Mother’s Day is and will always be a beautiful tradition for so many families. When I was little, I have the best memories of Dad grilling on Mom’s special day while she relaxed with a book. She hated cooking (I didn’t inherit that, obviously), loved a nice grilled steak, and loathed cleaning even more than cooking. (I mean, who doesn’t? Carol Channing pretty much nailed it in this video.)

Essentially, Mom was relieved to have one day that we children wouldn’t make a mess in the kitchen.

When I had children of my own, Dad kept up the cookout tradition, honoring both of us on Mother’s Day — eating outside in the spring, overlooking the lake behind my parents’ house, celebrating the joys of motherhood and parenting through food.

But times change. My mother died. And like so many others, being motherless on Mother’s Day became hard.

I was touched that my dad continued to celebrate me as a mother on Mother’s Day, with a low-key family grill night complete with all the clean-up on someone else’s chore list.

It was a beautiful tradition for three years.

But then, in the blink of an eye, Dad was gone too.

Now, I don’t want anyone in the kitchen or on the grill. I admittedly lost a lot of joy in the traditions of the day. And I’m just not ready to open my kitchen up and let all those memories flood in just yet. Or, maybe I never will.

The truth is, I’m fortunate. Cooking together is not a “special occasion” event for my family — my children are older at 19, 17, and 11 — and they cook all the time, sharing the duties with with a repertoire ranging from simple salads to spaghetti carbonara.

(And the tostadas. Ooh…those tostadas with bacon and avocado are particularly good. Also the thoughtfully composed sandwiches. And I’m so proud of the things they’re learning to make from leftovers.)

I know my kids love me and I’ve come to accept that while cooking for your mom is a beautiful tradition for so many, I  just don’t need my older children to cook some special meal as evidence of that love.

Don’t feel sad for me; I’ve just shifted perspectives. The way I’ve come to see it, my culinary Mother’s Day gift is the one I get all year long in the kitchen. Whenever the kids ask what’s for dinner and my answer is, “nothing,” the kids aren’t shy about taking the initiative, and throwing something together that we can all share together.

In a way, it allows me to honor motherhood — and they, mine — every single day of the year. That’s pretty wonderful.

As for Mother’s Day cooking, we now skip it entirely, ordering takeout for brunch, or just make sandwiches. They even know my favorite — a baguette thinly spread with spicy Dijon mustard and packed with creamy brie and ripe, lightly salted tomatoes.

Sure, we could go out, but a prix fixe restaurant brunch, complete with roses for the moms and tables of adult daughters with mothers and grandmothers opening gifts and posing for selfies can be an emotional minefield for me.

I’m just not there.

What’s most important to me now is that I know I’m loved, and that my kids want to express that love. Which is why I really adore that one guaranteed lazy Sunday in May, once a year, surrounded by people who love me and who don’t need to take over the kitchen to show it.

Oh, and I won’t say no to a glass of rosé to go with that sandwich. It is still Mother’s Day, after all.

To all of you mothers without mothers, I’ll be thinking about you and sending love on Mother’s Day this year. I’d love to hear how you celebrate, or how you find peace without celebrating. 

Top Photo by Kristina Bratko for Unsplash