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To Laugh or To Cry…that is the question this Mother’s Day.

I cried yesterday. It wasn’t when I smashed my finger on the banister as I rushed out of the house because I was late picking one kid up and needed to drop another one off (or maybe I was late with the drop off and on time for the pick-up…anyway…no time to think!) and trying to get Little Man moving to come with me upon realizing that I was about to remove my remaining “in-house” sitter and would not yet have the other in place (can a dog be considered a sitter..?). It wasn’t while I was listening to the emotionally charged songs that I had recorded the girls singing at their respective concerts the night before (though I did tear up)…or when I was in Little Man’s school volunteering and heard so many kind words about how far he has come and how well he has been helping his class to present their arguments in their crusade against disposable plastic straws (also teared up). The crying came after that…when everything was calm and quiet in the house…and I was alone and thinking about events that may be on our horizon. Suddenly a tsunami of awareness washed over me and opened what seemed like an endless stream of warm, salty tears.

I think that in the rush of being a mom…of trying to navigate all the stuff that life throws at us…all the twists and turns… I don’t often take time to think about the big picture. I feel like I am busy playing wack-a-mole…like I am the greyhound forever running after the rabbit… So, in those rare moments when all is still and I do not have to clean-up, prepare, or fix something or rush somewhere, the enormity of it all can sneak up on me. I briefly emerge from the trees and get a good, hard, scary look at the forest…after which, I want to hightail it back into the trees! It is a frightening thing to ponder all those things that we cannot control.

I have always preferred the comfort of a poker face (ever since seeing the movie Paper Moons as a small girl), so when I was able to get the waterworks under control enough to once again be able to focus my eyes, I decided to do a little research about crying. Is crying even helpful? We all know that laughing makes us feel better…but how is it that crying can have a similar effect? Isn’t crying a sign of sadness? Well, I looked around at different sources: from Webmd to Psychologytoday and several university websites in between, and I read about the different kinds of tears and about how tears of sadness and of stress can help to cleans us of toxins, like stress hormones… Not only did this make me feel a little better about what felt like a total lack of control on my part (I really do not like to feel like I am losing control), but it made me feel that I had actually been doing something useful…even helpful when I was bawling my way through that box of tissues.

Then, because Mother’s Day is upon us, I got to thinking about all the “mom moment” instances when pretty much all I could do was either laugh or cry and seemingly had no control over which option my brain would ultimately choose.

What do you do when you have been trying to simultaneously unpack and tear down wall-paper in a new home after a long distance move while trying to keep up with a six and three-year-old AND you walk into the living room to discover that the three-year-old has decided to decorate the wood floors…with the ashes from the fireplace? Hey…maniacal, hysterical laughing still counts as laughing, as scary as it may sound to passersby! And it somehow recharged me just enough to clean up the mess.

How about when you are frantically trying to move once again…this time in town, while also getting your 5th grader prepared to sing in her school musical, helping to keep costumes sorted, and desperately searching for the remote controls to the televisions in any box that seems reasonable (the box with the dog bed? Really?) and you walk by a bedroom to hear your three children conspiring to all sleep in the same room if they are afraid the first few nights in the new house? If you are me, you sneak away to find a place to bawl, while you tell yourself that they will adjust.

This list could go on quite a while…about 17 years, to be exact. Little plastic googly eye lodged up the nose of your three-year-old…just a mere week after fishing a dried pasta noodle out of the same crevice: hysterical, gut-busting laughter (AFTER the safe removal of said object); retrieving your toddler from the arms of a rather annoyed looking airport security officer after he has pursued and captured her on her way down an airplane gate ramp to a plane going who-knows-where: tears of guilt and frustration, as well as of relief (also because laughter would most likely anger the already peeved airport security guard); seeing the hurt in your little guy’s eyes when a group of his peers openly shuns him and rolls their eyes when he says hello to them at a school function: intense personal restraint of the Mamma Bear, followed by tears later on that night when recalling his confusion and pain.

In our struggle to try to have some control over the direction of our lives and to help our kids to avoid certain pitfalls so that we can try to lead them down a healthy, happy, path that they can then continue to forge on their own, we sometimes forget (maybe, at times, as a self-defense mechanism) the sheer number of variables in our lives and theirs over which we have absolutely no control. When we are faced with the utter reality of this lack of control, what better than the therapeutic flow of laughter or of tears to rebalance us and to ready us once again for our mission?

So, this Mother’s Day I don’t need flowers or candy or cake (actually, as I type from my place of temporary banishment in the bedroom, I can smell the cake). All I want this Mother’s Day is a healthy, gut-wrenching cry in honor of all those horses I have lead to water who have then refused to drink, despite my best efforts (and I have been told that I CANNOT use a plastic disposable straw as a part of my efforts). I want to try my best to forgive myself for the things that I cannot control, yet somehow blame on some lack of effort on my part. I want to cry all those negative stress hormones right out, so that I can then pull myself together, refocus, and go and laugh out the rest of the day with my family.


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