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Careful what you wish for

May 10, 2011

Ah, Mother’s Day. My own mother never set much store by it. For her, it was a day when sticky-fingered children shyly proffered art-class projects (“Darling! It’s beautiful! It’s…what is it, exactly? A place to put…small things! That’s exactly what I needed!”) accompanied by clumsily-lettered poetry that did not scan. When I had children of my own, I followed her example.

Which means, basically, that I am a snotty asshole with regards to Mother’s Day. I hate the way it has metastasized into a global phenomenon, with everyone who is or ever was a mother or has a mother or knows a mother or once met a mother muscling in on the action. I hate how husbands are supposed to make some huge effort for their wives on Mother’s Day–it’s not WIVES’ day, for crying out loud–and so, when we were together, my ex-husband never offended my refined sensibilities by giving me a token of his esteem. (“I’m not YOUR mother,” I’d sniff. “I’m not THEIR mother, either,” I’d go on, tossing aside the cards my stepmother and mother-in-law started sending after my first kid was born, until they both wised up and focused their good intentions elsewhere instead of on ungrateful, rude me.)

When we were married, my ex-husband gave me flowers on our kids’ birthdays. It was my idea. “Those are the days I became a mother,” I’d tell anyone who asked (and plenty who didn’t.) Oh, I was smug. Look at me, inventing something with meaning! No Hallmark holidays for me! “We’re idiots,” my mother said to me a few years ago. “While we run around with our noses in the air, practically every other woman on the planet is pocketing diamond earrings and getting taken out to brunch.”

But before I could subtly renege on my ideology of obnoxiousness, I got divorced. Whoops.

So now I have the Mother’s Day I always wanted. Nothing overwrought, nothing purchased, lots of clumsy secrecy, spastic attempts at juvenile cuisine, a twenty-four hour martyrdom window (“THIS is where you leave your socks? ON MOTHER’S DAY, NO LESS?”) and enforced physical closeness. On Mother’s Day, everyone must kiss and hug me on demand. This year, my younger son gave me something that looks an awful lot like a shrunken head strung on blue yarn. I’ve been wearing it around my neck, which seems correct, as he keeps gazing at me fondly before asking, “Don’t you just LOVE it, Mom?” And I do.

I also got a rather Oedipal mash note, a mysterious bit of sculpture, and a verbal manifesto denouncing the stupidity of Mother’s Day in general (the apple, apparently, does not fall far from the tree). We putzed around all afternoon, planting things, reading in the sun. It was quite lovely, actually. One mother, two children, a perfectly ordinary day.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Living Down Under permalink
    May 11, 2011 5:33 am

    Ha! My mum always said that every day was mother’s day and that one day of breakfast in bed and the likes wouldn’t make up for a whole year of her having to nag us to make our beds, etc. I too have followed suit – turning my nose up at hallmark holidays as it were.

    Funny thing though – chatted with her today and she remarked how my brother hadn’t taken her out for lunch. “was it mother’s day this weekend,” she asked,”not that I was expecting anything but H usually remembers and suggests we go out for lunch.”. Then she laughed. Realizing fully, that if we didn’t say anything about the “m” day, it was all her doing!

  2. May 11, 2011 9:37 am

    Ha. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes these days, & your post did it!

    Bravo!

  3. May 11, 2011 10:09 am

    I love the idea of you wearing a shrunken head proudly on a piece of blue yarn around your neck. Also, the slightly awkward questioning–“Ah! A shrunken head! How creative! Where did you–”
    “No! Mom! It’s secret! I can’t tell you!”

    I’m with you on the late-to-the-Mother’s-Day fuss. So artifical! And yet I really do like brunch, so shall we make plans to go to Lucille’s?

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 10:23 am

      He said proudly, “I made it ENTIRELY from things that were in the trash bin in the art room! Things other people were JUST GOING TO THROW AWAY!” Then he stroked it lovingly for a while. Clearly he’s possessed.

      I’ll post a picture. Maybe it won’t show up in the picture!

  4. Jenny permalink
    May 11, 2011 11:17 am

    My daughter’s adopted, so I spend some time thinking about both her mothers on Mothers’ Day. Besides, I’ll take any excuse to have gifts and mash notes, mildly schmaltzy or not!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 11:51 am

      Well, now that the husband’s not in the picture it seems decidedly less schmaltzy. And anything that forces children to be generous and appreciative, no matter how contrived, is a-ok by me. Come to think of it, there should be Mother’s Day at least once a week.

