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

Blowing Bubbles

00002a9c_mediumThere was a time when I was moon, sun, and stars to my boys. Their days began and ended with me: a morning hug around the neck, a goodnight kiss in the dark.

It was exhausting, but it was also gloriously uncomplicated.

These days their need for me grows more nuanced by the hour. I no longer have to follow their toddling legs around to make sure they aren’t sticking forks in the outlets or finding coins to swallow. Nowadays it’s conversation and shared experience, text and email.

I miss my babies and my sturdy, chunky toddlers, my excited pre-schoolers, but I realized the other day what I miss even more is blowing bubbles.

Remember when a bottle of soap bubbles was enough? When those filmy baubles floating into the air coaxed a smile or a gaze of wonder? It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of magic at my fingertips.

I know there’s magic deep down. There are layers of love and listening and trust that are building up over time, foundations and steps that will be high enough for them to stand on one day, by themselves. I know those things are vital and necessary and important.

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But sometimes it would be nice to grab a bottle of bubbles and see the world light up in those brown eyes again.

Increasingly it is difficult to find things for us all to do. They would rather play on an X-box and I have boxes of my own to tick. The pendulum swings from wildly busy to mind-numbingly not–from hummingbird to sloth depending on sports schedules and homework, travel and school. My (oft lame) suggestions of family outings or trips to the museum are met with half-hearted shrugs or outright dismissal.

I miss the times when just being with me was enough to do. Swinging in the playground,  running in endless circles or digging in a sandbox. The glee is contained now. It still bursts through sometimes, but it has to pierce a thicker skin. Or it could be they are away from me for such long chunks of time I don’t see it as often.

53fa9a98c673904e53b3406b003f659aLife is immeasurably easier. There is quiet, there is peace. There is reasoning. I am exhausted as I watch mothers of young toddlers following them as their little wills go faster than their legs can carry them, mothers ready to soothe a scraped palm when they pitch forward to the ground, who swoop them up and plant a hundred kisses on them.

I miss the magic kisses too.

But mostly I miss the bubbles, the way we would chase them through the sky, their little legs following as fast as their hearts would let them.

I miss a time when most of the magic was me, when the day rose and set with a hug around the neck.

 

The Number You Have Reached Has Been Disconnected

vintage-phone-boothLike many parents, I thought my tween/teen having a cell phone was a great idea. After all, adolescents and phones is sort of the modern-day symbiotic relationship, the technological equivalent of the crocodile and the plover.

A teen with a cell phone can call you for a ride when their no-good-never-liked-them-anyway friend has too much vodka. A teen with a cell phone can call to confirm they’ve arrived safely. A teen with a cell phone can be in constant contact, a ring tone away, easing the fears and worries which seem to plague modern-day parenting.

Then I read an article written by a psychologist who argued eloquently against the rise of cell phones.** His reasons? A teen with a cell phone can call to confirm they’ve arrived safely. A teen with a cell phone can be in constant contact, a ring tone away, exacerbating the fears and worries which seem to plague modern-day parenting.

That need, desire, demand for constant contact has caused us to move from the assumption of all being well unless we get a call to the assumption of everything is wrong unless we get a call. That’s a pretty seismic shift in the parenting psyche.

Perhaps no where is the reliance upon easy, constant communication more obvious than the phone call from school; the one asking you to bring something, the one from the hallway saying I don’t feel well, come and get me, the one demanding the lunch that was left on the countertop or the homework on the bedroom floor or the money that was supposed to be in for the field trip four days ago.

This very modern tool which is supposed to make our kids–and us parents–feel safer, is, the article argued, actually preventing our children from figuring out how to get themselves out of tricky situations, accept responsibility, and yes, sometimes, even have a shitty day because they forgot their homework.

Apparently in psychological terms, it’s important to have a shitty day every now and then. I think it builds character or something. Nowadays they call it resilience. Or grit.

