending bar at a local dive for spare cash. When the kids climbed into his pickup truck I headed for the grocery store. I gathered my weekend necessities as quickly as possible and went straight back home. Once back inside, I closed the door, locked it, pulled the shades, and tuned the world out. It was absolute bliss.

A few years later when we lived in Denver I was blessed to have family that took my children over Christmas breaks so I could work and have time to collect my wits before joining everyone for the actual holiday. After being in the city for almost a year, I'd not taken time to really experience anything. Finally I had a chance to spread my wings. It was the holiday season, and I felt relieved to not have my children with me.

In 2004 the kids and I relocated to Sioux Falls. After many missed weekends by their father and more than a few unclaimed holidays, I received a call from him asking if he could have the kids for an extended weekend, which would eat into their school time. He was getting married to a woman that had caused much turmoil in his own family, almost causing my children to lose contact with their paternal grandparents. Still, I didn't hesitate a moment to say, "Yes, I'll make sure they are available." I didn't argue that they had just started in a new school. I didn't force him to drive all the way here to pick them up. I offered to meet them half way,  loaded their bags into the car, and sang like a bird the entire way. SWEET.FREEDOM.

Following our move back to the Midwest, the only childless weekends I had were those times when I drove back to see my family and could leave the children off with their father. He lived only a couple miles from my parents and while they visited him, I stayed with the folks. Still, I wasn't at home during those weekends and returning home left me feeling like I'd had no weekend at all. The summer visits were inconsistent at best, with one child or the other calling and begging to be allowed to come home ahead of schedule. But those blissful 2 weeks or so when they were both gone at the same time... oh those were a little slice of Heaven.

I could pretend to be something else, Mother of the Year even. I could tell you that I read to my kids every night, made wholesome meals, taught them an appreciation for broccoli and brussel sprouts (eww), and was a sad sack nervous wreck every time the kids were out of my sight. I could try to make you believe that I've always said the right things to make my kids feel better and took every step possible to make them the very best they could be. I didn't.

Instead, let me tell you what I got instead of a trophy or a title. I got the kids I raised. Of course there were some tokens of appreciation, hugs, and kind gestures, but above all else I got my kids. They didn't lay on any fake emotion and there were no grand performances. They were the same chilled out, laid back, keeping it quiet kids they always are. Above all else, they let me sleep in, and neither of them made the mistake of trying to make me breakfast in bed.

I won't lie, a kick ass gift like an all expenses paid vacation wouldn't be turned down. At the same time, I don't really feel like having a discussion about what illegal activities they'd been participating in to afford such luxury for Dear Old Mom. It's best I settle for an award like, "Best Mom We've Got" or "Best Mom In This House"; fewer questions, more quiet.

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