  5. Anne permalink
    May 11, 2011 12:46 pm

    Oh, I actually have always loved Mother’s Day! I don’t ask for/want presents, but it’s a time that I can demand all four of us spend time together, and also demand that I get some “alone” time. (My kids are 2 and 4, so alone time is a rare commodity around here!) Thus, this year, we all went to breakfast and then my husband took the kids to the park for two hours and I got to work in my garden without having to worry about the young’uns getting their hands stuck in something/being bitten by a wasp/fighting over the watering can, ad infinitum. It was glorious.

    Except the sunburn. (Note to self: apply sunscreen to lower back when gardening.) Ouch.

  6. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    May 11, 2011 12:57 pm

    See, again–should be a once a week event. Or at least once a month. Let’s start a revolution.

  7. May 11, 2011 3:08 pm

    Oh, I had no idea it was such a big thing – here it’s still very much in the realm of pasta jewellery, and all the better for it. I got a tissue wrapped beer bottle (‘vase’) and camembert jewellery box. I love them.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 3:35 pm

      It seems to be a horridly recent and uniquely American phenomenon–everywhere you go, shopkeepers wish you Happy Mother’s Day! and one is supposed to honor all mothers everywhere, not just one’s own, and not just if one is a small child. An abomination. And of course, someone who is trying desperately to get pregnant or has just lost a child cannot hope to hide or escape.

  8. Jen permalink
    May 11, 2011 4:12 pm

    I, too, despise how all my neighbours had to wish me Happy Mother’s Day!

    As a single mother, I never get a real break on Mother’s Day, no big sleep-ins or afternoons to myself. I was bemoaning this to my mother (who also did it all on her own) and she told me she always saw it as a day to be especially good at mothering and all that it involves.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 11:48 pm

      Quite admirable, and an amazing take on what we usually think the day stands for–your mother would seem to be the REAL spirit of mother’s day, made flesh. I’m humbled.

  9. nancy permalink
    May 11, 2011 7:10 pm

    I’ll tell you, if you have lost your Mother, its the WORST WEEK OF THE YEAR. Worse than her birthday, Christmas, etc. Cause all you hear is “Remember your Mother this sunday”…it took about 10 years and becoming a Mother on my own to be able to make it through the week without crying.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 8:32 pm

      Oh god, see how insensitive the general populace (me, for starters) is? I didn’t even THINK of that. Christ. And I should have, too. I’m sorry.

  10. May 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    actually this year, for the first time, i was able to spend mother’s day with my kids without someone ruining it for all of us. we hung out, laughed, and had a happy day. i’ve never really been one to obsess about mother’s day, but i did appreciate having the children all to myself this year.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 11, 2011 11:46 pm

      Me too. It just felt like a blissfully unfraught day.

  11. Tripta permalink
    May 12, 2011 6:53 am

    It sounds absolutely perfect 🙂
    Mother’s Day isn’t as big in India, though the greeting cards/gifts companies are working very hard to change that 😛
    My mum always says she resents the idea of a single day being Mother’s Day. apparently we should appreciate mothers a whole lot more often 🙂
    …which is why she had to remind me on the D-day. I’d forgotten to even wish her!

  12. May 12, 2011 10:53 pm

    I like Mothers’ Day. I love being a mother, but it’s hard, and I enjoy it when friends and neighbors wish me a Happy Mothers’ Day as I’m walking around the block with my kids. Just because other people have commercial designs on the day doesn’t take anything away from it for me. (But I like Valentine’s Day, too, and that’s another day people rail against the greeting card establishment for forcing them to do things on a certain day.) I say take love and recognition when you can get it! Sometimes we need little markers and reminders, like birthdays and anniversaries and even a day supposedly for mothers. My kids make me necklaces and cards and odd treasures to keep all year round, but if on Mothers’ Day they want to bring me breakfast? Cool.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 13, 2011 11:03 am

      You’re right, and I’m a convert. Anything that makes children act appreciative and grateful is an occasion to be savored. This year’s stripped-down day was pure pleasure….

  13. Crale permalink
    February 16, 2012 12:37 pm

    My mother used to be OBSESSED with making sure that I, her only spawn, did everything in my power to honor her on Mother’s Day. I was blase’ ONCE and learned to not do that again! The first Mother’s Day without her was the worst. I don’t put too much store in it myself…my stand has always been that it’s called “MOTHER’S” Day…not “Mother and Child/ren’s” day. Therefore the spouse was repeatedly asked to just hand me $50, drop me at a local Barnes & Noble and fetch me in 8 hours. NEVER happened. I always thought a day at a bookstore sans offspring could conceivably be the best day ever…..I was accused of being selfish. Maybe next year….

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