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A few weeks ago my own phone rang before I’d even left the school parking lot. It was my tween informing me he needed me to go home and get something he needed for a class. I was on my way somewhere else. I didn’t have time to cycle home, gather the things he’d forgotten, cycle back and still get to my own class on time.

So I said no. And then promptly drowned in guilt as I listened to my son cry on the phone.

So, modern parenting dilemma #9,303: Should I have changed my plans because he forgot something? In the end, he didn’t need it right away and so there was time for me to finish my class, retrieve said items and return them to school. But if his class was first thing in the morning, he would have been out of luck.

Does that make me a good mom or a shitty one?

There is something to be said about the days of yore when as a student I would have had to procure a hall pass (no easy feat in itself), go to the office and convince the secretary to call my mother. That something is more important and more profound than simply ‘it was better back in the day’.

For me to have done that, it would have had to be pretty important. I was expected, and trusted, to look after myself, my belongings, my homework, lunch, maxi-pads, allergy meds, permission slips, class funds, and whatever else fit in my reversible fabric purse with the bamboo handle (remember those? I loved those.)

Growing up we got ourselves into all sorts of predicaments. For the most part, we got ourselves out of them as well. We were expected to and, simply because the technology didn’t exist, we were forced to. Not always, of course. I knew that when the chips were seriously down my parents would be there. But I didn’t cash in those chips unless I absolutely needed to.

At the end of the day, if either of my sons are stranded, or in a dangerous situation, of course I want to help them. If they can call me instead of putting themselves in mortal peril, I want to be on speed-dial, just a ringtone away.

But…I don’t want them calling me because they forgot something it was their responsibility to remember in the first place. What does it teach them if I drop what I’m doing to be at their beck and call other than “Oh, Mom’ll go and get it, no worries”? The fact that I don’t work adds another subtle layer. A mother who is at home is generally expected to be at the beck and call of her family, to drop whatever it is she is doing to lubricate the wheels that keep the family moving. Even if the wheels are stuck because someone else forgot to grease them.

That attitude reinforces the idea that my time is less important. My plans can be shuffled. My needs can be reorganized. It means I’m expected to always be able to put my schedule, needs, and priorities below those of my children.

Some would argue that’s what motherhood is. I’ll argue there’s a time and a place for priority reshuffling. Dropping everything, changing plans, altering schedules to essentially act as a Geisha to my kids doesn’t teach them I’m there for them. It doesn’t teach them I’ve got their back. What it does is reinforce the notion that they don’t need to look after their things or be responsible because, well, they can just call mom.

I don’t need to be the superhero, swooping in with soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and crumpled math homework, with an alternative ride home or advice on what to eat in the cafeteria. I’m ok with just being mom, kisser of scraped knees, feeler of fevered foreheads and chief moralist.

There’s a thin line between making sure your kids know they can ask for help and their relying on you for every decision, every mistake, and every predicament.

A fine line, but an important one.

 

**Try as I may, I can’t find the article to link here.

 

 

 

Good Guys with Guns

Avoid-Raod-RageMy sister told a funny story over Christmas.

Our mother, waiting to pull into a parking space, was thwarted by a black-hearted parking space thief. Righteous and indignant, she got out of her own car, knocked on the window of the other and proceeded to tell the driver off. My mother didn’t swear or rant or beat on the hood of the car. She didn’t even give her the finger. Instead she simply said, “I hope you don’t have a nice day. And I hope you don’t find what you’re looking for in Marshall’s.”

We fell over ourselves laughing at my mother’s choice of fightin’ words. But the laughter was soon eclipsed by the dark truth of the matter; because I had to make my feisty seventy-year-old mother promise me she wouldn’t do anything like that again. Because you can never tell these days when you’re likely to get shot.

What an utterly ridiculous thing to have to think, let alone say.

Yet not a month later didn’t I see an article about a man who shot another man over a parking space dispute? In Boston no less, less than an hour from where my mother’s Marshall’s parking lot rage played out.

