“Do me a favor…Don’t get me flowers under any circumstances or I will be pissed.”
I sent this text to my husband the other day. I was referring to Mother’s Day. The holiday that creeps around every year like the rest of them, you know…Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s day, etc. This day has always been a sense of soreness for me. Until I decided to stop hiding my feelings about what this day truly means, at least for me. I have hid my feelings for a rather long time. I mean, how could I not when we live in a society where we are taught to contain, hold back, shushed, and looked at as ‘bad’ if we are too loud, exuberant or colorful to say the least. I have a neighbor, who’s son went to school dressed in the most amazing and beautiful colored costumes on all the fun holidays. He was eccentric and encouraged to be so by his parents. They wanted him to express himself and be free to be himself. It was deemed as ‘cute’ when he was younger in elementary school. But then when he moved onto middle school he began to be categorized and slandered for his harmless expression of himself. It made me sick to think that as children bullied him for being himself the faculty supported this notion by telling the mom one day, “Well, if he is going to be ‘that way’ he as to be able to take the comments that other’s say to him. I mean, he is different, and if he wants to be different, he must be able to ‘take’ the comments of other children.” This was an administration member of the local middle school explaining this to the mom of the boy who had gone to school wildly dressed that day in celebration of yet another holiday and received slandering comments from the children. The mom found out about this, and like many mothers, called the school to inform them of what had happened.
Humph. I think to myself. “If he wants to be different, he must be able to ‘take’ the comments of other children.” We actually believe this stuff!? We actually still believe in our 2020 society that if we want to be different we have to be able to secretly ‘take’ the rolling eyes, the whispers of slander, and the note passing that goes on day to day in our schools today. Bullying is no longer out right hitting and destroying your personal items. No, it has become a secret society that hides out of their own fears and desperations and jealousies of wanting to be different but never being able to take the plunge out of fear of being caught or unaccepted by the rest of society. We have accepted this as the new normal. It’s heart breaking. Some of you may shake your heads in denial that this is not what is still going on today. But I encourage you to talk to your kids. I mean, really talk to your kids. Spend time with them asking them deep questions. Not the surface kinds that ask… “How was school today” when they walk in the door which offers virtually nothing but a ‘fine’ before they scatter off to their rooms. No, find the time on a walk, while they sit on the couch, or that off beat time that isn’t plannable. I encourage you to take the moments that present themselves to you in any varying ways and dig deep with questions such as, “Tell me about what it’s like to be at school during the day.” “Tell me how it is when you want to talk to a friend or join in on a conversation, but it may feel awkward or uninviting.” “What does it feel like to have to raise your hand in class or to be called on by the teacher unexpectedly.” “Has that ever happened to you? Has this happened to anyone else? What was it like?”
I encourage you to ask deep questions that encourage conversation about things that they know are happening but don’t know how to tell anyone. Because I promise you that one of these questions will open the door to a knowing within them that wants to be expressed but they don’t know how to do that because most of us truly just don’t want to know anyway. When we find out… I promise you will be surprised at what really goes on, still.
So, I sent this text to my husband because I really did NOT want anything for Mother’s Day. Not because I was boycotting the day all together but because I had, had enough of the celebratory ‘feel’ of a day that means nothing to me. Now, I am sharing my perspective. I am not trying to change the world here. What I am doing is sharing what is true for me…
I never understood Mother’s Day. I never understood this whole idea of celebrating something that clearly many of us just don’t know how to do anyway. When I became a mother, it was like a raw slap in the face where the burn and red-handed mark lasted for days, months, and years. It was as if someone painted this glorious picture of what motherhood should be like…it was a glorious land that when you arrived you would never turn away from it again. You would want to stay here forever amongst that lush green landscape, carnival colored flowers just bursting everywhere you looked, birds flying, and rainbow covered sky. It was anticipated as the best event of your life besides for marriage. We had parties and showers to celebrate the incoming child that was going to light up our life. We received gift after gift into this new magical land that would help us manage our new bundle of joy as we learned and carefully took on our new responsibilities of bathing, feeding and loving this incredible gift from God. Oh, what we do to paint a Never Never Land that we will never want to return from.
Me, I wanted to return. When I got to Never Land… I wanted to march right out of there and run the other way. No! This is not what I paid for….I want my ticket back! It wasn’t because I didn’t love my child….I did…I actually never felt a love for someone like I felt when my children were born. It was that no one told me the real hard true facts of motherhood. No one sat me down and told me that it was going to be one of the hardest things you will ever do and there is no way to do it right. If someone said,
“Jennifer I have a ticket to another land that is more beautiful and amazing than any place you have ever been before. You will go there and discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed. Parts of yourself that will bring you joy and elation and parts of you that will bring desperation and depression. If someone had told me it’s a transformative land and one that you will never return from the same again. This is a land where the journey never ends and will never take you to a perceived destination. You will constantly be learning, constantly growing, and it will feel awful, most of the time because you will never think that you are doing it right. The journey will go on forever in this new land and the lessons will be hard mostly because growing requires a lot of energy. The truest most wonderful thing about this land is that you will never be the same and you will always be expected to do things that are outside your comfort zone. You will have to be something that you are not ready to become.”
