Mother’s Day was this past Sunday and I had an absolutely lovely day.
My daughter helped my husband make turkey bacon for breakfast. We went to church.
I got to sit alone and watch TV while my family picked up lunch AND dessert from Whole Foods. They had gifts and cards and flowers and we went on a walk.
In fact, my Mother’s Day was so very precious that I saw a family of geese on our walk. I called them our dopple-geese on Instagram.
I finished up my wonderfully decadent day with what we call an “indoor picnic.” It’s really just eating around the coffee table while we watch TV, but I got to pick the movie. And, against the preferences of literally everyone else, I chose Singin’ In the Rain. Because I am the mom and it was Mother’s Day.
But now it is Not-Mother’s-Day. It is a shame that although I felt highly visible on Sunday, it turns out that I (and I suspect a lot of other moms) am pretty sure I’m almost completely invisible.
I have quite a lot of evidence that I may, in fact, already be invisible. The amount of times people have looked through me or my children in public is a good indicator.
Diners in Panera apparently cannot see me searching for a table that will sit 5. Cars in parking lots, on roads we are attempting to cross, and even at the library act as though small children and their mother are an idea that has never occurred to them.
Grown men have cut us off in lines at Chipotle. I don’t want to delve too far into stereotype land, but the number of guys with IT Department listed on their ID badges who have acted as though I did not exist at Chipotle is embarrassing. Why do tech geeks like Chipotle so much and why in the world are they jackasses about the fountain drink dispenser?
I also drive a minivan, a vehicle that I have been told by a Law Enforcement Officer is the absolute best ride for surveillance. Because, and I quote, “no one ever notices a minivan.” He also noted that you could carry lots of gear and a bunch of guys and it was easy to get out of, so I do feel justified about the utility of said minivan.
Apparently, motherhood and SWAT team activity have a lot of the same needs. That kind of feels good.
I have been a parent for over a decade and I’ve been a middle-aged woman for a few years now–both roles that cause my general visceral being to fade. I didn’t, however, expect to start being quite so invisible to the actual human beings that I brought forth into life.
This is the obligatory Mother’s Day fill-in-the-blank that I got from my youngest.
The only accurate pieces of information on it are that I am 40 and that part of my hair is purple. When his brother pointed out that my eyes were brown he said, “really? I thought they were purple.”
When I asked him if he had ever seen me eat a salad he said, “ummm…no?”
I love to eat. Like, really love to eat. My 40th birthday wish was to eat in a restaurant with three Michelin stars–and I did. I went to Manhattan to do so.
My favorite restaurant in Atlanta is actually called Bacchanalia and it is far more delicious than McDonald’s. I do NOT like McDonald’s. He could at least have said Chipotle.
If I were a cartoon character I would be Daria, not Minnie Mouse. And we don’t have carpet so vacuuming is definitely not what I love to do at home.
These are all pretty funny and I can appreciate the humor in being part of my children’s universe without them actually knowing all that much about me. I orbit the sun, after all, but I don’t often wonder how it’s feeling today.
But it can wear on a person.
Yesterday, that same kid ran out into a parking lot without looking and a very large truck could have squashed him flat like a pancake. While I was lecturing him in the 800 degree sunlight (I wonder if the sun was happy with her day) he tried to put his hands over his ears to block me out.
I pulled those adorable little fingers from his ears and as he looked at me I thought, “well, at least I seem to be getting through to him. He’s trying to raise him arms up over his ears again. He must know he did something wrong.”
That’s when I noticed that he was not actually looking at me, but rather behind me. At the super-awesome shadow of himself on the ground that he could make wiggle around while completely ignoring my rant. Point for the kid.
Today he told me that he was “done with me.”
I am invisible to my own child. At the very best, I may be an adult in a Peanuts cartoon…a muffled trombone droning on in the background.
Feeling invisible got me thinking about the visibility of what motherhood is–of what we think of as being “mom” jobs.
So many cards and commercials and sentiments around Mother’s Day focus on the tasks moms do–the laundry and food and cleaning and hugs and reading stories and going to work and driving to practice and getting individually wrapped nut-free treats to school for birthdays.
The emotional thoughts tend to be about “always being there for me.”
It’s not that dads don’t do these things or that they’re all moms do, but I started thinking that the most important things I’m doing as a mom don’t have anything to do with those ideas.
Maybe my most important tasks are unable to be seen in the moment.
Sure, the kids need to be kept alive and all, but the harder part of mothering lies in what they grow into after we keep them alive for 18-20 years or so.
Are they kind? Do they know how to settle differences amicably? Can they imagine and grow on their own? Can they perceive what it’s like to look at life from a different point of view?
Are my sons learning that the strength of a man is in how he cares for those around him? In how he fulfills his responsibilities and honors his commitments?
Is my daughter learning that her worth is inherent and inerrant and cannot be taken from her?
And vise versa?
Am I teaching my children that truly good people find their joy in giving of themselves?
Oh, the invisible is what will weigh my success or failure as a mother. The things I cannot ever foresee… the conversations I can never plan…the moments I cannot schedule…the deep bonding moments of light and truth…these are a mother’s real responsibility.
To my children, I am a hazy source of good and safe and love, until in specific, fleeting moments that I do not control, the light shifts and they see and hear me in clear detail. And they will take that picture and that music with them out into the world.
I have felt invisible as a mom–and the truth is that we moms are invisible to some extent. But our invisibility is not a curse, but rather our superpower.
We lurk in the edges of our children’s ever-expanding universes–seemingly cleaning uniforms, changing sheets, and putting food in the refrigerator–until we let our deep selves be seen. That is our moment of opportunity–our chance to show gentleness and forgiveness. To model faith and unconditional love.
Our time in the invisible realm is when we travel far into the mists to form the adults of the future. It is our responsibility to mold the architects of our communities and cultures to come.
I am going to attempt to lean into the invisible. To see from a bird’s eye view the ways in which I am rearing small adults-to-be and, thus, remember how great a trust has been given to me.
There are four humans who are learning what the almighty word “love” means from me. What a beautiful obligation.
And, should you feel somewhat invisible, let me know. I would be happy to meet you at Starbucks (a place I clearly enjoy visiting with my children) and we can talk about how very clearly we can see each other.
Have a lovely Not-Mother’s-Day.