A mother's day gift not wrapped in ribbon

Mother's Day was pretty much off my radar until late last week. I don't do a lot of shopping and I rarely frequent stores where you might see cards, knick-knacks, etc... being sold for Mother's Day. And I hadn't read blogs for a couple weeks, my usual "what's going on in the world" outlet.

Renee Tougas

We didn't make any special plans. I'm not big on special plans for Mother's Day anyway. Special plans usually involve a lot of thinking on my part (being the maestro of family parties and hospitality) and I don't like surprises, which makes it hard for my family to make secret plans for me.

It was already Saturday afternoon before we gave much thought to the next day. It was Mother's Day so I was told I could do whatever I wanted. I wanted to be with my family in the outdoors. That's what we do on Sundays. I look forward to that during the week and I'm a routine loving girl.

Le Mius hiking trail Maria

I wanted to spend the day being together, unplugged (this is getting harder and harder it seems between our online interests and our kids' computer pursuits). I wanted to have a family breakfast. And other than making breakfast pancakes, I didn't want to cook. I was almost shooed out of the kitchen while making pancakes but that was something I wanted to do. And I'm allowed to do what I want on Mother's Day, right?

Le Mius hiking trail Maria

After breakfast, we packed up and Damien made a quick lunch for the trail. Our usual easy mix of beans, rice and salsa. (Some of our trail recipes were recently featured in the A.T. Journeys Magazine, the official magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.) We were out the door before noon with no stress, another request for Mother's Day, and were able to spend the better part of the afternoon on the trail.

We are still finding our hiking legs after a winter of skiing and this is the first hike we've done this spring where snow and ice weren't an issue. I haven't shared any photos from the last month and a half of hiking. Imagine evergreens, melting snow and ice, and crazy carpets (a fun way down the mountain).

hiking mist

I love being in the woods with my family and as it started to rain I marveled a bit at how Mother's Days have changed for me over the years.

I remember very clearly the way I felt twelve years ago on Mother's Day. Laurent was a colicky three month old and Céline was not quite two years old. On that Mother's Day, what I wanted more than anything, was a break from motherhood. Just for one day I didn't want to be needed so much by the little people in my life.

Le Mius hiking trail Maria

I got through that day; the worst part was the expectation. I was used to being needed 24/7 and had adapted quite well to life as a mom to young children but you expect on Mother's Day to maybe get a break, but not that Mother's Day. Three month old babies don't give their mamas a break!

Yesterday I didn't want a break from my family at all. The only thing I wanted a break from was cooking, which I got. We splurged for supper out.

Over the years I've wanted different things for Mother's Day. A day for gardening used to be a popular request.

new spring leaves

These days there's no garden in my life and I don't even want one. What I wanted for Mother's Day was to be in the woods, even in the rain.

While we were hiking yesterday we were talking about this, my personal growth through the years of family hiking. Brienne recalled the times "you cried on the trail and we just waited for you". Oh yes, I remember those times clearly. Not each and every one of course. They are a montage of memories from a couple years of intense personal transformation as I surrendered myself to the weekly practice of hiking.

Renee Tougas

Yep, you read that right, I surrendered myself. I love the outdoors. I chose to spend Mother's Day hiking, in the mist and rain with my family, because I love doing that. I didn't always love that. But I grew into it.

I remember the years I wanted nothing more than to scrapbook, sew, and garden in my free time. Now I like being in the woods, hiking, and taking photos. And I don't consider those "free time" activities either. They're just part of my life. As much as cooking, writing, and homeschooling.

hiking trail up close

I've grown into a lot of things. And just like with kids' clothing, "growing in" usually means "growing out" of something else.

I'm growing into mothering young adults and have said goodbye to the early years. I've grown into adventurous living and closed the chapter on "staying put".

With each growth stage I open my hands to something beautiful and life altering. And in grabbing hold I have to let go of old patterns and expectations.

green lichen

I get to keep my memories with me, and oh how I treasure those, but I don't live those same experiences over and over (nor would I want to). I get to live new ones. I get to be alive in new and exciting ways.

