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“Mama, am I going to be with you on Mother’s Day this year?”
I look up from washing the dishes, shocked by my daughter's question. In the seven years she’s been on this planet, I’ve never had to wonder whether she would be in close proximity to me on my special day.
Her matter-of-fact words have pierced my heart, but I finish off the plate I’m rinsing until I can look up at her with no tears in my eyes.
“Of course you will, my sweetheart. We’re going to have a fun day.”
What I don’t tell her is that I never thought I would be in this predicament. I’ve been separated from my husband for eight months now, and while the hurt isn’t as raw as it once was, the bone-deep sadness remains—and still stings.
I walk into the living room and cuddle up with her on the couch.
“Has this been something that’s worrying you?” I ask her gently.
“Well, I didn’t know if it was my turn to be at Papa’s or here.”
“I understand,” I say, pulling her close to give her a hug and a sneaky tickle attack.
She smiles half-heartedly, but doesn’t laugh.
“Is there anything else on your mind?”
“Well, if it’s just me here, how am I going to make you breakfast in bed? I can’t even cook bacon!”
Her question floors me, because I didn’t realize she was thinking she had to replicate every other Mother’s Day we’ve celebrated together as a family. I suppose I should have figured it out, since I’m big on traditions when it comes to other holidays.
Every other year, I would get to sleep in—or pretend to—while my daughter and her dad would be banging around in the kitchen preparing me breakfast. I would still happily snuggle under the duvet, feeling grateful and special that they were putting in such extra effort for me.
Then there would be giggling as I listened to my daughter come up the stairs. They would make a grand entrance with my husband carrying a tray loaded with bacon, a bagel, fruit, juice and coffee. Then they would climb into bed with me and my girl would steal bits of my food onto her own little plate. And I would let her, spoiled and smiling in our little cocoon, opening my cards and seeing what gift they had bought for me.
I never dreamed those days would end; that it would just be the two of us. I could never have predicted COVID and all its repercussions, but being a single mom has been the biggest challenge, even though we share custody.
Since this is my first Mother’s Day as a single mom, I’ve decided to plan ahead and make sure we do something completely different. One of the best things that’s come out of my separation is remembering just how important my smart and quirky seven-year-old is to me. I’ve always held her so close to my heart, but now she fills it. We’ve also grown so much closer during this unexpected journey, and I know we’ll survive all these holiday “firsts” just fine, even if they feel a little forced at first.
I’ve decided to not just make this day all about me, but us. After all, I wouldn’t be a mother without her, and her existence is what’s mainly getting me through the emotional stress I’ve been under since this past August. Every day I get out bed and face the world because of her.
So, now we will start a new tradition and come up with creative ways to celebrate together.
“You know, making me bacon isn’t the best thing about Mother’s Day,” I tell her after a long silence.
“Well, what is, then? I’m just a kid," she looks at me, disbelieving and frustrated. "I can’t even buy you anything!”
“That doesn’t matter. Besides, I’m sort of sick of bacon at this point," I say as I hug her again. "Maybe you could make me a little buffet on the counter, like you did a couple years ago, for no special reason? It was such a nice and thoughtful surprise for me when you called me to come downstairs.
“That would make you happy?” she’s still not convinced.
“Yes! I would love to come down on Mother’s Day morning and see what things you’ve pulled from the fridge and cupboards and set up for me.”
“You mean things like a juice box, strawberries, cheese strings and a chocolate bar?”
“That would be perfect,” I tell her, glad she’s getting on board with this different version of the day I’m imagining.
I’ve already thought of some other fun activities we can do, too. I recently bought some giant inflatable boxing gloves that we can go outside and play around with, which should be a laugh. She has an endless supply of energy, so any physical activity is a win-win. I also want to go bike-riding with her in the church parking lot behind our house. It’ll be the first time we’ve done it this year, and she loves chasing me, pedalling hard, while I use all my energy to stay upright on my bike and not crash into something.
Now, as I watch as my daughter uses the belt of my discarded robe to play with our two cats. She laughs and shrieks as they race after her, and let out a breath. It may be 2021 now, over a year since the pandemic started, but we are very much still living in a changed world. So much has happened during the last 14 months, and we both need a positive, fun-filled day to take our minds off of online learning, the lack of playdates, and being cooped up inside the house.
Mother’s Day is supposed to be magical for all the moms out there, but this year, I want my little girl to feel just how much I love her and how much I appreciate all the little and big things she does that make me proud to be her mother.
Along with pretend boxing and biking, I’m also planning to do some very amateur baking together. She’s a huge fan of those cake-making videos on YouTube, where everything is in fast-motion and turns out almost too beautiful to eat. Usually, we just cuddle on the couch and critique which cakes we like on a scale of one to ten, and which ones are ruined they add pieces of fruit to it.
Since I’m no domestic goddess and my daughter is all about the decoration, I’m going to get some small vanilla slices of bread for the base and arrange a bunch of different icings and toppings we can choose from to make our delicious creations. I’ve already gone to town in the grocery store, throwing buttercream, cream cheese, chocolate chips, whip cream, four different flavours of icing and caramel drizzle in my cart. Oh, and I forgot to mention the chocolate sprinkles, gummies and mini Reese’s Pieces. I have high hopes for this decadent feast, even if we can only eat one mini-cake each.
Mother’s Day is an opportunity for me and my daughter to be temporarily distracted from everything scary that’s still happening in our country and all over the world. Even though this year will be hard to celebrate as a single mom going through a separation, I’m determined to do my best to make new memories that we can look back on with fondness in years to come. My daughter deserves it - and so do I.
When it comes down to it, I don’t need store-bought cards and impersonal gift certificates to be happy. All I want is something heartfelt and homemade from my girl, whether it’s a card she made herself or a cute buffet with a wild assortment of foods. We will also probably eat our body weight in sugar while baking, but it will all be worth it. As long as we’re together, I couldn’t ask for anything more.