The Case for Mother’s Day

Surely we don’t need a commercialized holiday like Mother’s Day to tell us when to celebrate the mothers in our lives. No need to buy into this forced appreciation nonsense, right? We should celebrate and appreciate mothers every day!

Uh huh.

We should eat five servings of vegetables, floss and take 10,000 steps every day too. And sure, every now and again we remember and go on a kick. Spinach for all! Fit Bits to the ready! Where was that floss again??? Then life gets in the way or things go back to normal or we just, simply, can’t be bothered.

The same thing happens with celebrating mothers.**

To be sure, the notion of Mother’s Day has been pumped up like Arnold Schwarzenegger on steroids pushed through a Denny’s All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet sieve. Super-sized and monopolized by florist and pedicurists all over the world.

You should still acknowledge it.

Why? Because being a mother sucks thankless ass is hard, especially if you’re trying to do it well. And 90% of that hard work goes on behind the scenes where no one else can see. Invisible Mom Syndrome.

Hey kids! Remember me? The one who remembers which of you little tyrants darlings likes your apples sliced and which one doesn’t? The one who doesn’t argue with your ridiculous quirky insistence you don’t like cheese– except when it’s shredded?

Or that mother over there schlepping her kid’s cello, which is as big as she is. Or that one, getting up at 5 am to drive her kid to hockey practice. Or the swimming pool. Oh, there’s that mother over there who clocks seventy kilometers a day taking her kids to and from karate.

Mothers, the silent, invisible army making sure kids eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, get to bed at a reasonable hour, and make it to adulthood.

Hey kids! Remember me? The one meets you after school each day with a smile and a snack despite your pissy attitude tired complaints? The one who nods and says “Oh, really?” in all the right places when you’re blathering incessantly talking about Pokemon–because even though I’m bored senseless, I’m still mostly listening?

Yeah, me over here, standing on the pedestal of motherhood. Which is really more of a sewer cover at street level threatening to give way at any moment.

No, no mother has to do any of this. Some don’t. But a lot of mothers do, because it is making life just a little bit more enjoyable and easier for their kids to walk the walk to adulthood. Because growing up, when you take away the rose-tinted glasses of adulthood, sucks is hard work. This is what good moms do.

But just because it’s our job doesn’t mean it’s not nice to feel appreciated.

Have you ever busted your ass at work to get something done? Is it nice to have that work acknowledged? Of course it is. Now imagine your boss walking by and saying, “Well, I don’t really believe in telling my employees I appreciate them. After all, it’s their job. They get a paycheck every week, that should be appreciation enough.”

That’s what its like being a mother. Except we’re not getting paid. And there’s no overtime. Or vacation.

So, forget the we should celebrate mothers everyday bullshit. We all know it’s not true. The bigger question is, why the hell wouldn’t you take advantage of a ready-made day like Mother’s Day??? Why wouldn’t you take advantage of a day set aside and marked on your calendar (automatically for crying out loud!), to celebrate your mother, or your child’s mother? I mean seriously, it’s going to kill you to buy a damn card?

Yes, yes, there are plenty of mothers who don’t want a fuss made, who don’t buy into the commercialized falsehoods, who may feel lessened by the idea it took Hallmark and The Olive Garden to point out that what most mothers do on a daily basis should be acknowledged.

But I’ve yet to meet a single person in my life, ever, who doesn’t appreciate a word or token of appreciation, tangible acknowledgment that what they do is valued.

Sometimes I hear a fellow mother’s lament her family doesn’t ‘buy into’ the idea of Mother’s Day.

Horse shit.

I don’t particularly enjoy standing in the pissing down rain to watch my son’s football team get creamed every week, but it’s important to him that he knows I am there, that I value his commitment, that I support him. What if I said, well, I don’t believe in watching your games because it comes from a false place and I feel like I’d be betraying my shockingly selfish principles if I stood there week after week?

If your wife, if your mother, if you grandmother or baby mama celebrates or wants to celebrate Mother’s Day, get your ass down to the store and buy a card. Or make one. Or bring her coffee in bed, or list all the things she does that you appreciate on a piece of paper. You don’t have to spend money to show someone your appreciation. You don’t have to go the commercial route if that’s what is bothering you.

