Today I am fairly certain I will become the owner of two new Hibiscus plants. I say that because that’s what I’ve told my kids to get me. I didn’t even subtly drop hints. I just said, “Dudes, it’s Mother’s Day all over America this Sunday and I need two red Hibiscus plants for the front yard. You can get them at the Home Depot. Maybe get your Dad to take you.” Message received, they both nodded their assent, grateful that we’re all on the same page.
Yes, I know it’s probably not how a woman is supposed to do Mother’s Day. I expect I’m meant to be doing something lady-like like swooning over chintz fabric to make lovely little throw cushions or some crap like that, gasping with surprise when my kids appear with some flower/balloon display combo proclaiming their undying love. But we’re really not that kind of family. If I’m honest, I’m not convinced anybody is that kind of family.
I’m not a big fan of the Mother’s Day thing - though for selfish reasons, I’m not entirely against it - Oh come on, who doesn’t like getting stuff? My issue is that for a day that’s supposed to be about celebration, too many people experience alienation.
Because families are not all created equal. Fact.
I know I’ve been very lucky. I loved my mother very much, and she me. And I in turn have two sons I love very much, and they me. But, you don’t have to be Freud to recognize that ‘mothering’ in terms of a topic is not universally simple.
I know people who are struggling with infertility, some who have lost children, same-sex families, and blended families where the right mother to celebrate can be a bit of a political minefield. People who’ve been abandoned by their mothers. Mothers who are estranged from their offspring. That’s a whole lot of issues right there that you won’t find in poetic form in the middle of your average Hallmark card.
And honestly, I’m not even sure I am a proper mother. Yes I did all that biological stuff that qualifies me, but in some ways, Mark is better at mothering roles than me: doctors appointments, school councils, anything involving form filling or timetabling or driving to and from, that’s him. But he's not a lady, so his mothering skills are not celebrated today. He gets Father’s Day to be equally awkward about.
Parenting-wise, I’m more the cuddles, the ‘big talks’, the taking care of when sick, the hot dinners, the ‘Do you currently feel you’re being the best version of yourself?” conversations. If that counts as mothering, then sure, I do that.
Historically, I did try to downplay Mother’s Day one year, but it didn’t work. Because I completely ignored it, both boys did too, and I was surprisingly offended.
So that Sunday afternoon, I called a meeting in the living room and stated that as it seemed there’d been a vote in the house to completely ignore card-giving days, I expected this meant I could completely ignore both their birthdays and Christmas as well. That sorted that shit out pronto.
It would be nice if these days that we know are kind of bullshit didn’t actually affect us. But the real shit is that they do.
We have one custom we do as a family every birthday/holiday/special event that I love called the three things. We sit together at the dinner table or in the living room and each one of in turn has to say:
What we are grateful for.
Something that we love, like, or respect in each of the other people in the group.
Something we did today that we are proud of.
Yes, I know that might seem ridiculously touchy-feely, but doing those three things together as a family have not just seen us through special events, they’ve also helped us keep our heads above water during some pretty horrific times. Because no matter what three things are said, they remind us that we are part of something, and we belong.
So, later today there’s a very high likelihood of getting two Hibiscus plants and I’ll totally act shocked and surprised because I am not a heathen. Also, I’ve got a laundry to put on, and I have to feed and walk the dog. Then, I’ll potter about the kitchen making a late brunch, and maybe later on I’ll potter about the garden. Then probably some time around dinner time we’ll sit together and do the three things, and then we’ll wander off into our lives again.
If you’re struggling with today, you could do worse than trying the three things with people you see as your family, in person, or on a call. And if any one of those people tries to make you feel like you’re being a big softy by suggesting it, guilt trip them into submission. That’s what I always do.
Because today, like every day, you do have a right to feel you belong.
Till next week,
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