I would ask them, “Why would I pay for that?” and walk away.
Yep, that was me at the time I had kids. I had no clue what motherhood really was. Nothing out there showed me that. I had a mom that bucked out and died of cancer when I was 16. Not because she was a victim of a disease but because life was just too hard. This mom thing was a false idea that had been planted into her at an early age as well. She embarked on the same journey and failed miserably. Because she did not have the skills to rise above all the complications in her life.
And then I had a representation in society that painted a picture of motherhood that seemed like the destination that I wanted to have. You know, the “Leave it to Beaver” mom with the perfectly curled short hair, white shiny pearls around her neck, the freshly pressed dress that was starch white, and pointed heeled shoes she wore all day long! Ouch! She made being a mom look so wonderful! Always cheerful, always knowing, always monotone with worldly advice for her young ones. She was taken care of by her husband who would go to work everyday and provide a stable environment of trust and acceptance for the entire family. I actually thought that that was FAMILY! That I wanted that! I wanted to fit into a mold that was what society painted it be… a fantastical fantasy life that was so far from what is true and reverent to life that we have felt like that we can never be or live up to this standard because this standard is impossible!
Sadly, I had no idea. No idea. I grew up in a dauntingly chaotic household where the police coming to my house once a week to break up a raging fight by my mother and father and brother made just way too much noise for the neighbors. Thankfully, their calls, and my dad being taken away by the police actually gave us peace week in and week out. I remember trying to get our dog, Corky, to go out and distract them because I wanted them desperately to stop fighting. I tried myself, but I was relentlessly pushed away and sent to my room with a single handed push like I was a pebble shot away by an index finger across the room while they continued their brawl.
But, I wanted this… a normal family. I had no idea what normal was.
Fast forward many years later… I have three kids and an amazing husband who loves me. Loves me so much that I can say to him… “Don’t get me flowers or I’ll be pissed.” Why would I say such a thing? Because I am tired of falling into the Mother’s Day trap. Where kids and husbands feel pressured to do something nice for their mothers without for a second asking themselves why do they actually do this? I’ll never forget my husband coming to me year after year telling me, “Mother’s Day is this weekend and if you are going to the store can you pick up some cards for my mom?” Amazing that he would think of this on Wednesday and then we would have to Fed Ex Mother’s Day cards to his mom to get there by Saturday. Again. Year after year. Why? Because if his mom did not receive something that showed that her boy cared she would be forever hurt and just hurt enough that his dad would call to tell him so. Oh, the pressure.
The pressure to do something just because it was expected. This to me just does not make any sense. I loved the little hand made gifts that my children used to give me when they were in elementary school and the teacher would spend the time to help each child create something for mother’s day and the child would run home eager to just give mom their gift without the understanding they have to wait until Sunday. I loved that! No pressure and no expectation…they just wanted to celebrate mom no matter what day it was. I did this too.
As they got older, the pressure to perform remained the same but the intensity just unconsciously elevated itself because now they were expected to come up with something on their own. Even if someone went our and hand picked a card for them so that they would have to write a note to mom or grandma without understanding why they were being forced to do this in the first place.
I can imagine what may be going on in my kids minds today if they were to actually write what they really are thinking, “Thanks mom for birthing me. Although you didn’t have to do it, you did it anyway. Thanks for everything you do for me even though I can’t recall what that was… oh yay, driving me to practice and such. Oh, and have a good day.”
They’d ask themselves afterward… “Did I do that right? Do I pass the test? Gosh, I hope what I wrote is ok.”
Yep…that’s it… they really don’t get it… and either do I.
So I put a stop to it…for me anyway. I have officially boycotted Mother’s Day. Not because I am angry…ok well, maybe I am mildly annoyed with the whole thing.
Like, the holiday was invented in the later 1850’s not because someone decided to invent a day to celebrate Mothers, not as a day to celebrate one’s own mother, but as days of service to help out other mothers who were less fortunate band together to help teach them hygiene practices to take care for their children and keep them from getting sick. This was a ‘work day of days’ for mothers to help other mothers. A Mother’s Day Work Club, none the less. (TIME Mag. The Surprising Sad Origins of Mother’s Day, https://time.com/4771354/mothers-day-history-origins/ )
Or that the Mother’s Day theme of staying home with your children was really emphasized as a last stitched effort to push back on the 20th century Women’s movement that wanted to get out into the world to work and make a living.