And fathers? Don’t give me this bullshit excuse about how your wife isn’t your mother –it’s up to you to corral your kids to do something. You’re the adult here, Dad. Stop trying to find opt-out clauses in the handbook of grown-up-ness. If the mother or mothers in your life want a show of appreciation, get off your butt and stop hiding behind some lame excuse. This is not about your own feelings about Hallmark or The Olive Garden. If it’s important to someone in your life, you do it. Stop making it about you.

One day. ONE. They put it in the same month every year! They made it a Sunday! You can’t turn sideways without some sort of reminder! I mean it literally could not get any easier….

So no more excuses. Use the damn day for what it’s there for. Feel free to skip The Olive Garden, but at the very least, let her know you appreciate what she does every day, behind the scenes.

 

**I write about motherhood a lot, and I always receive comments from readers about their own relationships with toxic family members, including mothers. Not all mothers are good or kind. Not all women should be mothers, and I know many of you, both personally and through these pages, who have been harmed, in ways big and small, by relationships with those mothers. When you’re writing a piece like this, it’s easy to use the collective idea (ideal) of motherhood to make a point. To those of you with mothers not worth celebrating (and there are plenty), buy yourself a card. Appreciate yourself, and the fact that you survived in spite of, rather than because of, your mother. Don’t got to the Olive Garden though–unless you really like bread sticks.
D

Nine Moms You’ll Eventually Meet

Are my pants on fire?
Are my pants on fire?

If it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become a master of something, then I am approaching Yoda levels of parenting. While I’ve been racking up those Master Jedi mothering skills, I’ve come across a few doozies along the way. Most of us dangle a finger or toe in the waters of stereotype. Many have had moments of helicoptering and spent days worrying about our toddler’s unwillingness to share the slide, but sometimes you come across a mom or two who truly lives up to the hype.

To paraphrase my beloved Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Moms you’ll (Meet on the) Go!

Liar, Liar Lil

Lil’s kids never act up. They eat whatever she makes and clean their plates. They make their own beds, separate their whites from darks, and donate to charity responsibly. They ask for salads with their dinner and stop after one bite of desert. They do their homework without reminding, wake up without an alarm and never give her a hard time. They never fight, always play together nicely. They slept through the night at 2 weeks, take 3 hour naps, and still, at ten and fourteen, sleep 12 hours a night. They don’t play video games and entertain themselves quietly on weekend mornings with literature classics. Liar, Liar Lil just can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Sun Shines Sam

Don’t be fooled. Sun Shines Sam isn’t called that because she’s full of unicorns and magic and all things sparkly and rainbow. No, Sun Shines Sam firmly believes that the sun shines out of her child’s ass. The offspring of S.S.S. Can.Do.No.Wrong. No matter what Sissy or Sparky Sun Shines do, it’s always someone else’s fault. No one truly understands how special Sissy and Sparky truly are. No one except Sam, that is.

Bad Mom Barbara

Despite the moniker, Bad Mom Babs isn’t a bad mom at all. She just likes to call herself that. Maybe it’s to set herself apart from Cupcake Carol and the Crafty Crew. Bad Mom Babs has a four page anti-Pinterest resume she carries around as proof of her lack of “good mom” skills like baking, making, and multi-tiered caking. She makes fun of the PTA, the sports moms and the Buffy and the Bake Sale Gals, but if you cross her kid….watch out–bad will take on a whole new meaning.

Calamity Claire

At any given time, Calamity Claire has one child sick at home, another in a cast and yet another being suspended from school. But while it’s sometimes true the temperature of Claire’s luck is hovering near the freezing point, Calamity Claire is a walking, talking self-fulfilling prophecy. Claire is convinced there’s some a bad MoJo juice-box in her diaper bag. Claire believes she’s  incapable of catching a break unless it’s a compound fracture. Thing is, Calamity Claire will often seek out the negative in any given situation and claim it, just to prove she’s the unluckiest Mom of all.

I'm off to swimming! Or is it hockey? Soccer??
I’m off to swimming! Or is it hockey? Soccer??

