Tagged Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day: The Aftermath

For many American moms, Mother’s Day included breakfast in bed, flowers and extra hugs. But then there was the aftermath. In stories shared on social media over the past few days, the real perils of motherhood have emerged, many of them accompanied by the hashtag #mothersdayfail.

Some mothers, like Debby Florence, opened their browsers to the Google search engine and discovered the corporate version of the reality of motherhood. Google often changes its search engine logo (called the “doodle”) in celebration of holidays, and for Mother’s Day, the company’s offering was a doormat.

A doormat.

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For others, the day’s real message arrived in the form of a card or a child’s social media post — a little funny, a little biting.

One mom reported that her husband had given her a sympathy card for Mother’s Day. The card, posted on Twitter, showed an empty chair and the sentiment “She was quite a lady.” Her husband had crossed out the word “was” and wrote “is.”

“When your husband justifies getting you a sympathy card for Mother’s Day by making it present tense,” tweeted @NoraBattle.

Another mom posted that her husband gave her a grandmother’s card. “When the hubby doesn’t read the card for mother’s day all the way through before giving it to you,” tweeted @JennyBO62913.

Margy Stratton found this update on her middle-school daughter’s Instagram account: a picture of her daughter and her younger sister, arms crossed and with tough-girl expressions, captioned: “We don’t need no Mom #rebels.”

Some moms reported that the day started with promise, until their child turned on them.

That’s what happened to Elif Ozdemi, whose 4-year-old son gave her a dozen roses. By the afternoon, the sentiment had faded after she suggested they leave the playground after two hours.

“Bad Mommy!” he said. “I should never have gotten you flowers today.”

Sarah Ellison, a New York-based magazine writer, had a similar experience. “I’ve had Mother’s Eve dinner, breakfast in bed, presents, and so much love on this Mother’s Day. Then, we hit a bump in the road,” she shared with her Facebook friends, including a photo of the second card she received from her 7-year-old daughter that day.

“I wish I never gave you a Mother’s Day card!” it said. Instead of signing the card “love,” her daughter signed it “hate.” The post generated more than 150 likes..

“HIlarious,” wrote a friend. “A true testament to the loving forbearance of mothers everywhere.”

Ms. Ellison notes that her offense was that she had reprimanded her child for hitting her sister. Mother and daughter quickly made up and went for a bike ride. She says she found her daughter’s use of the word “hate” as her closing to be “fairly inspired.”

“May use it myself one day,” she wrote.

Some children offered cards that were a little too honest, whether intentionally or not. Courtney Redfern Klein‪ of Montclair, N.J., wrote that the card she received from her 6-year-old son, Owen, was going in the “memory box.”

“Dear Mom,” he wrote. “Thank you for giving us threats. You are the best mom ever.”

She’s pretty sure he meant to write “treats,” but admits, “I do threaten them sometimes.”

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One second-grade teacher sent each child home with a daffodil with a heart-shaped note attached. Emily Rosenbaum’s daughter wrote on her note: “Dear Mommy, Thank you for trying not to lose your temper.”

Daisy Florin’s son Oliver shared the reasons he loves his mom. She proudly posted his third reason to Facebook: an illustrated declaration that she answers his questions, like “How did Judy Garland die?” “Drugs.” She hashtagged it “#original #owndrummer.”

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Then there’s this message Kerry Milch’s first-grade son wrote to his great-grandmother: “Dear Mema I can’t believe that you are 90 and still alive. with love, Darren.”

Other moms shared stories of a blissful day, followed by a stark reality check when the day was over.

Kim Tracy Prince of Los Angeles spent the evening of Mother’s Day washing the dishes and pans from her Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. “I held my resentment in check because it had been such a nice day,” she wrote. “Besides, nobody does it right but me anyway.”

“My super sweet family let me know as soon as I woke up yesterday morning that they were taking care of all the chores including the laundry!” wrote Tracy Georges. “Sure enough I saw no laundry all day.”

In the morning, Ms. Georges looked at the laundry area in her garage. “Guess what I found? Eight (maybe 9?) piles of unwashed laundry,” she said. “So basically for Mother’s Day, they hid the laundry from me.”

