Somtimes you are meen. But I still love you.
A few years ago for Mother’s Day, my eight-year-old daughter gave me a handmade clay bowl. It was a school art project, as Mother’s Day gifts often are, the kind students make every spring after receiving careful instruction from their teachers to create gifts worthy of the mothers who care for them each day.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the piece of misshapen pottery that my daughter presented to me with such excitement. It was, after all, painted in flamboyant shades of pink and what I can only suspect is chartreuse. The bowl now sits in my closet, collecting dust and holding a random collection of earrings and necklaces that I never seem to wear.
I loved the gift, of course, in the way that all mothers love the sloppy handmade creations we are so blessed to receive from our kids. But it was the box my Mother’s Day bowl arrived in which turned out to be the keepsake I’ll treasure forever.
It’s a plain, brown, cardboard box, nothing special, but my daughter decorated it with hearts, and wrote my name on it and shared a special, heartfelt message – complete with second grade spelling – just for me. It says:
“Somtimes you are meen. But I still love you.”
Not exactly a Hallmark card, I know.
My initial reaction to this backhanded declaration of affection was to stifle a laugh. But I have to admit that I cringed inwardly a bit too. Kids have a knack for hitting us where it hurts, and reminding us at the very moments when we are trying to celebrate our successes (hello, Mother’s Day?) that we have plenty of failures mixed in too.
My daughter is right. Sometimes, I am mean. Sometimes I yell, and sometimes I lose my temper. Sometimes, I make her clean her bedroom or, when I’m feeling particularly evil, the bathroom toilets. I may be the mom, but even mothers, after all, are only human.
I can think of plenty of gifts that I would like to receive for Mother’s Day this year. For instance, I wouldn’t turn down an all-inclusive resort vacation in the Bahamas. In lieu of that, I would certainly accept a massage, a champagne brunch or the opportunity to occasionally hear myself think. A few hours alone to catch up on the final season of Mad Men would also suffice.
But in the end (and those of you desperately shopping for Mother’s Day gifts take note), moms don’t really care about the stuff. We don’t need an expensive meal or a fancy bouquet of flowers or a sentimental, store bought greeting card that somehow doesn’t quite ring true.
We do, however, want to know that we are genuinely appreciated, and that our sacrifices and sleepless nights haven’t gone entirely unnoticed. Most of us struggle with endless guilt, constantly wondering if we are doing enough for our children and agonizing over the many imperfections we see in ourselves.
We are doing our best. And we just want confirmation that our best is good enough.
This is why, when it comes to Mother’s Day gifts, moms appreciate bear hugs and sloppy kisses and time spent together more than anything else you could give us. It’s why we treasure the handmade cards and not-so-artistic art projects that are always made with such loving care. It’s why we keep them, even when we have no idea what to do with them.
It’s why I have chosen to keep my brown cardboard box forever.
We don’t get too many people in our lives who still love us even when they have seen us at our worst. If we are lucky, our children are some of those people. While my daughter’s Mother’s Day message may have been unconventional, in its own unique way, it was also a declaration of her unconditional love. Even when I’m “meen,” she still kind of likes me.
And having a daughter who loves and appreciates me despite my flaws?
That’s a Mother’s Day gift that is absolutely priceless.