Once Upon a Mother’s Day

Celebrity mom Jenna von Oy dishes on the everyday surprises of motherhood.

Once upon a Mother’s Day many moons ago, when I fancied myself a spry whippersnapper and spontaneity was still in my vocabulary (in other words, pre-children), I booked a last-minute flight from Los Angeles to Connecticut to surprise my mom.

I snuck up my parents’ driveway and called from my cell phone (the old-school kind the size of a supercomputer), overselling apologies for my absence on such a special occasion. Mother’s Day should involve a celebratory luncheon, movie matinee or all-you-can-drink mimosa bar, I lamented. Or maybe, if one were truly enterprising with her daughterly devotion, it would include all three. I put my acting chops to the test, slathering the disappointment on thicker than Skippy peanut butter.

My anticipation mounting, I rang the doorbell and awaited my mother’s response. I even managed to stifle my giggling when she announced, “Hang on — someone’s at the front door.”

Opening it, she narrowed her eyes in confusion and her face blanched like I was the Creature from the Black Lagoon. She looked at the cordless phone in her hand and turned back to me. Then she promptly fainted.

I’ve always been successful at surprises.

I’ll admit, these days the concepts of spontaneity and surprise look slightly different than they used to. Now, more often than not, spontaneity sounds more like, “Hey, let’s order the meatball pizza tonight instead of the pepperoni,” or “Let’s sleep in an extra half hour and see if we can still get the kids to school on time.” Sometimes, when we’re lucky, it even sounds like “Holy crap, the kids fell asleep by 8:30. Wanna watch an episode of The Blacklist?”

“So what if we moms have to pencil in time to bathe? Being clean is overrated anyway.”

In a small sense, I miss the days when my husband and I could accept a last-minute dinner date or pursue spur-of-the-moment wine adventures in Napa Valley. But I wouldn’t trade motherhood for all the Chateau Margaux in the world. I wouldn’t even trade it for a seaside vacation with an endless supply of mai tais delivered by a cabana boy who looks like Javier Bardem’s twin brother. (Though that visual does give me a moment of pause.) The fact is, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than spending time with my kids. Spontaneity be damned! So what if we moms have to pencil in time to bathe? Being clean is overrated anyway.

Aristotle once said, “The secret to humor is surprise.” For what it’s worth, I happen to think the same can be true in reverse — the secret to surprise may very well be humor. The fact is, motherhood is rife with both surprises and comedy — they often accompany one another.

JVO1Photo courtesy of Jenna Von Oy

In my experience, this is especially true when one is parenting two toddlers. How else would one get through the discovery of one’s toothbrush floating in a urine-filled potty? Or the call from school saying one’s child has lice and just encouraged half the class try on his baseball cap? Or the arrival home from work to find stick figures in red Sharpie lining one’s hallway? If surprise is a mother’s middle name, humor had better be her nickname.

Though my ability to live with reckless abandon was mostly cast aside when I became a mom, surprises have become my parenting bread and butter. I used to take immense pride in surprising those I love. Now, more often than not, it’s those I love who surprise me… More specifically, my children give me that gift on a daily basis.

“The lifetime of love and care we devote to wrangling kids can’t be summed up in a box of chocolates.”

And I’m not just talking about the moments that require humor in the face of challenges. Although we’re technically honoring Mother’s Day this month, the surprise gifts I’m referring to aren’t in the form of red roses or Hallmark cards or homemade macaroni-adorned picture frames. Because the lifetime of love and care we devote to wrangling kids can’t be summed up in a box of chocolates or a 24-hour day like Mother’s Day. It’s in the everyday details of life with two curious, funny, kind, stubborn, inspiring, marvel-filled little girls.

I find surprise in the made-up dance routines, the impromptu tea parties and the refrigerator art that looks like a collection of pipe cleaners and cotton balls threw up on construction paper. Surprise is the snoring in my ear as I take an elbow to the face, because it means I’m cuddling with my girls for naptime. It’s the random openmouthed kiss my 18-month-old plants on my cheek with no provocation, in all its sloppy, juicy, drooling glory, because it demonstrates that kind of wondrous baby love that knows no bounds (not that slobber had any bounds to begin with). Surprise is my three-year-old cleaning up her Legos without being asked and offering her sister a piece of her cookie even though it’s the last one. It’s watching her console a sad friend on the playground. It’s the quiet “I love you, Mommy” in the midst of overwhelming fatigue and frustration — hers and mine. It’s watching my daughters snuggle on the couch every morning and hold hands when they think no one else is looking.

jenna von oy familyPhoto by Mike Yamin Photography

The surprises of motherhood just keep coming, and they’re leaving my old version of surprise behind in the dust. In my new-and-improved life, surprises come in the form of love, laughter and cherished mommy memories…so much so, I could almost faint.

Happy Mother’s Day, indeed. end

Catch Jenna von Oy’s Situation Momedy: A First-Time Mom’s Guide To Laughing Your Way Through Pregnancy & Year One as well as Situation Momedy: A Very Special Episode in Toddlerdom in bookstores now!


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