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Celebrating Mother’s Day After the Loss of Your Own Mom

Courtesy of Melanie Monroe Rosen

I tell Ben of how my mom used to chuckle when I would call her nearly crying in frustration at his stubbornness; not only would she would remind me that I had been similarly temperamental, but she genuinely reveled in his strong personality. And her laughing, while maddening, helped me to better appreciate him by seeing him through someone else’s eyes. When he rides his balance bike, I remind him that Grandma Heather gave it to him, somehow foreseeing that a gift that would grow with him would allow her to remain tangibly present in his life after her death. In the evening, when Henry climbs into his big brother’s bed to cuddle and read before bedtime, I might ask him if he knows that he was born in that bed, his grandmother’s bed and a bed that had welcomed two other generations of my family a century ago. And as my boys fall asleep, it’s to the sound of my off-key rendition of lullabies she made up and used to sing to me, songs I hadn’t heard or thought of in years but which began to ring in my ears after her death. And of course we keep photos of her around the house—her house, actually, since my brother and my family and I moved back in following her death.

Although Mother’s Day is one where I can’t help but feel her loss, the times I miss her most are during the highs and lows of parenting—when one of my sons reaches a big milestone like walking or learning how to read, or at the end of a long day when I’ve lost my temper. It’s at those moments that I wish I could hear just how proud she would be, or be reminded that having a bad day doesn’t make you a mom failure. I miss her take on it all.

And so, on this Mother’s Day (and the other 364 days this year), I’m trying to be the mom my mother taught me how to be, both for my sons and for myself, even as I wish she could cheer me on. I was taught by one of the best that it’s not about doing it all (she couldn’t, as a single working mom) or being there for every minute (again, it literally wasn't possible), but it’s about being fully present for the stuff that matters. I try to hear her voice in my head and give myself a break when I know she would have encouraged me to do so, congratulate myself for my part of the incredible mini-men my sons are becoming. Mostly, I just remind myself to slow down and enjoy the kids that she would have so adored.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

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