Yes, I remember that I have a blog. You remember that I have a life? Yes. Lots of it, lately, as it turns out. Its all good and I will think of something pithy to write, soon.
Today, though, the words are not mine. I want to share with you what my dear friend Julie shared with me about how complicated Mother's Day sentiments can be for many of us. Her words brought tears to my eyes, and yet ultimately brought a smile and a nod. I asked if I could share them with you and she graciously agreed.
In her own words:
I don’t like Mother’s Day. I admit it. Oh, I smile and pretend to be cheerful for the sake of those around me, but inside I cringe. If there is one thing I’m thankful for on Mother’s Day its that I only have to be exposed to it one day a year and then its over for 364 days. Or so I thought. This morning, the day after Mother’s Day, the girl at Starbucks wished me happy Mother’s Day while she was collecting for my Americano. My stomach tightened and I could feel my blood pressure going up. How does she even know if I’m a parent? I smiled and said thank you. Yesterday, I went to the nail salon as I will typically do on a Sunday afternoon every few weeks. Lesson learned….better to tough it out one more week than go on Mother’s Day. The place was full of women who apparently thought that I and everyone else within earshot needed to know what wonderful families they have. An amazing husband and loving children who woke them up with a 5 course gourmet breakfast (and of course they all stood around adoringly gazing at her while she daintily ate with perfect table manners), dozens of flowers, a full spa day, cleaned the house….”anything for the most wonderful mother on the world”. I’m sure they had perfect hair, makeup and breath when they woke up to their loving family paying homage to them on this special day. Yeah. I should have waited.
My feelings about Mother’s Day started at a very young age. My adoptive mother had some very set in concrete ideas about how the day should go down each year. And we never lived up to it. Ever. Each year there would be the tears and arguments because the day did not live up to her expectations. She did not get the right gift, reservations for brunch were made at the wrong restaurant, or not made at all, it was always something. She would verbally lash out at both my adoptive father and myself and when she was done she would go to her room to cry. And, as he typically did, my adoptive father would take out his anger on me, resulting in emotional and physical bruises. Then we would all get dressed up and go out to be on parade as a “loving happy family”. Mother’s Day made her a little crazy….and I dreaded it.
Once I got older and had kids of my own, I thought my feelings would change, but instead I got better at putting on the happy act. My kids would make me little gifts at school and/or daycare and I loved every single one of them. I still have many of them today. But I still had the sense of dread. I would have to call my adoptive mother. And I knew she would not be happy. At least I was living in another state and would not be on the receiving end of anyone’s fist or foot.
I also now had another reason to dread Mother’s Day. As I had children of my own, I began to think more and more about my birthmother. I was adopted as an infant in the early 1960s. It was a closed adoption and I did not know her, her name or anything about her. Mother’s Day (as well as my birthday) reminded me of this. I wondered if she ever thought of me. If she ever wondered where I was and how I was doing. If she would ever try to find me. Years later, I found her. We reunited for a few years, but over time it became clear she was not willing to have any kind of relationship with me. Once a dirty little secret, always a dirty little secret.
And last but certainly not least, I think of my son on Mother’s Day. My beautiful son, who died in 1995 at the age of 6. Honestly, I think of him every day, but days like Mother’s Day are worse. If I had been a better parent, he would probably still be alive today.
Finally, I rebelled. No more would I celebrate Mother’s Day. No more would I smile and act cheerful when there was nothing to be cheerful about. Mother’s Day would cease to exist in my world. Some silly holiday was not going to define how I felt. I would be in control of how I felt. There was a huge weight that lifted from my shoulders. However, there were unintended consequences. I confused my daughters, who didn’t understand why, all of a sudden, Mother’s Day was something to be ignored. They would still make some efforts over the next few years, to which I would explain that I was not celebrating Mother’s Day anymore. Looking back on that now, I realize I was unfair to them. They had no way of understanding why I felt the way I did. They didn’t know my history. Heck, even I didn’t completely understand why Mother’s Day made me sad and angry at the same time. I suspect in some way they felt it had something to do with them, which was absolutely not the case. I love my kids more than they will ever know. The little tokens they gave me on Mother’s Day was their way of doing something nice for me, because they cared. And I denied them that opportunity. In retrospect, it was a very selfish thing to do.
Over the years I’ve learned just because I don’t like Mother’s Day is no reason for others to not enjoy it. I think that, at the end of the day, its more about the people who are doing the giving rather than the people who are receiving. So I go through the motions. On Saturday I bought a nice card for my daughter from her 3 year old son, along with some chocolate strawberries. On Sunday morning, I quietly woke him up and helped him “sign” the card. Then with my coaching, he quietly knocked on her door and went into her room, card and strawberries in hand. I was proud to see that he did say “Happy Mother’s Day Mommie” (we rehearsed beforehand), and she was thrilled. It was not a 5 course gourmet breakfast and I’m sure he was gazing more adoringly at the chocolate covered strawberries than at her, but she seemed to be pleased nonetheless. There was a small piece of me, that for a second, longed to be in her place. Then, I quietly closed the door and went back downstairs. It was their moment as mother and son. And so, with this simple act, I instilled a tradition within my grandson and helped to increase their bond. May they enjoy many more Mother’s Days together.
Julie, what you shared is to me a perfect illustration of the concept of the twofold yes: Acknowledging the pain of what is hurtful and and accepting that life can contain both pain and peace at the same time. Thank you so much for letting me share this.