Activity Anne

Activity Anne spends her life chauffeuring her kids to and from sports practice, lute lessons, Kumon classes and Mandarin matriculation. She keeps a cooler in the trunk with sandwiches and juice boxes for a family always on the go. From 6am swim times to 8pm ice hockey games, Anne is on the move. At any given time she is equipped with a camp chair, a thermos full of coffee, a sack of snacks and the glazed look of someone who hasn’t sat down and eaten with a knife and fork in days.

Sugar-free Savannah

Sugar-free Savannah monitors every morsel of food that goes into her children’s mouth. She is at the forefront of the committee to get organic, vegan lunch menus in place at school and to have all cookies/cakes banned from the school grounds. Savannah is a proponent of Sharia Snack Law. You’ll have no trouble recognizing Savannah’s kids: they are the ones constantly asking for play dates at which they will ignore your child and spend the entire time eating sticks of butter and sticking their finger in the Nutella jar.

By The Books Brenda

Brenda won’t budge without consulting her Baby Bible. Every decision must be thoroughly researched, weighed and discussed. Her dog-eared, thumb worn copy of the latest parenting tome lives on her bedside table and the app is on her phone. If the book says no solid food until 6 months, Brenda wouldn’t even think about offering a spoonful of mashed banana at midnight of the 29th day of the 5th month. It’s best to steer clear of hot-button topics with Brenda, unless you have the time to hear the latest research.

I know what you did last summer. And spring. And winter too.
I know what you did last summer. And spring. And winter too.

Eagle-Eyed Elsie

Eagle-Eyed Elsie is always watching for other people’s kids to slip up, mess up, and screw up. Elsie never misses a trick. She knows who took the shovel in the sandbox, who excluded Juniper-Belle at recess and who didn’t invite the whole class to the birthday party. Elsie will make a bee-line, a detour and a special trip to make sure you know Johnny snatched the match-box car or Josie was the one who banned Jessie from Ring around the Rosie.

Overprotective Orla

Orla’s kids can’t climb the monkey bars because they might fall. They can’t eat Kinder eggs because they could be a choking hazard. They can’t read Diary of a Wimpy Kid because it has the word ‘stupid’ in it. They can’t climb trees or go out to the shop without sunscreen and a hat. Orla hangs out at the bottom of the slide waiting for her kid to come down, lurks in the hallway for them to finish class, and sits in the shallow end of the pool during swimming classes. Just in case. Her first aid kit has everything but a defibrillator…which she’s expecting any day now from Amazon.

Sound familiar? I figured.

 

 

 

You are the Architect of Your Dreams (But Your Mother Dusted Them)

Woman-Wearing-A-White-Blouse-Plaid-Skirt-Dusting-A-Bowl-With-A-Feather-Duster-In-Front-Of-A-Glass-Top-Coffee-Table-Smiling-Modern-Living-RoomIf you need a reason to call your mother on Mother’s Day this year, consider this one:

You may be the architect of your dreams, but it was your mother who dusted them.

I don’t mean the magic, fairy kind of dust that Tinkerbell sprinkles about. I mean she dusted them with synthetic ostrich plumes dyed bright pink. She kept them oiled and shiny. She took them out for a drive around the block every now and again to make sure the battery didn’t up and die.

Your mother kept your dreams clean until you were ready to pull them off the shelf.

She stayed up at night after you went to bed and reinforced your matchstick Golden Gate Bridge with super glue. She carefully transported dioramas and poster boards. She had a last-minute science fair project up her sleeve if and when the potato gun failed to shoot.

She typed that 25 page report you waited until the last-minute to finish on a manual typewriter after the electricity went out (thanks, Mom).

She cut a thousand carrot sticks the year you decided you would only eat food that was orange.tuba

She told you that you had a beautiful voice the year you tried out for choir. She correctly guessed Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star when you played discordant notes on the recorder. She applauded your un-jazzy jazz hands, found the ounce of grace in your gangly ballet recital, told you no one noticed when you flubbed your one line in the school play.

She stood at the edge of the soccer pitch in the rain. Or the sleet. Or the snow. She sat on cold, metal bleachers that aggravated her hemorrhoids just in case you threw that Hail Mary pass. From the bench.