Mother's Day, a day with lots of memories, helps me mark my changes as a mother and a woman through the years.

I'm thankful for where I've been. I love where I am. I'm excited for where I'm going.

Renee Tougas and kids

I think that's a pretty good Mother's Day gift in itself.

« Join Me for a Trail Run?
Show and Share Supper »
  • Sarah m

    Sarah m on May 13, 2013, 10:19 p.m.

    Ah, yes, this is so encouraging to read. Can I just breathe a sigh of relief and tell you thank you for writing that you also asked for "no responsibilites as a mother" for Mother's Day? It's hard to imagine you were there, too, as you love being around your family. So do I, but sometimes I feel like the small, incremental breaks I get through the day (these consist of quiet time in the afternoon, and after they're in bed for the night) never satiate. Maybe I've just spent years of resisting the constant needs and haven't lowered my expectaitons enough, but hoo-boy, I am still in the thick of that!

    PS-I love all these pictures. The green fungi...what is that? I've never seen anything like it. 

    Sarah M


    • renee

      renee on May 14, 2013, 11:12 a.m.

      Sarah - I was there! I could probably write every post from a "I remember when" perspective with some encouraging "hang in there" twist but I want to live and write in the present (smile). I also find it a bit tedious to read mothering posts that are always written in a "been there, done that, it get's better" voice. But, all that to say, mothering my littles was exhausting work but I was content with that work. Tired, but content. I didn't have other aspirations at the time (except for personal creative and community building work) so I was fairly focused on what I was doing and got pleasure from it. 

      And expectations are huge aren't they? I raised my babies, toddlers and preschoolers with no family around and I we are very protective of our children in terms of sitters etc. So I didn't get many breaks but knowing this I structured my day and our time as much as possible for my enjoyment (i.e. it wasn't all about the kids and making them "happy"). The kids had needs and there was work that had to be done but I got to choose how to do that and I tried to focus on doing the things I enjoyed as related to homemaking and kid raising. 

      I can totally understand the feeling of never quite enough rest or down time, but it does get better (smile). And it's so worth it Sarah. I feel we have the family life we have now - where we all really enjoy being together nearly all the time (with kids who love each other and respect their parents) because of all the work I did. I built something Sarah. I built a home of love, learning, security, and well being, and I am so proud of that. We built it of course. Damien and I are one in this endeavor. 

      I could go on and on, but I won't. And this isn't about "isn't Renee great". You're great! You are building something of immeasureable value - you are building people!! 

      Lots of love to you.



    • renee

      renee on May 14, 2013, 11:20 a.m.

      Sarah, that green thing is a lichen - fungi/algae symbiotic organism. I believe it's a type of lettuce lichen. I found some more info on this page. 


  • Kika

    Kika on May 14, 2013, 12:20 a.m.

    Nice. Love that about the kids remembering how you cried on the trail and they waited for you:) I worked hard the day before Mother's day doing laundry, groceries and food prep so that yesterday we could go out to the lake and have food ready to go, and leftovers to eat when we returned home. There were only 3 families there, including ours, so very peaceful (until the winds kicked up and we chased sand toys, blankets, etc. around to gather them up:)). We're not big on celebrations in our home (as in someone, somewhere,  decided it's a 'holiday' so we must start buying gifts, etc...) so all our holidays are pretty low key.

    "With each growth stage I open my hands to something beautiful and life altering. And in grabbing hold I have to let go of old patterns and expectations.key." I feel precisely the same way. There are times I start to feel nostalgic or a kind of sadness creep up about what is past (ex. the younger kid years) but I don't dwell there. I love this stage we're at and want to choose joy each step of the way. This life we have goes by in the blink of an eye and I don't want to waste a moment of it getting caught up in the past or worry about the future. I stumble in this sometimes but am getting quicker and quicker at pulling my thoughts back to the beauty of NOW.



  • Amber

    Amber on May 14, 2013, 4:13 a.m.

