Mother’s Day is not a tradition in my life. Mother’s Day a living, evolving event that ties the years together with the various mother figures in my life. It’s a dance, a celebration, and at times, an apology.

When I was a child, Mother’s Day meant making a card for my mother and grandmothers — and until I was 10, my great-grandmother, who lived with one of my grandmas and taught me how to cheat at solitaire. The cards started with crayon squiggles and eventually turned into little poems and drawings in my childish scrawl, all funky letters and elaborate curlicues. Gifts of sparkly rocks and flowers from the yard turned into macaroni necklaces made at school and then into earnest craft projects that, bless my heart, I was convinced were High Art. My mother was very kind about my efforts. My dad would help my sister and me put together bouquets of flowers from my mother’s garden and we’d bring them to the grandmas, and my parents would give their mothers gifts and cards and flowers, too.

As a teen, Mother’s Day started to mean saving up my allowance for a little something from the local gardening store, store bought cards, and remembering to write MOTHER’S DAY on my calendar so I wouldn’t get the date wrong. I got busy with my own life, but we still celebrated every generational mother in the family, and I liked knowing I was a bead in that necklace of women linked together by genetics and love. I felt anchored in that knowing, and it held me steady through the tumultuous teens and early twenties. I began to get an inkling that not everyone was so lucky in their mothers, and I started to pull my head out of my ass where the natural progression of my teenage quest for independence had planted it.

In my late twenties, I became a mother.

Holy. Shit.

The first year of my daughter’s life, I wrote an apology to my mother for everything I had put her through.

The second year, I had the stunning realization that my mother had parented me through what I’ve been told was a screaming infancy WITHOUT GOOGLE. Hell, I was on the internet five times a day, easy, figuring out strategies for parenting, looking up developmental milestones, and once or twice, the number for Poison Control. Yes, my firstborn was that kid. I’ve also been told she takes after her mother. I wrote another apology.

I may have gone overboard in my quest to honor and celebrate the mothers in my life all in one day. Mother, two grandmothers, mother-in-law…it was a busy day of hauling toddlers around the state, visiting people. Turns out, that’s a little too much to try to do in 24 hours. After a few years, I let go of the date and started to plan visits and meals out sometime during the month of May — ish — with family. When my grandmothers were able, we’d do a lunch out with just us girls, the three generations. Now my sister and I take my mother out and we explore local restaurants together.

As my daughters have gotten older, they’ve followed in my footsteps with homemade cards and craft projects that yes, I truly treasure as the High Art they are — I get it now! — and breakfast in bed. My husband and I crafted our own tradition, starting when the girls were babies. On Mother’s Day, I changed no diapers. On Father’s Day, he changed no diapers. That’s turned into a day free of chores like dishes and laundry for each of us. Honestly? It’s the best gift we can give each other in honor of this wild parenting path we chose to walk together. A day free from cleaning up after our adorable but messy offspring.

I’m sure our Mother’s Day celebrations will morph again as the girls hit their teen years and get busy. Maybe we’ll start to do our own lunches out, just us girls. Or maybe we’ll find ourselves doing a three-generation get together again, except this time I’ll be the generation in the middle. Whoa. Whatever we do, my goal is to raise kids who want to hang out with their mother on Mother’s Day. I figure if I do that, I’ll have done something right.

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