I just spent a half hour over at Salon.com, which was probably not a smart idea on a Sunday morning, but especially not on Mother’s Day. I had no idea the holiday had so many detractors – even my beloved Anne Lamott hates Mother’s Day – and now I’m feeling sad and a little sick inside.
It is Salon’s unabashed mission to chip away at every institution that rank-and-file Americans hold sacred – to spotlight their flaws, anyway – and that mission is not without its value. But sometimes, I feel like they’re playing a game of cultural Jenga over there. For the uninitiated, Jenga is described by Wikipedia as a game in which “players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. Each block removed is then balanced on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but less stable structure.”
Progressively taller but less stable. A resonant phrase.
One wonders how many blocks can be yanked out of our culture before the whole thing topples.
The general gripe about Mother’s Day seems to be that it’s a dishonest holiday because: A) Mothers aren’t perfect (sometimes, in fact, they’re perfectly awful); B) Motherhood isn’t always glorious; and C) Many women lead very full, meaningful lives without having children.
It seems to me we have 364 days a year to acknowledge those obvious realities. And then there’s Mother’s Day.
Some of the Salon writers are worried that their child-free friends feel undervalued on Mother’s Day. I do not feel that way on National Secretary’s Day or National Teacher’s Day – actually, I think teachers get a whole week – but, okay, let’s say some non-moms really are feeling like second class citizens on Mother’s Day. If you’re one of those, I would encourage you to make your own mother the focus of the day… not yourself. (That’s what we should all be doing, actually.) If your mother’s no longer alive, remember her, with love. If your mother isn’t (or wasn’t) a great mother, thank her anyway, and forgive her. Chances are, she was doing the best she could. I have a great mother, but she’s not perfect. (Sorry, Mom!) I am not a great mother, but my daughter loves me anyway. (Thanks, Amelia!) Today’s not a day for fuming and counting mistakes and harboring grudges. It’s a day for gratitude and reconciliation. If you’re not feeling it, try harder.
And if none of this works – if you just can’t help hating Mother’s Day, no matter what – that’s fine, too. But instead of hating it, why not just ignore it? Go to the beach. Take in a movie. Do some spring cleaning. Whatever. It’s just one day, and many, many people hold it dear. Let them enjoy it while you enjoy something else. Be gracious.
Tomorrow, it’ll all be over, and we moms will return to packing lunches, schlepping carpools, folding laundry, signing permission slips, cursing algebra homework, not sleeping well, and ceaselessly nagging.
For today, let us have our lanyards and our brunches.