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Apparently this is what it’s come down to. A country hopped up on Guns n Ammo. A country gone from a landscape of majestic mountains and golden wheat fields to something out of a Quentin Tarantino film. A country with a surprising number of people who adamantly believe the answer is more guns, who won’t be happy until everyone is walking around with a poncho and a shoulder holster like a living, breathing adaptation of The Magnificent Seven.

It’s only a matter of time before they suggest handing out handgun permits when you have a baby. Like they do with car seats.

It’s ok though. Because all this murder and mayhem? That’s the bad guys with guns. Not the good guys with guns.

The funny thing about that is, well…criminals aren’t actually criminals until they commit a crime. So right up until the moment that guy with a gun starts shooting up a movie theatre or a or a school, he was just another good guy with a gun. I haven’t seen any statistics of the number of good guys with guns who have managed to prevent a mass shooting. Please feel free to link me up.

It’s possible I’m just missing those stories on my news feed because they’re getting lost in the articles about toddlers accidentally shooting parents, kids shooting other kids on purpose, and family members killing each other. Or the ones about pissed off people shooting up their workplace. Maybe it’s the ones I have to scroll through about men killing women who left them, men killing women they don’t know just because they’re women. Or the ones about people getting shot for texting too loudly, for not being a good enough waitress, for shining their lights it the parking lot too brightly, for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The problem is there is no right place anymore. There is nowhere safe. Not Maine, where two men convicted of domestic abuse are taking their fight to own a gun despite a federal ban all the way to The Supreme Court. (For the record, a woman is 500% more likely to be killed in a domestic dispute in a home that has a firearm). Or in Georgia, where you can be legally blind and still purchase, own, and carry a gun. It probably won’t be safe in Iowa either, where it’s likely a bill making it legal for a child under the age of 14 to possess a handgun will soon be on the books.

boy gunSome perspective: If you have a pool or a trampoline on your property, you’re required to have fences, safety measures and liability insurance. In fact, some insurers won’t even let you take out a policy at all if you have a trampoline. Yet you can have a house full of guns with no liability requirement, whatsoever. You can’t have a freaking trampoline, but you can have a gun. I’ll take my chances of my kid coming home with a broken arm rather than a fatal bullet to the chest on a playdate gone wrong, thanks.

If you are required to have fences and nets, you should be required to have a gun safe to lock your guns in. If you’re blind, you shouldn’t be able to buy or own a gun. If you’re a doctor, you should be able to ask your patients about whether or not they have guns in the house to discuss safety issues with them. Yet if you’re a physician in Florida, guess what? You can’t. It’s against the law.

It probably doesn’t surprise you to learn I have never fired a gun. I’ve never had any interest. It may surprise you, however, to learn I grew up with a gun in the house (a hunting rifle). It may also surprise you to know that I don’t necessarily believe in banning all guns.

What I do believe is that no ordinary citizen needs an automatic weapon or hollow point bullets or body armor. I believe every ordinary citizen with a gun needs a thorough background check, a waiting period, classes on gun safety and proof of meeting stricter guidelines and requirements. I believe gun owners should be required to have liability insurance. And I also believe gun owners need to be held accountable.

What I don’t believe is that owning a weapon is an absolute right which should be placed above all else.

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A kid doesn’t need a handgun. No child needs a handgun. For the love of God, no child needs to possess a handgun. If you want them to hit targets, sign them up for archery lessons. The fourteen year old who gets shot by a friend because of a gun bought and not secured? How many times am I going to read a variation of that story? A man who is convicted of battery against a woman? Sorry. Nope. Her right to life trumps the right to own a gun. If you’re really that into guns, perhaps you should think about it before you beat the shit out of your girlfriend or wife.

This idea of the absolute right of the individual coming above all else is rapidly becoming the biggest danger faced in the US today. But it’s ok, right. Good guys with guns and all that. They’ll save us. Ponchos and all.

Just remember, all those shooters? All those people responsible for killing others? They were all good guys with guns. Before they weren’t.