Over here Mother's Day falls in March, perhaps the most miserable month of the year to be British. It rains buckets, blows a gale, teases you with sunshine in the morning then envelops you with black clouds by noon. There are no school holidays, the estate houses with playgrounds are still closed for the season and it gets dark by 6:00.
So the only reason we moms find the will to smile during the month of March is because the Brits treat all their mums like queens on Mother’s Day. Z was no exception.
“Here mom, let me get you a glass of water.”
“Thank you, darling. How about you vacuum the stairs now?”
“No thanks, mom. I'm too tired.”
I asked him what he wanted to do for Mother's Day and he said what he always says when you ask him what he wants to do. “Go to Legoland!”
So I decided we would go to Legoland and that, on my day, I would willingly spend half of it nauseated and on the verge of vomiting. Only when I went online to see if it was less expensive to buy tickets ahead of time I found the total price for the two of us would come to $140, not including parking.
Next we looked into a treetop adventure park.
“Sorry, Z, you have to be 12 to get in.” He suddenly remembered the time I made him lie about his age at Legoland so he could get his Lego car drivers license.
“We can tell them I'm 12.”
“Honey, I'm sorry, but you don't look 12.”
“But we can just tell them I have a growing disability!”
I tell you, that quote alone will make me smile this entire miserable month.
So we decided to go to the local Willow’s Farm, a children's fun park specialising in bouncy castles, giant slides and ignored animals. Having been relieved of the possibility of motion sickness, I agreed to play what I call Chicken Ball. I insisted, since it was my day, that he had to gather a basket of balls for me. He complained but did it anyway since otherwise he’d have no one to shoot at.
Imagine a room about the size of a tennis court with two levels of protective barriers on either side facing each other. Mounted atop the barriers of each level are pneumatic air guns into which you feed a Nerf ball about the size of a navel orange. The guns pivot on a stand and you discharge the balls with an almighty “Thwap!” using a trigger on the steering handle. You could be a wimp and shoot your opponent while crouching behind the barrier. Or you could stand tall like a maniacal sniper and intimidate your offspring while trying to work out how far right you need to position your worthlessly calibrated gun in order to bean him in the face.
Z was pretty good. But not as good as I. And pretty soon not only was I shooting at him, my jaw aching because I was smiling so hard, I was also shooting all the other kids across from me. I was the No Mercy Mum unleashed.
“No! I don't want to wipe your ass anymore!” Pow! “Get your own damn milk!” Bam! “Stop asking me for more flippin’ screen time!” Wap!
Pretty soon I was crawling around on the floor gathering more ammunition. Then I realised I was Piggy in a room full of Lord of the Flies little boys. Now I had balls flying at me from all directions, hitting me about the head, beaning my arms. One kid ran into no man's land with a pile of balls cradled in his arm and started wailing them at me point blank. Cheeky monkey!
So I surrendered. I made a dash for the door, and turned, once behind the glass, and like any self-respecting 50 year-old woman would do, stuck my tongue out at them. I sat down to catch my breath and chuckle. Because I was doing what all mothers do, at different levels, throughout the life we share with our children: we surrender. We cede control, we put down our weapons, and we let them be who they need to be. Then I watched him. I love watching Z engage with the world from a distance. He is a fearless friend-maker, something I was never good at until recently. And then I love to take him in my arms and tell him how wonderful it is that he is such an outgoing, friendly person. He folds himself into me and purrs like a cat, licks me on the arm even.
I like to think I have a lot of influence on how he is beginning to see himself. But I know there will be days when someone else will hurt him terribly with a thoughtless remark. That person might even be me. We've all been there; at the end of our rope, sarcastic, assuming our children will understand our criticism as contextual, rather than a judgement of their character. So I hope I'm doing a decent job of making deposits into his happy bank now so that when someone makes a withdrawal, he still has plenty of happy in reserve. I want to keep his account in The National Bank of Resilience forever in the black.
March is a little more sunny for me this year despite the absence of sunshine. I know this Mother’s Day, I'm deeply grateful to be this kid’s mother. Despite the fact he'd see me annihilated by Nerf balls.