Date: May 12 2012
My kids didn't know what hit them last week when I turned into a five-year-old. One had dared to ask me what I wanted for Mother's Day, so I spat out a lengthy list that included - just in case you're reading, darling - an iPad, a Club Med holiday and a Holden Captiva.
''I want, I want, I want,'' I bellowed. I would have got down on the ground and kicked and screamed a bit too, but with my knees the way they are at the moment, I wouldn't have been able to get up again.
The kids looked at me with raised eyebrows and some sense of incredulousness. Just the way I look at them really when they're doing the same thing. My point was to make a point, for as much as I'd love all of those things tomorrow, this Mother's Day is all about the giving.
You see, a week or so ago, I did someone a good deed and it made me feel the best I've felt for quite a while.
I was driving the kids to school and had pulled up at an intersection, waiting to turn left. Then - ''crunch'' - someone rear-ended me. It was just a little nudge, the noise worse than the impact, but enough to make me get out and check the car.
The woman who had run into me also got out of her car and it only took a quick glimpse, of both the car and her, to realise there was something more important to fix here than the car. She appeared a little flustered to say the least. Another working mother doing the morning rush to get the kids to school on time, a woman who needed an incident like this like she needed a hole in her stockings. So I made nothing of it, took her details and said I'll get it checked on the way to work - sometimes it's handy to work in Fyshwick - and if there was anything to worry about I'd be in touch.
The damage was minimal, indeed a kindly smash repairer bashed the bumper back into place, checked that the boot opened and closed properly, admonished me for how dirty the car was, and sent me on my way with a smile and his business card.
So I sent the woman an email. ''I'm the woman from this morning. A big burly panel beater in Fyshwick banged it back into place with his fist. Pay it forward to some other working mum at some point and all is good.'' There's enough hassle in life as there is, I said. Neither of us need this. Have a lovely day.
Later that morning I got a reply from her. ''You picked it well - a hassled working mum with a dead mother-in-law (literally) and thus husband in the UK tending to the family, and I've been solo-parenting three kids … it's been a looooooong week,'' she wrote. ''I will definitely pay it forward - I totally believe in that concept and do try to practise it whenever and wherever I can.''
The relief in her email brought a lump to my throat, and to that of another working mother here in the office too. We understood.
It's not just working mothers, given, but we all understand how some days can be those days, and it's usually on those days, where things can go pear-shaped and send you over the edge. How, say, being in a car accident, however minor, can mean more than delaying your arrival at work. It might mean the kids are hurt, or shaken up at the least; that the car will be out of action while it gets fixed and all the frustration that can bring; worst, that you'll have to explain to your husband what happened.
We've all had days where we've thought, can't someone just cut me a break. And so I did. And the whole idea made me happy. And I hope it made her happier as well. If, given her situation, only just a little. Women are, too often, our own worst enemies. We judge, criticise, belittle each other. We should stop it. We should be nicer to each other whenever we can.
Later in the week, at a meeting for my son's first communion, I listened to a prayer that asked whether we were bread or stone. Whether we were nourishing, or harsh, whether we could heal or harm. It's funny how some things in life just relate.
''When I respect others and treat them with kindness … When I am a peacemaker where there is tension … When I forgive those who have hurt me … I am bread for them. I give them life,'' the prayer read.
''When I am selfish and think only of myself … When all I am interested in is taking advantage of others … When I am cold with those who could use my friendship … I am stone for others … We have a choice … We can be stone for others … We can be bread for them … Which have you been lately? Which one do you want to be?''
I wanted to be bread.
So tomorrow, Mother's Day, be bread. Do something nice for someone else.
I've got a few things in mind. My lovely, bread-like neighbour, will get a loaf of banana bread - love that irony - a recipe I know her kids like and will help fill their lunchboxes for the rest of the week. I need to return her lasagne dish too, so I'll make sure there's something nice in it before I hand it back over the fence.
I'll pack up all the photos of the kids, some drawings, and the like, that I've been collecting but neglecting to send, and post them off to my own mother. I'll send her flowers. Cliched I know but who buys themselves flowers? I'll be happy to offer help to anyone who might need it. I don't have a big day planned. Let me know if you need a favour.
Sure, I will be a little disappointed if I don't get a sleep-in and a cup of tea in bed, and I am genuinely excited to see what surprise the school Mother's Day stall will have and how the art-class cards turn out. But Mother's Day 2012 is about the giving, not the receiving.
And, anyway, it's a good seven months until my birthday, I've got plenty of time to work on getting my iPad, holiday and car.
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