My first born son, Sam, was in kindergarden and brought home an adorable, handmade invitation to a “Mother’s Day Tea”. It said it was an event for the moms and grandmothers of the entire kindergarden class, but each student was limited to 2 guests which in Sam’s case would mean excluding 1 grandmother.
Both of his grandmothers had been very involved in his care since I had a disabling stroke when he was 22 months old, and gave birth to his brother just before he turned 2. It was not an easy decision to exclude my mother and invite my mother in law instead. Sam had spent a great deal of time at his “Oma’s” when his dad was at work and I was in the hospital for 3 months. My mother in law was not one of my biggest fans, having married her favorite, first born son. She was crazy about Sam, though. My mother had been to a few events in Sam’s class and didn’t mind giving Oma a turn.
We lived in a tony suburb of New York City in one of the country’s wealthiest zip codes. I had a hard time fitting in among the Stepford type wives who were married to the captains of industry, or were highly educated professionals in their own right. They were well groomed, physically fit, fashionable and drove fine cars which they garaged in their interior decorator appointed McMansions.
I had been physically challenged since Sam was 22 months old. I wore a brace on my leg that needed to be worn in orthopedic shoes, carried a cane, limped and had a spastic left arm which kept me from carrying treats in to school like the other moms did effortlessly. I did manage to make some friends among the women at school, but never quite fit in and was more self conscious in a school setting than I was when I wasn’t around the other fancy moms who were ubiquitous.
I was a bit nervous about attending the Mother’s Day Tea party, but I was sure I couldn’t miss it for anything. I had developed an attitude of gratitude for my life and limited abilities to participate and enjoy it. I was certain I had survived the stroke against the odds for the purpose of being a mother to my two sons. I knew I was lucky to be alive and able to enjoy days like this.
I’m sure I looked nice because it wasn’t as if I didn’t have any good clothes to wear. It was a big day for my mother in law, too, because she was not very social in her own right.
The classroom was decorated with pastel colored spring flowers made from construction paper and paste. There were a series of low tables pushed together with paper plate place settings. The small chairs were a challenge.
Our children put on a special Mother’s Day musical performance, and served the moms tea and cookies.
At the conclusion of the show, each child was asked to read out loud a story they had written about what made their mom special and why they loved her.
Sam was toward the end of the line and I listened intently to the other children’s stories, all the while wondering what Sam was going to say. There were so many things I couldn’t do that the other Moms were loved for. They said things like:
“I love you because you bake cookies for me”.
“I love you because you take me to the park and play with me”.
“I love you because you play Legos with me”.
“I love you because you read to me”.
“I love you because you love me”.
“I love you because you make macaroni and cheese for me”.
About 20 kids said such cute things, and the suspense grew as they went down the line to Sam. There were plenty of “oohs” and “ah” responses from the audience of mothers and grandmothers.
Finally, it was Sam’s turn. He said:
“I love you because you’re beautiful”.
There were a few seconds of silence as the room digested this perfectly sweet and original sentiment. Now I felt special among the group not because I was so physically different but because I was so proud of myself for bringing such an exceptional child up to kindergarden in the face of incredibly challenging circumstances.
Not one of the other children had said this about their mother. I was completely unaware that he saw me this way. My heart exploded with love and pride. My mother in law was impressed, as well.