On Mother's Day

by Bethany Meyer
Originally Published: 

“I won’t grow up…

I don’t want to wear a tie… Or a serious expression… In the middle of July…” The words of the Peter Pan song float down the hall and give me pause. I grin and tiptoe into the hallway. I peek my head into his bedroom, where he sits among his Legos.

“What are you singing, sweetheart?”

He gasps upon seeing me. “MOM! You can’t hear it! It’s supposed to be a surprise!”

Wearing the look of someone properly chastised, I ask, “Hear what? I didn’t hear anything. Did you?”

The smile that melts my heart spreads wide across his 7 year old face. His eyes alight and his nose wrinkles as he answers, “I know you’re kidding, Mom.”

Scrambled eggs topped with a slice of American cheese. A hanging plant. A new pair of running sneakers. A pair of gardening gloves…typically pink. A trail hike along the Wissahickon. And four hand-drawn cards. These are my gifts every Mother’s Day.

One card is crafted by my oldest son under slight protest, and contains very few words…just a small illustration drawn in pencil with a cute joke. When he hands it to me, he leans in and allows me a treat…a hug…very rare for this private boy in the midst of his tween years.

Another card is drawn in marker…illustrated in detail…and typically pictures me, grinning broadly, face covered in freckles, donning a cape. That card comes from my 10 year old. With it comes a hug that lingers just a touch, delivered by the arms of an imaginative boy whose right hand and left fingertips still bear the dark blue smudges of the markers he’s used to create my card.

Two more cards are thrust into my hands, but I don’t look at them immediately. Their givers wrap their small arms around my neck, climb onto my lap, and lean their heads on my shoulders. They are 7 and 4. Nothing about them smells of baby anymore. But it doesn’t make them any less my babies. When I glance over their resting heads at the cards they’ve made, my eyes well with tears as I see the white pieces of printer paper bearing the words, “I LOVE YOU, MOM”.

The simplest of messages.

The most poignant.

The only words that truly matter.

Written by boys whose awkward grips on their writing instruments are still a bit too firm. Whose letters are written with painstaking concentration by hands that’ve yet to know their shapes as second nature.

It is a few minutes before 8AM on a Thursday morning. I sit in a pew among a sea of fellow kindergarten parents in the school chapel. We await the entrance of our sons. I suspect I’m about to hear the song I stumbled upon my son singing last week. The song about staying a boy. And the lump begins in my throat.

The conversations cease, the parents sit straighter, and iPhones are hastily retrieved from jacket pockets and handbags as our boys file into the chapel. They wear hats…chef hats, fireman hats, hard hats, and fezzes…and wave enthusiastically at us as they take their places on the stage.

My boy doesn’t see me immediately. He peers out at the audience from under his hard hat. I know he spots me when that grin of his…the one that warms my heart all the way down to my toes…spreads across his face. I wave to him, blow him a kiss, and he tips his hard hat in response. And that lump in my throat warns me a mere fraction of a second before it happens that the first of my tears is about to fall.

“I won’t grow up…

I don’t want to go to school. Just to learn to be a parrot… And recite a silly rule.”

I wipe the tears…first with my fingertips, then with the heels of my hands…as they fall.

“If growing up means…

It would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree… I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up… Not me! Not I… Not me!”

I cry because this boy…the third of my four sons…has come so far in just a year. I cry for the enthusiasm with which he sings…and because I know that enthusiasm has quite possibly reached its peak…it will soon drop off slowly or maybe more abruptly as I’ve witnessed with both of his two older brothers.

“I won’t grow up…

I don’t want to wear a tie. And a serious expression… In the middle of July.”

I cry for the magic of kindergarten. The innocence of their precious existence. The excitement of new friendships. The joy of learning to read and write. The independence that’s begun. The pants which were a smidge too long in September and are suddenly…surprisingly…an inch too short.

“And if it means I must prepare…

To shoulder burdens with a worried air… I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up… Not me… Not I… Not me!”

I cry for Kate. For her first Mother’s Day without Gavin, the miraculous boy who made Kate a Mom. The courageous boy who imprinted on the hearts of so many without ever uttering a single word.

“So there!

Never gonna be a man… I won’t! Like to see somebody try… And make me. Anyone who wants to try… And make me turn into a man… Catch me if you can.”

I cry for the parents of the victims of the shooting in Aurora, CO, last summer. For the Moms who will spend their first Mother’s Day without their children by their sides.

“I won’t grow up.

Not a penny will I pinch. I will never grow a mustache… Or a fraction of an inch. ‘Cause growing up is awfuller… Than all the awful things that ever were.”

I cry because there is something more awful than growing up. The group of Moms a few hours North of me can attest to that. The group of Moms whose children…the same age as my boy who sings so passionately before me…will not take the stage and sing in celebration of this Mother’s Day. Or any Mother’s Day. I weep for the babies of Newtown, CT, who never got the chance to grow up.

“I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up…

No sir… Not I… Not me… So there! We won’t grow up! We will never grow a day… And if someone tries to make it… We will simply run away!”

I cry for Denise Richard, whose young son, Martin, died so tragically in the Boston Marathon bombings. For the shrapnel that lodged itself in her brain, and for her daughter who lost a leg in the same explosion that took her beloved boy.

“I won’t grow up!

No, I promise that I won’t… I will stay a boy forever… And be banished if I don’t!”

I cry for Jeff Bauman. Who lost both legs in Boston. I cry for Jeff’s Mom and stepmom, who will celebrate a different kind of Mother’s Day this year. They will hug Jeff from the confines of his wheelchair. Because the recent loss of his legs renders him unable to stand up and wrap his arms around them in a Mother’s Day embrace.

“And Never Land will always be…

The home of beauty and joy… And neverty… I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up… Not me! No sir! Not me!”

They bow. We applaud. I quickly wipe the remainder of my tears. Aware that my two older sons are several rows behind me. Knowing they’ll be embarrassed…possibly by my mere existence and certainly by my display of emotion…if they see fresh tears upon my cheeks.

This year, on Mother’s Day, I will savor every bite of my eggs. I’ll stop to inhale my fragrant flowers. Slip on my brand new running shoes. Slide my hands into my clean gardening gloves. Enjoy every step of our family hike…even the steps that are accompanied by complaints of tired legs and empty bellies. Save each of the cards made for me by the four people I love most in this beautiful world…this beautiful, scary world whose tragedies rocked the existence of so many mothers in the last year.

In honor of all the Mothers whose children will never grow up…and for those Moms whose children cannot stand up…I will soak up every delicious second of my Mother’s Day.

Lucky to be surrounded by my children.

Painfully aware that so many Moms will not enjoy that simple…that most important…luxury this year.

Love, peace, and healing to you this Mother’s Day.

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