    I, too, am in the thick of it with the never ending need for some relief.  I did get to sleep in for two days in a row this weekend.  Renee, I know you can relate to how precious that was for me.  It was really all I wanted for Mother's Day.  I did tell my husband that I wished we lived somewhere cooler.  I would love to spend the day outside on a hike or in nature on my day, but it's already too hot for my liking.  maybe when we make some grand move to a beautiful now place......I can dream, can't I?  


    • renee

      renee on May 14, 2013, 11:16 a.m.

      Amber, that reply I wrote for Sarah above is for you also. Oh man do I know how precious sleep is. I had to nap nearly every day when my kids were little. 

      I've never lived anywhere hot. Can't imagine having to stay indoors in May! And yes, you should dream, and do it lots.

      Lots of love to you mama!



  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on May 14, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

    A great idea for a mama's day treat. Have any of your children ever done much resisting to the walking. Just asking because my nine year old id doing jus tthat right now.


    • renee

      renee on May 14, 2013, 10:50 a.m.

      Jacinda, We get this question quite often and it's a blog post type of answer, or video or something. I asked Damien his answer to this question and it was so amazing I wished I had recorded him. Yes, we've had resistance over the years (never the tears like my own though!) but we have strategies for dealing with that. And we have a philosophy of living and learning together that helps us move through the "resistance". But it's more than I can share in a comment.


      • Jacinda

        Jacinda on May 14, 2013, 10:55 p.m.

        Phew. Great answer Damien. I need to focus on my strategies and not just feel challenged (and triggered) by the resistance. Actually I need to be clearer adn then things will be easier and fall in place more. Isn't that often the way. Thanks for your reply :)


        • renee

          renee on May 15, 2013, 3:37 p.m.

          Actually, that's my answer, not his (smile). I asked Damien this question a couple weeks ago (you aren't the first to ask), and his answer was amazing and I wished I was able to record it because it pretty much laid out our whole philosophy for family outdoors and dealing with kids' resistance to hiking and physical limitations in general. What I shared with you was the 2 sentence summary (smile). Someday I will share more.

          Knowing why you do what you do is a huge part of solving the problem or addressing the need. 


  • Rachel Wolf

    Rachel Wolf on May 14, 2013, 12:09 p.m.

    Oh, yes. I get this.

    The expectations, the long ago hunger for a break, the integration of time-in-the-woods as a part of life. So beautifully said.

    Because yes, even the mom grows and "grows up".


  • Alaina

    Alaina on May 14, 2013, 6:22 p.m.

    I enjoyed reading this.  Its neat to read about the changes you've made over the years.  Right now I am in a stage of going back and forth between embracing the changes in my life and greiving what it means.  But at the same time, I'm in a "please just take these kids for a bit" spot...since mine are young still.  

    What I wanted for mother's day was a fruit salad (not made by me) and I wanted to go on a family bike ride (we have a bike trailer for the little ones).  However, I only got the fruit salad, and almost a foot of snow instead of the bike ride!  Its melting now but wow was that a surprise! :)  


    • renee

      renee on May 14, 2013, 10:33 p.m.

      Alaina - more snow? Really? You've been hammered (or whatever it's called when you gets lots and lots of snow) with snow this spring. Where do you live? 

      ... and at least you got the fruit salad (smile). Very often embracing and grieving are two sides of the same coin and it's ok to experience both, in full measure. Some days you feel like dancing and other days crying, eh? Or, maybe that's just me??

      Much love to you and I hope you get your bike ride sometime soon.


  • Corina

    Corina on May 25, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

    I'm glad you clarified your past needs... wanting to be alone, without any kids hanging on your shirt tails... Because that's were I am at now.  When I read about other mothers wanting to spend their special day with their kids, I feel guilty and not good enough as a mother, but I have come to the realization that it is okay to feel this, and it is where I am at in life right now.  I am with my kids all the time, homeschooling, homesteading, and they are younger, needing me more intensly. It is a very draining time, although joyful as well, of course.  I wrote about it here, in case you are interested:


    I am so glad you got to enjoy your day with your family!  You deserve it!


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.