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A Mother’s Lesson: When Memory Fails, Delight in the Moment

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Credit Giselle Potter

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In 1988, the author’s mother wrote in The Times about her own mother’s dementia. <a href="http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1988/01/31/399888.html?pageNumber=159">Read the full article in TimesMachine. </a>

In 1988, the author’s mother wrote in The Times about her own mother’s dementia. Read the full article in TimesMachine. Credit The New York Times

The first sign that the Alzheimer’s disease that ravaged my grandmother was back for her daughter was when Mom began having trouble saying “CNN.” She’d watched the cable news network for years with ferocious interest ever since returning from a life abroad in the Foreign Service to rural New Hampshire. There she nested in her mother’s house, saying she’d never move.

It was a distinctly peaceful life. I’d listen to her play the grand piano — the passion that had taken her to Juilliard decades earlier — and marvel at the lightness of her hands on the keys. On Sundays, she was the favorite lector at our church, reading the liturgy with an elegance instilled by her mother and grandmother, both trained elocutionists.

She also wrote and recorded essays on country living for NPR on subjects like “Mahler and Macaroni.” Words mattered a great deal to her. She mattered the world to me. I used to say I’d won the lottery when it came to mothers.

After Dad died, my mother continued to live alone in the big white house on the common. It was here in 1988 that she’d written a keenly observed Sunday commentary for this newspaper about her own mother’s battle with aging — and the dementia that “erased her life, line by line.”

She wanted me to promise that if her own light dimmed – or as she put it, “when I lose my mind too” – I wouldn’t upend my own life to care for her. But we never came up with a real plan.

About a year after CNN became “C…D…D…” and the home care team we’d improvised announced my mother’s decline was too much for them, my brothers and I barely convinced her to “visit” sunny California where my middle brother lived.

That visit became a new “post” in a fancy retirement community where, for $7,500 a month, she had her own studio and bathroom. She enjoyed music events and a stately dining room with a menu. There was even a church on the corner.

But like so many living with Alzheimer’s, Mom’s biorhythms were upside down. She’d often sleep during the day and be up all night doing what is known as “exit-seeking.”

Nights are the Achilles heel of most eldercare facilities staffed by the fewest caregivers — and the most inexperienced. Across the country, in many well-meaning Alzheimer’s units, memory care residents are treated with confinement.

So Mom “graduated” to the locked Memory Care unit for her “safety.” It broke my heart to watch her on tiptoes, peering through the locked door’s porthole across to the dining room she once enjoyed.

Alzheimer’s is not a mere matter of Swiss cheese memory and odd behaviors. It is a serious medical condition. It is terminal. It should be known for what it is: Brain Failure.

One morning, Mom emerged from her Memory Care room covered with bruises. The police came. The state came. There was even suggestion of a rape kit because my mother, clearly agitated, could say only, “the man, the man.”

We will never know what happened. But it stands to reason that if you lock up the most advanced Alzheimer’s residents with their attendant behavioral disorders, and apply nominal supervision, well, something is bound to happen. On the night in question, one newly hired caregiver attended 17 residents.

So we moved her again, this time to Seattle, close to my eldest brother and me, thereby violating the cardinal rule of Alzheimer’s care: thou shalt not move the patient. Change registers a full 10 on the Alzheimer’s Richter scale. The more Mom’s brain failed, the more I twirled to try to make things better.

Within a matter of weeks in the new place, she had fallen and broken her hip. Surgery followed, then three months in a rehab facility, and finally a move to a small adult family home with just six residents. She was exhausted and utterly disoriented. I was a wreck.

Still, I knew I was among the lucky ones. Despite the recent scan that showed her brain a mostly blank white slate, my mother somehow always managed to recognize me during our visits (although she’d begun calling me “Mom.”)

Where once I’d thought I’d lose my mind if she asked me the same question one more time, now I prayed to hear any full sentence just one more time. Ever the peripatetic family caregiver, I rarely stopped to inhabit my mother’s world: the one with no past, no future, just the present.

On our last Mother’s Day together, I took her to the big morning Mass at St. James Cathedral. As I attempted a Houdini maneuver getting her out of the car, up the curb and down the sidewalk to the church door, she somehow slithered from my grasp.

My mother sank to the ground in what seemed like slow motion. She never made a sound. She just lay there in the green grass in her rose-colored tweed suit, brilliant white hair glinting in the spring sun, blue eyes open wide, staring straight up into an unusually cloudless Seattle sky.

With church bells pealing through the cool morning air, my beautiful, brilliant mother stretched out her arms and made angels wings in the grass.

And all the doctors and all the medications and all the years of worry that couldn’t bring my mother back together again, also couldn’t defeat the magic of that moment.

I lay down next to her, threaded my fingers through hers, and for a brief wondrous moment, we held the present.

