Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day

Photo courtesy

Tomorrow is the annual holiday celebrating mothers in America.  The snarky cynic in me sees this holiday and all others now as an opportunity for consumer gorging and retail profiteering.  The emphasis is on buying, buying, buying gifts and flowers for Mom, taking her out for a restaurant meal, or giving her a day at the spa.  Someone somewhere will profit.  And what could possibly be bad about that?  On the surface, it looks like everyone wins and American mothers have 24 hours of full-on appreciation and love.

My memory of Mother's Day (and Father's Day, Valentine's Day, etc.) as a child is full of pressure.  First of all, don't forget Mother's Day!  Next, what are you going to give Mom?  There was special pressure on that second task as well as the expectation that of course I must give her a gift and it must be something really special for this holiday.  It was never a freewill choice.  Somewhere deep in my mind, I understood that if I protested all this pressure, I would not be regarded in a very positive light.  How could anyone not want to celebrate Mother's Day and mothers?

Photo courtesy

The thing is, celebrating someone's presence in your life shouldn't be a one-day-a-year holiday.  It needs to be something that's always there, that is spontaneous and genuine.  We condition and program our kids to celebrate these holidays in a certain way, rather than celebrating the people important to them at any time.  We condition and program our kids to spend money to celebrate -- to buy, buy, buy.  That's the correct way to celebrate someone.  Give her a gift.  We are training our kids to be good little consumers. 

At some point, it occurred to me that my mother would not be a mother without her children.  So, I began to introduce the idea that Mother's (and Father's) Day was just as much about the children as the parent.  And the children are the gifts.  This did not sit well with my family, of course.  Especially my mother who was fond of reminding her kids of everything that she had sacrificed in order to have us.  But the thing is, she made the choice of her own free will to become a mother, so to hold her "sacrifices" (what sacrifices?  She never specified them.  I never could figure out what she had truly sacrificed to be a mother) over her children was cruel.  As an adult, I now understand that my mother was terribly insecure, and she worried all the time that she wasn't a good mother, that she was doing something wrong, that her kids wouldn't love her.

So, the bottom line for me was being forced, coerced as a child into celebrating a holiday that was essentially for the retail sector of our society.  It was the same for Father's Day.  There was no holiday for children.  I continued to endorse my idea that these holidays were about the children, too, and made a point of appreciating my mother whenever I thought of it during the year, not only on one day.  Eventually, my gift to her, whether on Mother's Day or some weekday I was thinking of her, was to call her and chat for a while.

My father died in 1986, my mother in 2002.  Not having living parents now gives me even more distance from these particular holidays.  I made the choice many years ago not to have children myself.  I remember my parents on these holidays, and continue to learn about them as time passes.  But I'm glad that I no longer must buy, buy, buy on the consumer hamster wheel....


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