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My son broke my heart.

On Mother’s Day.

This sounds bad. Really bad. There’s one sacred day of the year for us Mothers. That one day of the year when we don’t feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. For getting a manicure or casually disregarding dirty dishes with a mere flip of our well-polished fingers. For sleeping in and going back to sleep after our kid-cooked breakfast in bed.

We get this day. It’s ours to do what we please. To feel ok about being lazy and bask in the glow of handmade kitsch.

Plus, it’s May. Flowers are blooming. The end of the school year draws near. Us northern girls have probably (by now) shaved our legs and the lilacs are starting to bloom, filling the air with perfumed purple. Things are looking up.

But not this year. You see, we were in the midst of a deep freeze, my 17-year old son and I. Rather, I was the only one freezing him out, which is totally mature. I’d taken a big, big step out of the discipline and daily maneuvering of his school work in order to (a) save my sanity and (b) remain married to the love of my life. In our house, we’ve always said kids are kids, but sometimes it’s better to hear the hard stuff from dad instead of (step) mom.

Bowing out is easy for me. Closing off. Compartmentalizing drama. This results in me barely speaking to my son for three months which is lame and exhausting and pathetic.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day. The girls (11 and 9) surprised me with breakfast in bed on Saturday and some homemade gifts from school. After my breakfast nap, we had a lovely day together probably doing something meaningful and memory-making and sweet.

The next day was church. My husband does the early setup with the team while I follow an hour later with kids in tow and iced tea in hand. (I mean, there’s doing church and then there’s doing church caffeinated. It’s a no brainer.) I walked out of my bedroom, the room blurry without glasses and my head bleary as a non-morning person. Immediately in front of me, on the oak dining table that harbored crumbs from last night’s dinner, was my son’s Mother’s Day gift.

Six carnations in a vase with water, weighted down with pebbles from our yard so the flowers stood tall and straight in the too-wide vase opening. Next to the flowers was a funny card. He’d written a note inside the card that basically amounted to this:

I know I’m not the best kid and I’m a lot of work and trouble, but I’d be screwed without you. 

It was actually pretty long and written in an arch that followed the top of the card. I read it twice, squinting in my orange Walmart pajamas with the pineapples on the front.

It. Broke. Me.

That silly card and those carnations that were evident of him asking his dad what kind of flowers were my favorite and in what color. Him taking 20 minutes after his shift in front of the wilting and leftover Mother’s Day floral selection to pick just the right flowers in just the right colors. For me. The crappy, stubborn, self-righteous mom who can’t even be kind and cordial to the kid who has wormed his way into her heart over the past six years.

As I stood there, my knees buckled as my body shook from the sobs exploding from my chest. I put my hand over my mouth as my other hand clutched the card, creasing it as I squeezed harder and harder out of pain and guilt. I didn’t just cry. I wailed. Like, loud and embarrassing sobs.

He broke my heart on Mother’s Day. He broke me with a silly card and honest thanks that I did not deserve. He broke me with three bucks worth of day old carnations. He broke my heart and it was about time I let it break.

Without thinking and propelled by pure emotion, I went downstairs where all three kids were still sleeping. I opened his door and laid next to him in bed. (Dare I say, this is not a normal occurrence, a woman in my son’s bed.) I’m sure waking to your sobbing mother next to you on a random Sunday morning was probably disturbing. He pat my arm, asked me if everything was ok. I couldn’t even look at him. I kept my back to him as I apologized for being such a jerk the past few months. I kept my words sparse, talking through my hands that covered my face, buried in the blanket.

He thought someone had died.

Later that day in the car, he again asked me if I was ok. I could still feel the raw puffiness on my cheeks as I answered. I apologized again, calmly and then I told him why I behave this way. My sole excuse and reason was thus:

“I’m weak and stubborn. I’m working on it. I’m trying.”