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Mother's Day: The Downside

05/08/2012 02:17 pm ET | Updated Jul 08, 2012

For me, the dreading begins the Friday before, when my daughters, brimful with anticipation, arrive home with the crafts they have made at school. If history repeats itself, only two of the three gifts will be intact by Sunday, Mother's Day. What do teachers do about children who have no mothers?

On Sunday morning, while still tripping through dreams, I am subliminally aware of clattering in the kitchen and kids shushing one another. The charm of the breakfast in bed ritual escapes me. If I wanted to eat propped up on pillows, I would do so every day. I like to take my morning meal an hour after I get up, alone, quietly reading a book or newspaper. It is the part of my daily routine I look forward to most, especially in May when the weather is suitable for eating under a dogwood.

Once a year, however, I am jolted out of my omega phase and presented with a tray containing shredded wheat in a Styrofoam bowl and a carton of milk I am sure will topple. There is no coffee because my children don't do hot drinks. Six eyes ogle my chomping. When my husband reaches for a pinch of my biscuit, the mattress bounces, which makes me dizzy. Later, I'll Dustbust the sheets.

Next comes the gift-giving ceremony. I am expected to display completely equal pleasure toward a smiling paper cup with a crew cut of grass (near death), a doily collage and a shattered plaster handprint. I comfort the tearful handprint maker. The good part is that I like receiving handcrafted gifts and loathe having to feign delight for a store-bought miscalculation. Jeff and I stopped exchanging presents after our first year of marriage, when he bought me a brown handbag (I rarely wear brown and prefer loading my pockets to hauling a purse) and I splurged on a pair of Bally slippers for him (he favors barefoot and is offended by expensive labels).

Everyone wants to take me out for dinner, even though the only thing more odious than being prematurely wakened is dining in a noisy restaurant. The eatery we choose is, of course, crowded. I hate waiting, but driving around to find a place that is not crammed with toddlers and corsaged grandmothers would be worse. Finally they seat us and there is more waiting.

We empty three baskets of rolls. The main course arrives late -- because of me, Jeff points out, since I tampered with the system by requesting no almonds on my sole almandine. The kids, bellies full of bread, shove spaghetti around their plates. The fare is too salty and too greasy; nevertheless, I stuff myself, then polish off the children's leftovers.

On the car ride home my daughters argue over territory. I say things I then regret, like, "If you wanted to make me really happy today, you would stop fighting. That would mean more to me than breakfast in bed."

When I tuck in my doily artist, she reminds me to hang her collage above my night table. Her sister runs to the bathroom to water the cup of "hair." The hand-printer and I agree that tomorrow we'll trace our hands and feet and paint each toenail a different color.

Later under my own covers, I brush away a few remaining shredded wheat and plaster crumbs and reach for the phone. I dial my mom who had left a message on my answering machine that she liked the tulips I sent.

I wrote these words 16 years ago. Now, when my girls are in town on Mother's Day, we have gourmet breakfast after everyone has awakened and there is rarely a tussle. It's sublime, but all four of us are rarely home at any one time, even on Mother's Day. I wouldn't mind reliving those Mother's Days of yore, despite the downside.

What are the pitfalls of your Mother's Day?

Visit me on my blog Confessions of a Worrywart