IT’S Mother’s Day, and that means half-burnt breakfasts are being proudly assembled all across the land. Slightly off-kilter cakes are being swathed in frosting by little girls who should have tied back their flyaway hair, and handmade cards are being painstakingly embellished by the chubby fingers of young ’uns with no apparent spellchecker. How lovely.
There’s nothing sweeter than being reminded that who you are, and what you do, matters, and that you are appreciated. Of course some people think that Mother’s Day, like Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day, is nothing but another hideous symbol of the vast conspiracy between Hallmark, Tiffany and North America’s florists.
They forget that there’s no law that commercial vendors have to be brought into the picture. The do-it-yourselfers can rule this day – and, in my view, they should.
I think most mums prefer the homemade tributes anyway. I’ve received cards that listed as one of my top ten assets “Sometimes there’s an odd smell coming from you” (I sure hope that was a joke) and another that said my chief charm is that I never take kids to bad movies. (Having sat through both Pokemon features once upon a time, I know this to be completely untrue.) With Stanley at the helm, I’ve been treated to brunch, kid-made suppers and special desserts, plied with champagne, and urged to relax for hours with a book in the sunshine. It’s all been swell, and I’ve cherished every moment of it.
But frankly, I’m not the mother who really needs this stuff. My family is pretty nice to me year-round, and, while I suppose I’d be hurt if nobody acknowledged that it was Mother’s Day and I’m not that bad as mothers go, I’d get over it pretty fast. I just hope the mothers out there who rarely get a kind word or a scrap of affection from their kids, stepkids, or spouse get bowled over today.
There are lots of people from cultures or families where saying thanks is not the norm, hugs are scarce, and uttering the words “I love you” is seen as sappy. Growing up, members of my family did not say “I love you” to each other, either. That would have been unusual back then. In fact, if we’d done it, I think we would have surprised, if not horrified, the recipients of our affections. It was a subtler time, when love between family members was simply assumed, and obedience and respect were – perhaps naively -- expected.
There was nothing wrong with that approach, per se. The fact that my parents, who grew up during World War II, weren’t the least bit sentimental or flowery with my siblings or me had no bearing on whether they loved their kids. In those days, unlike now, there were things you thought and felt that you did not believe were appropriate to express. Your feelings were not the primary focus of your day, and they weren’t supposed to be the focus of anybody else’s, either.
But you know, sometimes even the most together, no-nonsense person in the world needs a few tender words. Maybe your mother or wife has been fighting with belligerent teenagers for months, trying to keep them in line, or taking care of an ailing parent every day while also making dinner for the family every night, or working at a job that’s draining and poorly paid, then coming home to a house in an uproar. Perhaps she takes care of her grandkids for free so their parents can pay the mortgage, or take an annual trip to Vegas.
It’s also possible that she’s revamped all the family’s favourite meals to accommodate the needs of somebody who suddenly decided to go vegetarian without bothering to learn how to cook. She might be in bad health herself but is still trying to ensure that others are properly attended. Maybe this woman is not your mother at all, but your stepmother or guardian, trying to do the best she can for kids who’d rather have the mum who gave birth to them than this well-meaning but irritating alien. For this woman in particular, being a grown-up is just as much of a struggle as being a kid – and, like everybody else, she’d surely appreciate the odd gold star.
We all have our crosses to bear, of course, and dads do all sorts of wondrous things and make equally huge sacrifices. They deserve to get praise on Father’s Day for the numerous tasks they perform, as well, and so they will, come June.
Right now, though, it’s time to give that old lady of yours a kiss and say thanks for sticking by you, through thick and thin, especially if you rarely acknowledge her effort. Sit down with her, prepare and share a proper cup of tea, compliment something she has done, do a little positive reminiscing. However imperfect, she’s the only mum you’ve got – make the most of her.