Nothing Says ‘I Love You’ Like a Stuffed Anteater

I don’t want to brag, y’all, but I got a stuffed anteater for Mother’s Day.

My son proudly presented the critter to me with great ceremony and was just pleased as punch with this plump, grey, Mother’s Day love offering. Other gifts from my children included a pair of Harry Potter socks, several potted flowers, and some DIY refrigerator magnets shaped like teacups and bearing assorted scripture passages about the characteristics of virtuous women.

The big kids also presented me with “promise jars” full of slips of paper bearing information about various chores they solemnly swear to undertake without fussing. Interestingly, most of them were chores they are already supposed to do on a regular basis so perhaps the absence of whining is the primary gift, rather than additional housework.

When children give gifts, the results are always fabulous. As much as children love to receive presents, they derive boundless joy from giving them as well. Any mother who has graciously received a sticky, glitter-saturated card from a preschooler knows I speak the truth.

My children love to give me presents, whether it is a picture they drew at school, a beautiful rock discovered in the yard, or a partially-eaten granola bar. Every Christmas, their dad’s church organizes a little shopping bazaar for the kiddos where they can select from donated gifts, each priced at a quarter. As you might expect, the products from this endeavor vary quite a bit. I have received body lotion, clip-on earrings, a glass high-heeled shoe, and more than one porcelain doll. It is only their charming sincerity and enthusiasm for their selections that makes it possible for me to maintain an appropriately reverent expression in these moments.

They didn’t realize it, but the real gift my children gave me for Mother’s Day was a couple solid hours of peaceful group playtime. Ninety-five percent of the time, when my kids arrive at my house on Sunday afternoon from their dad’s, they scatter to their friends’ houses, returning in time for dinner. But for some reason, last Sunday they all stayed put. And – wonder of wonders – they played together! Without fighting! They played tennis in the driveway, then romped through the sprinkler before spreading their towels in the sun and lounging together in a damp, sunscreen-saturated heap. I, meanwhile, watched from a hammock swing, reveling in their sweetness to each other.

Since you don’t live in my house, you may not fully appreciate the depth of this gift, but I am telling you right now it was a Mother’s Day miracle.

I’m quite confident that my children love each other. But they also spend a significant portion of their time pummeling each other. A couple weeks ago, I hosted a big potluck brunch at our house as a going away party for dear friends. In the midst of mingling with sixty or so guests – including a bunch of people I had never actually met before – I had to pause to confiscate a hammer that one of my children was using to menace a sibling.

A hammer. An actual, real, honest-to-goodness, wood-and-metal hammer.

Said hammer was being brandished as a deterrent to prevent one child from entering the other child’s bedroom. I won’t go into the details of how the confrontation had escalated to that point nor attempt to untangle the complicated rules of household eminent domain that guide their turf wars. Suffice to say that, while I was certainly nonplussed at the situation, I was not shocked. Just another day in paradise.

But back to Mother’s Day. I gave myself a gift, too. I chose a recipe for dinner that I knew I would love, without any regard for whether my kids would like it. Thus I dined on spiralized butternut squash with spinach, sausage, and goat cheese. They ate crescent rolls and some leftover pulled pork I found in the freezer. These are the things you can do when you are Queen for the Day, with the stuffed anteater to prove it.

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