Mary Claude Foster is a journalist living in Seattle.

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The Family That Runs Together

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The author, Jen Miller (right) with her sister, Tracy, and mother after the New Jersey Marathon & Half Marathon on May 1.

The author, Jen Miller (right) with her sister, Tracy, and mother after the New Jersey Marathon & Half Marathon on May 1.Credit

When I started running 10 years ago, my family thought it was a funny thing to do. This was in 2006, two years before a running boom took hold in the United States and put a race in my small corner of New Jersey just about every fall and spring weekend. I did my first 5K because a magazine asked me to run it and report back on what was then still a somewhat novel fitness activity. I continued to run because it helped me deal with a romantic breakup, work stress and the ups and downs of being a human being.

My mother, who wasn’t allowed to run in high school because she was a girl, came with me to some of those first races. She was there to cheer, but after a while, she got bored with watching. She also complained that she was overweight and out of shape.

“I saw you running and everybody else running, and I thought, I can do that too,” she told me. I took her to buy her first pair of running shoes. She ran her first 5K at age 58, and for her second, I walked/ran beside her, my foot in an air cast, during her town’s Fourth of July race.

It wasn’t long after that my brother and sister-in-law started to run, completing half marathons. My sister and her husband joined the family bandwagon, finishing a 5K, then a half-marathon, then a full marathon. My dad, who is divorced from my mom but remains on friendly terms, kept track of all of our Facebook posts about running and listened in on our conversations about running. This past December, I took him to buy his first pair of running shoes, too.

My thing had become their thing. At family parties and holidays and even a recent extended family vacation to Walt Disney World, running shoes and fuel and race schedules entered the rotation of safe discussion topics, along with the Philadelphia Phillies, Eagles and the Jersey Shore.

So when I decided to run the 2016 New Jersey Marathon, on May 1, I was happy when my sister told me she’d be joining me, and my mom said she’d run the half that would be held on the same course on the same day. I thought it would be a fun family activity, especially the week before Mother’s Day.

But I’d forgotten that I become a basket of nervous energy and stress before a race, a trait that my family appears to share. On the car ride to the starting line, my dad, who was driving, got mad about traffic. Then my sister got mad at him for being mad about traffic. Then I got mad at her for getting mad at my dad for being mad about traffic. Then she yelled at me for “flipping out.”

As the starting time grew nearer, our car barely inched ahead. After my sister’s snap, no one talked. My brain was stuck on the foot injury I’d sustained three weeks before, wondering if I’d finish the race. My mother sat quietly beside me, knowing better than to step in.

And that’s when I asked myself: Why didn’t I just run my marathon alone?

By the time my dad inched the car to within a half-mile of the starting line, I asked him to pull over, and my sister, mom and I shuffled out into a light drizzle. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not to my mom about my nerves or the ache in my foot, or to my sister about her lost headphones. Nothing. No one. I wanted to be left alone with my dread.

But when the race started, that feeling receded with every mile crossed. My foot didn’t hurt so much anymore. The downpour they’d been forecasting never came.

My corral started ahead of my sister’s, but I knew she’d beat me because of my interrupted training. I was grateful around mile six when she checked in on me and asked how my foot was doing as she passed by.

Seeing my usually mellow dad jumping up and down and screaming at mile 9.5, while my brother yelled at me that I was losing the race and to run faster, gave me a jolt of energy. That’s when I knew I’d run the full thing instead of bailing at the half-marathon mark.

My boyfriend greeted me with a cowbell at mile 18, another boost that helped me press on.

At mile 19, runners turn around to head to the finish line, and when I saw my sister running south as I still ran north, I screamed at her that she’d better keep up that pace and beat me.

At mile 20, my boyfriend met me again, and I told him I’d make the last 6.2 miles.

When I came through the final yards of the marathon to break my previous personal record — one that I’d set on that course in 2013 — my dad was there and ready with his camera. My mom had finished her own half-marathon and was waiting for me just beyond the finish line, a medal draped around her neck.

No one had come to my first two marathons. Before my third, my dad told me that if I died, he’d be the one to bury me, and all had been pretty solitary affairs. So for this marathon, my sixth, I felt honored to have my mom and sister on the course with me, and my dad and brother and his wife and my boyfriend there cheering me on. And though I’ll be taking a break from marathons while I recover, I can’t wait to cheer them on at their next running events.

Jen A. Miller is the author of “Running: A Love Story.”

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