13 May 2012

On Mother's Day

I was more ambivalent about Mother's Day this year than I usually am. I am a reluctant participant in most holidays, and Mother's Day and Father's Day strike me as the most made-up of the made-up Hallmark tomfoolery, plus both are additionally fraught with not-so-tacit insult to nontraditional families, those who choose not to have children, those who can't have children, etc. etc. etc. Ugh. A mess, the whole thing, if you ask me, even under the best of circumstances.

Something I've had to face about myself in the past few years is that I'm not always terribly gracious. This trait becomes most apparent when it comes to gifts and holidays. I have a hard time with accepting people doing something nice for me if what they present or how they want to celebrate doesn't match my desires. And I don't like to acknowledge something or someone just because I'm supposed to. Wow, writing that down makes me sound like a total asshole, and the truth is that I've probably come off that way a thousand times in the past.

I've been working on this, though, working on it really, really hard. The work is paying off in that I have come recently to see the joy in both giving and receiving gifts. It's also more clear to me how much gifts, ritual, and ceremony can mean to others, and how I need to consider that even if it's hard for me to understand. It's all about love, really, in the end and how you either show someone you love them or acknowledge that they have shown you the same. To not be kind about that is to be jerk, when you come right down to it.

And so, even if my cold stone of a heart thinks Mother's Day is a racket, I tried to put on my game face. It was not easy, I have to say. I had a lot of discomfort with the fact that society was telling my kids to love me more on this one random day, or that I was somehow a better person because I was a mom, or that I was supposed to get special treatment--often meaning time away from my kids!--in honor of my motherhood. Huh? And yet, I found that I also had discomfort around the fact that the main way in which my family honored this way was by getting together for lunch, which was largely prepared and served by my mom and me.* Yes, it's true, I didn't want to be pampered at Hallmark's request, but I also didn't want to do all the work. Maybe I am still an asshole.

Or at least maybe I was still an asshole until the day arrived, because I have to say that I have no complaints and a wealth of joy about what happened today. It was a lovely day. I ran a 5K with friends, and felt so much gratitude about having friends who made the running of that race possible for me. Also, I ran fast.** After the race, we went to my mom and stepdad's, stopping along the way to buy some flowers for my mom.*** It was hot and sunny and we got out the slip'n'slide for the kids and drank prosecco and had lunch and opened gifts and read stories and just let the time slip away. Everyone was happy to be together. It seemed unimportant once I arrived that the moms had done the bulk of the work. It was mostly "work," really, nothing more than I would have done on any other day.

When Maddie, Riley, and I left, I gave myself the gift of not judging myself. I stopped at 7-11 and got Slurpees for all of us. When we got home, I did some chores while the kids played Wii bowling. I made spaghetti with jarred red sauce for dinner. That's all. Spaghetti and red sauce in a bowl, with some grated cheese. No veggie or fruit or anything. Just pasta in a dish. IT WAS SO FREAKING SIMPLE and everyone was happy. Then we watched three episodes of Avatar,  read some Harry Potter (we're on book 5!), and now they are asleep.

Now I'm going to go to bed because nothing says Day of Indulgence to me like going to bed early.

I'm no more special than anyone by virtue of being a mom, and I don't need a day devoted to trying to make me think I am, especially when that day makes others feel bad about what they don't or can't have. But have no quibble with the joy of spending time with people I love, and of having tangible demonstrations of their love for me, and of having a (forced) reason to reflect on the gratitude I have for all that is in my life, even I am still an ambivalent asshole about it sometimes.

*Not entirely, but mostly.
**Supposedly I came in 14th or 15th overall, but I'm waiting for the official results to post. ???!!!
***Maddie and Riley love to give people flowers, very cute.


Grace said...

Your post really resonated with me, as they usually do. I agree that these holidays are contrived crap, but still, it's pretty cool to have your kid wake up and say those words "Happy Mothers Day!" which Miles did. :-)

But today was the first without Ethan, and I'm still struggling with all the "firsts." As in Portland, we had fabulous weather, and Miles & I spent the afternoon at a gorgeous and not too crowded beach north of Bellingham where he happily built castles and threw rocks into the Strait. But I had that awful this-sucks-because-there's-no-one-here-to-enjoy-it-with-me feeling. (I'm sure you know it.)