She got out a dustpan and brush to pick up the pieces of your first broken heart and helped you puzzle piece them back together. She waited until you went to bed before she cried for you.

She drove you to dance class and waited in the car on hot, sticky seats.

She kept a hidden stash of Saltines and ginger ale for sick days. She emptied the basin when you threw up.

She tucked you in every, single night. Even if she wasn’t home to do it, she did it when she came in, when she got home, in her heart.

majorettesShe went to all your conferences, all your concerts, recitals, assemblies, open houses. She knew every teacher’s name. She knew what your best subjects were, the ones you needed help with, the ones you hated.

In 18 years she prepared close to 20,000 meals (excluding snacks and Leap years), did over 10,000 loads of laundry, inside-outed 5,000 pairs of socks. Despite this, she’ll still cook dinner and do your laundry for you whenever you come home for a visit.

She said “you’ll be great,” when you said you wanted to be a truck driver. Then a hairdresser. A journalist, an accountant, an actress, a teacher. She said, “you’ll be great,” when you confided that you were worried about being a Mom or a Dad.

And sometimes she put her own dreams on hold so that she dust yours. Because that’s what Moms do.

 

 

 

 

 

Time Off for Good Behavior

01kgrhqrhye1fhtyejibngwbyiznw0_3As a mother, I’m daily frustrated by my kids’ trickle down behavior-you know, using up all the good stuff with other people and saving the not so good for the home front. And I get it, because I do the same thing, and I bet you do too.

Just like we were all spectacular parents before we had kids, we’re all better parents when other people are around. We’re on our best parenting behavior. On a plane, in a restaurant, with other parents. Oh, if only we were always the parents others see–the mum with the patience to endlessly pick up the toy their toddler keeps throwing on the floor without hurling it across the room; the cool, calm collected mother who is able to repeatedly tell her toddler to stop kicking the plane seat without losing her shit. The smiling Saturday morning Dad in the park who gently encourages without asking how it is statistically possible to drop a ball 100% of the time. Those parents on the bus who calmly use logic and redirection and positive reinforcement, even though it’s the 67th tantrum of the day and they really want to get off and leave their kid on the bus.

What a relief then when you get home and you can let your gut hang out and tell your kids what you really think. Because man, it’s hard to be on your best parenting behavior for long periods of time. It takes a lot of work not to yell at your kids. It uses up a lot of energy to refrain from rolling your eyes. It takes a steady hand to avoid sarcastic. It’s exhausting.tumblr_mqi8elgIz51sn9lzco2_1280

We recently had friends come to stay with us. It was nice to catch up and to reminisce, to hang out, but it was nice too when we said goodbye and I could finally yell at my kids in peace.

None of use are perfect parents. We all lose patience, threaten to strip privileges, say things we really don’t mean. Just as our children can be whiny and teary and cranky after a day at school on their best behavior, after long periods of time spent with other people pretending to be more patient than I really am, I get cranky and whiny too.

The truth is: I yell at my kids. Not all the time, but I do. From time to time I say things that are not helpful or kind. Some probably even border on mean. I’ve called them not-so-nice names and have been known to question their intelligence levels. I’ve cursed, I’ve stomped, I’ve thrown things, (not at them, but still…). I’ve ignored them, pretended I didn’t realize the allotted hour of iPad time was up, given them hot dogs for dinner without any vegetables two nights in a row. I’ve taken money from one kid’s piggy bank to use at tooth fairy money and never replaced it. None of those things are going to prompt anyone to call child protective services on me (I hope), but they’re all the things I try really hard not to do when I’m around other people. You know, when I’m on my best parenting behavior.

bj-werner-1967-mugshot-fashion-ladySometimes you find a group of like-minded friends and you can let your hair down a little. Confess that why yes, just this morning you called you child an idiot and that no, you really don’t feel bad about it because he was being an idiot. That’s when you know you’ve found your parenting tribe. Stick with them. You need a group of friends you can parenting fart in front of. Because everybody farts. I mean yells, everybody yells…

If only you got time off for good behavior.