I have never been fond of days that were created to sell greeting cards. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Farmers with Blue Overalls day, it doesn’t matter – I am not a fan. That being said, parents are important and should be celebrated if for no other reason than they lived through the parenting experience. When we were kids we would ask my mother what she would like for Mother’s Day or how she would like to spend the day. She always said the same thing “Every day is Mother’s day. There’s no need to do anything special.” We thought that she didn't really mean it, and if we didn’t express our love for her in some distinguishing way, it would surely be noted in subtle ways like, “Did you see what Andy got his mother?”
“No mom,” I would answer, “How would I see what Andy got his mother, they live in Arizona.” “Well,” she said “it is a beautiful watch – real diamonds – and adjustable. Of course, what would I do with diamonds? I mean you could have them after I’m dead. But I’m just as happy with a card or a phone call or nothing, because as I have said, every day is Mother’s day.”
This is a little exaggeration of what my actual mother would say, but you get the spirit of the conversation, and that’s what’s important. Anyway, over the last few years a number of my friends have lost their mothers – unfortunately not in the super market, where they could easily be recovered. In conversation about the loss, and it didn’t matter if they were close or there was a lifetime of animosity, all of them agree that the loss was devastating. And that it isn’t just the death and all the chaos that goes with that. It is that when their mom was alive they always felt like there was someone who cared for them unconditionally. They knew (although many didn’t do it), that their mom was just a phone call away. If something terrible or wonderful happened in their lives they could share the joy or the tragedy with her.
Although all of my good pals had mothers, about half of them didn’t have kids – most by choice. Some got married after they were thirty and were settled in their ways and a number of them didn’t marry and chose not to be single parents. They made a reasoned choice for themselves. Those of us who took the path most traveled (to reproduce in some fashion,) started from before we got pregnant, to map out a plan to be the perfect parent. We realized that was not going to happen the moment baby left the womb. So we rethought our perfection strategy and just tried to do the best we could. Here’s the problem, we thought we were doing our best and our kids thought we were determined to make them as miserable as was physically and emotionally possible. What we considered fun, they often considered torture. For example, we would take kids on a trip and expose them to an array of people, geography and maybe even cultures. We thought it was fabulous and what a good growth learning experience. They thought that fun was ongoing video games and never leaving the 24 hour movie channel in their room. If we arranged a tour of old cathedrals, they were convinced that we conspired to irritate their allergies. This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been a parent.
But here’s the saddest thing. I have spoken to any number of pals who have confessed that in discussion with their adult children, the kids thought they had miserable childhoods, totally devoid of laughter and love – none of my friends have the slightest idea about in whose homes those kids lived, but perception is reality. And no matter how hard they tried to convince them otherwise, (pictures, film, items collected while enjoying themselves), they insisted that they never spent a good day – OK maybe one, but that took real effort. Fortunately, I think my kids had at least a few good days, but how painful must it be for a mother who spent her entire life trying to do the right thing and truthfully, it didn’t matter.
When Mother’s Day rolls around, we expect that our kids will celebrate our efforts in some way. But really, we made the decision to give them life, they had nothing to do with it. Most of us tried our best, some tried harder, but what does taking one day to say “thanks and I love you mom” mean in the greater scheme of things? I think the time is better spent with us saying to our kids, thanks for being who you are, I love you unconditionally, and I’m sorry if it wasn’t all great – I hope you know I did the best I could to make you feel your life was worthwhile. Here's an idea: Hallmark should sell "Children's Day" cards and then it would remind us to value all those precious people. We're just sayin'...Iris
Thursday, May 07, 2009
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I don't think you can know the full meaning of unconditional love unless you are a parent (not just mothers). Isn't it the most amazing phenomenon? We do the best we can and our kids (survivors of cold showers) will turn out just fine...in spite of us.
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