I had to laugh at both of us, though, because I made mac & cheese (from a box!) with no veggies for dinner. I just couldn't be bothered with anything else.

Hope you have a great week!


KK said...

Yay for awesome days! You know, I've never quite understood that whole "it makes other people feel bad" mentality.... really? I already know that I have issues that essentially guarantee me infertility in the future, but *why* would I ever begrudge anyone else the chance to celebrate what they have, even if it's a made up Hallmark holiday? That would kind of just make me an asshole. Who is also bitter. Mother's day is supposed to be FUN, and everyone can decide for themselves what their definition of fun is. Your day sounds like it was awesome :)

Christie said...

Dude, you're a total a$$hole. ;)

Kidding. I have to love anyone who uses "tomfoolery" in a sentence.

Today, I got to spend a lot of time in the car with Hen while driving back from my parents' house. And later I got a nap that ended when the lil' man woke me up by sticking his face right in mine.

Your day sounds just about perfect to me. I hope you enjoyed it.

Wikipedia says the lady who helped create Mother's Day (the one celebrated in the U.S.) later opposed it. She hated that it became so heavily commercialized. Sort of makes me glad I didn't get a gift today.

Snickollet said...


Oh, yeah, I know that feeling well. I used to get a similar one at the park on weekends all the time, when I'd take M&R early on weekend mornings, and there would be all of these bleary-eyed dads there drinking coffee and watching over their early-rising toddlers, and my jump-to-conclusions mind would assume that the dads' spouses were all at home, dozing, making breakfast, lazily looking forward to their return.

None of my vision was necessarily reality, but it sure was what I wanted for myself and it sure hurt not to have it.

Anyway, not quite the same thing as missing someone being at an experience, but very much alike in the miss-what-you-used-to-or-never-had kind of way.

Lots and lots of hugs to you. Will I see you before the Portland half?? I really hope so.

Megan said...

KK - the reason people begrudge other people the chance to celebrate is because the holiday, as it's mass marketed in the country, feels so utterly exclusionary. It says being a mother is the be-all end-all to womanhood. It is filled with posts about how motherhood is the Greatest Thing Ever! and that anyone not experiencing the absolute joy of it at that moment cannot possibly feel the depth of feelings that mothers can. It is an unmistakable message that starts about a month before Mother's Day and culminates in all of your fertile friends, acquaintances, and their friends posting updates from their highlight reel of a life while you deal with a low moment in yours.

Yes, it's a great day when the bitterness goes away and you can feel joy for others again, but sometimes things just suck and you gotta get through them as best you can. I say give the infertile, the grieving, the bitter, and the disappointed a break for not being able to be all RAH RAH about a holiday. Maybe one day, they'll be in the position to be happy about the holiday and can do some break-giving of their own. :)

Stacey - glad to read you had such a great day. Couldn't have asked for a better day for weather, that's for sure!

Mizasiwa said...

I am glad that you could give yourself a 'break' I think as mothers we all try very hard to be 'good' and we do deserve a break now and again...its good when we can give ourselves that break. Im also interested to hear more about how M and R took the Harry Potter books - my son is 6 and my daughter is 4 and I was unsure if it would be apropriate. We are reading Roal Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the moment...

Anonymous said...

So fascinating to read your perspective - I thank you for your candor. I love gift-giving and, while I firmly believe that it's important to give gifts with no strings, no anticipation of gratitude in return, I also love receiving sincere thanks for gifts I've given.

I also love Mother's Day and my family celebrates it in our own relatively low-key way, absent most commercial hype. Just because we like doing so doesn't take anything away from others or diminish the value non-mothers, non-traditional families, or anyone else. Celebrations aren't a zero-sum game. It's about us and our family, not others, and that's just fine.

Snickollet said...


M&R love, love, love, love, LOVE Harry Potter. I tried to read them the first book when they were 4.5 or so, and it was a no-go--the plot was just too complex. But at 5.5 we tried again, and we've just been plowing forth. They are able to follow the plot really well (we do stop often for discussion, clarifying questions, etc.) and they don't seem daunted at all by the fairly intense, "scary" themes.

Funny that you should mention Roald Dahl as the only other book M&R have loved as much at HP has been _James and the Giant Peach_.