So, for me, Mother’s Day is a choice. Do I really want to celebrate Mother’s Day? No. Because we already are who we are either by conscious or unconscious choices that we have made in our life. Mother’s Day has become the largest grossing holiday next to Christmas. Why? An effort to sensationalize something that just isn’t true. We are not meant to be the version of ourselves that is painted in all those commercials. I won’t even get into the religious version of mother hood. That just opens a whole other can of worms that can’t even be discussed in this short essay. (Oh! And I can hear the back lash now!)
I will say this… I do celebrate mothers who realize they have become the most truest and most deepest part of themselves not because of anything that they have seen or heard on tv, Instagram, or Facebook, BUT in spite of it.
So on mother’s day…I have decided instead to remind my kids of this… to courageously be the most truest and deepest part of themselves as much as possible… and then maybe I will have consciously come upon the true meaning of being a mother. For Mother’s Day I instead wrote them this…
Dear Ethan, Aiden, and Nora,
You have heard me say that I don’t want cards, flowers, or gifts for Mother’s Day. Actually, you heard me tell dad that I would be pissed if you or anyone else did this for me today. You may be wondering, Why? Well…I thought about it and decided I wanted you to know this…Mother’s Day is a celebration of women coming together to celebrate the enormous process of raising children. Yes you. I would never trade this choice in for anything else…although as you know I sure do act like I don’t want to be a mother at times. I don’t want you to learn through an expectation that sets you up for buying me something or making me something on a day that we are supposed to celebrate just because everyone else is doing it. You know our family is not typical which is what we need to celebrate and what we need to learn to do more of as much as possible. I don’t ever want anything from the three of you. Not because I am a martyr or a victim. No. Because I want you to know the truest part of being a mother. It is not the gifts or the cards or the flowers. It was a choice that I made a long time ago to be and do something that has brought me to a life with you today. TOGETHER we have created something beautiful. I did not do this alone. WE have created a family that I never had. WE have created a place in my heart that grows enormously with each passing year and all the wins and losses that come out of it as WE work together to make something of this world that can be anything that WE want it to be.
Which brings me to my next point…. I don’t want you to buy me or make anything for me because I already know that you appreciate me. I know this because you get upset when I don’t do the normal things, like wake you up in the morning when I get too busy. When I don’t have time to make dinner, you miss it. When I don’t have time to do the laundry, you wonder where are my clean clothes? You miss the normalcy that you were used to. I see that. I see how you value and appreciate through the losses you endure as we all shift and grow and create new states of normal within our family. I will always be your mother but I never want you to ever think that you should be like me. Not for a minute. I want you to be anything but me. In fact, I want to encourage you to do nothing like I did and marry no one like me if you even choose to get married. I want you to do so many things in your life that if you take your whole life figuring our what you want to do when you grow up that I will know that I did my job to the truest that I could have ever done. I want you to be thinking so outside the normal that you look at others and wonder why they do things the same way that they do all the time. I want you to wonder about everything. And above all else… be yourself. I want you to be so outside of yourself that through you being the version of you that is so insanely different from me that you inspire me to be more of myself. I want you to not follow the same path as everyone else… I want you to bulldoze your own path. That takes effort, responsibility, and a desire to create an abnormal life. I want you to know I love abnormal and god knows you know that I love it when we ask, “Why the Fuck do we always do this, this way?” and then we don’t. Because we have figured out that its not the path we want to take. I want you to never be like me or anyone else. I want you to turn away form the normal that you see on Facebook, Instagram, snap chat and certainly at school. And I want you to buck the norm. I want you to investigate, inquire, retreat, and come out always pushing the normal box over. I want you to be everything like you. And then I want you to teach me to be more of myself by you doing what abnormal does. Nothing like anyone else.
I know this may seem puzzling right now. And this may not make sense… but do me one favor… on mother’s day… lets make this a day that we begin to celebrate what it means to be so sure of yourself that you don’t need anyone to give you anything and you don’t need someone to do something nice for you that is expected. Let this be a reminder that you are to do three things in life…
- Question everything
- Feel everything
- Follow nothing
*Question why you are doing what you are doing in every moment. Always know what is true and right for you.
*Feel what is happening in every moment. Always know what is true and what is right for you.
*Resolve to follow nothing because you are always being what is true and right for you.
If you can follow these three things for the rest of your life, then I know that as a mom I have received all that I have ever wanted. Three seeds that I helped plant in this world to grow into the versions of themselves that touches the truest and brightest and deepest versions of themselves and this planet.
Lastly, embody your own knowing that nothing out there can ever fill you in here. (Your heart) Especially not me. Learn to fill yourself up in here so that you can spill out into the world out there in a way that is completely who you already are…you.
Then I will know that I succeeded at doing my job that this world says that Mother’s do on Mother’s Day…Nothing…Because you realized you are already everything and needed nothing from me to get there.
And you know what… I really don’t want flowers because then that would be taking form the greatest mother of us all, Earth. And she really needs them right now, more than me. Maybe that is what they meant by mothers helping mothers on Mother’s Work Day.
Love you more and less motherly every day,