I don’t know what to do about Mother’s Day anymore. Do I celebrate it? Do I guilt my kids into acknowledging it? Do I give it up altogether? While giving up Mother’s Day might seem extreme, there are a lot of women who aren’t exactly fans. Some see Mother’s Day as an exclusive, private club to which even neglectful mothers are admitted while wonderful women without children are shunned.
For some, it’s the explosion of commercialism with the toxic fallout coating Mother’s Day in a gaudy cape of store-bought cards, fake flowers and expensive jewelry. Even the creator of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, hated what retailers had done to her brainchild; she lobbied unsuccessfully (obviously) to have the day stricken from the calendar.
My personal truth is this: Mother’s Day isn’t the same since my mother died, and it instantly elevated my status in the family to “co-grand dame,” a mantle I share with two sisters-in-laws and two cousins. I can only speak for myself when I say that I never intended to be a grand dame but, by the time my mother passed, so had both my grandmothers and all my aunts. So, there I was: suddenly bumped up a notch.
One of the toughest days of my life – and I’m not exaggerating – was Mother’s Day 2016, three months after my mother’s death. It took me hours to come around to the notion that I could be celebrating it with my kids. That was the year I did something I will never do again: I whined and moaned at my 15-year-old because he failed to acknowledge my “special day” – even as his sister skated circles around him with a card, a gift and breakfast in bed.
“What were you thinking?” I scolded myself later. “That boy loves you, he shows you every day, and you chew him out over not putting it in writing on this one, single, grief-soaked Mother’s Day.”
When I was little, and we were putting up our Christmas tree, I accidentally broke an antique ornament that my mother cherished. She was instantly tearful, and I felt instantly awful. She later told me that sometimes things go wrong and that trivial things get broken. She apologized for getting that upset, telling me to remember what she had said the next time something sad but not really all that important happened. Then, my mother promised to try to remember her own words.
I wish I’d remembered before talking to my son that way. I’m remembering now; before Mother’s Day, I’ll remind myself again. I’ll then have that same talk with my son, being sure to thank him for being one of the two greatest gifts a mother could ever ask for.