05/12/2012 10:29 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Sometimes 'Mother's Day' Just Doesn't Fit

I have never really liked Mother's Day.

On May 13 people across the country will celebrate the ideal American mother. She is a woman who is flawlessly kind, patient, and generous. A woman who never loses her temper and will forgive her children of any mishap. A woman who will kiss all the ouchies better, make delicious meals every day, and be the perfect homemaker for her family.

I did not have this mother. It made Mother's Day one of tension. I always knew the feelings I was supposed to have, the ones lauded in greeting cards and TV specials, but in my family they never fit. Some years I would go through the motions, hoping things would be different, but most years I simply pushed everything aside. Then Mother's Day became just another Sunday in May.

As I grew up I came to realize that no one has this mother. While some of my friends and cousins have mothers who are fabulous, they aren't perfect, either. They are real people. They sometimes had bad days, or said things they didn't mean, or stepped into situations where they weren't wanted. It doesn't make them bad people or bad moms, just not the ideal we like to hold up and point to every time mid-May rolls around.

I am definitely not this mother. I love my kiddos to distraction. They are the most awesome thing I have ever done. But I am (like all of us) hopelessly flawed. Perfect is something I will never be, even if I tried. And due to my own "mommy issues," even with their faces smiling up at me, Mother's Day is always one I would rather spend concentrating on something else, or doing something my sons really enjoy.

And what about all those families that don't fit the "Jack-and-Jill-plus-kids" model? Families where grandparents raise the children, or those with only a dad, or with two dads or two moms? What about children without parents, or those in foster care? Their lives are no less worth celebrating, but on this day they're made to feel incomplete.

So this year I don't think I am going to celebrate Mother's Day. Instead, I am going to celebrate a "Family Day" with the one I have built and love. And I am going to celebrate by thinking of all those times that those boys who made me a "mom" have made me laugh and smile, complete in their amazing imperfection.

Like the time when my husband, who does all the cooking, needed to run out for something and asked me to start water for pasta. All three boys lined up in the kitchen to watch me put the pot on to boil and kept telling me how the stove worked and reminding me that Daddy would be home soon. I finally said with a laugh, "Believe it or not, guys, your mother does know how to boil water." I don't think any of them really believed me.

Or when our second son started preschool with his older brother in tow, and I watched another kid take a toy away from our younger son, which made him cry. Our oldest was indignant and full-out cross-checked the other kid, took the toy, and gave it back to his brother. I tried to keep from laughing as I watched him glare at the other little boy as if to say, "Only I get to take toys away from my brother." And luckily the mom of the other boy had multiple kids, knew the look well, and smirked at me, as I explained to my own kids that such actions were not OK.

Or the week when our middle son, then 4 years old, decided to use his middle finger to point at everything. He would laugh uproariously at the rise he could get out of the adults.

Or how one of the first phrases each of our boys learned to say was, "No Singing! No Dancing!" They always direct these commands at me and their dad when we start up our shenanigans in public. It has never worked, but they keep trying.

Or how my husband likes to add "of doom" at the end of sentences for no particular reason. For example, "We are going to go to the grocery store... of doom!" And now the boys will all insist, "Not 'of doom,' Dad! Not 'of doom'!" Yeah, that one doesn't work, either.

Or when we brought our dog home for the first time and my oldest son lay down on the floor, hugged her, looked up at us with the most sincere eyes, and said, "We have to keep her forever. I love her."

These are the moments I love, the moments I remember, the moments I love retelling. These are the moments that make us the family we are. Not perfect, just us. And I couldn't imagine anything better.