I intended to write this post yesterday, you know, it being actual Mother’s Day and all. I composed almost an entire blog post in my head driving along the A55, a lot of it very profound I thought.
If only I’d had a dictaphone handy. Alas, I had to rely on my memory, and ability to stay awake long enough after the kids had gone to bed in order to actually type it out. Fail and FAIL.
I was fast asleep not long after they were, in the literally-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open kind of way that happens in the final week leading up to my next treatment.
I had all these deep things I was going to say, and 24 hours later, I can’t remember any of it.
Therefore this post will not even remotely resemble that one.
Basically, in the words of Tenacious D “This is just a tribute”.
I am sure a lot of people view Mother’s Day, along with Father’s Day and Grandparent’s Day and Teacher’s Week etc etc as commercialised and gimmicky. Surely, we shouldn’t need reminding, one day out of 365, that we love the people in our lives and should take time to appreciate them. Well no, you’d hope not. But before I join in the hate-fest and start ranting about stereotypical marketing and overpriced flowers, I would like to share how I spent Mother’s Day.
First up, I woke up at 8am instead of 7am. Undermined slightly by the fact that the only reason that happened was because the clocks had been moved forward for “British Summer Time” (Ha!) I was also brought a cup of tea in bed along with a couple of very cute cards. One from the boys (complete with pictures) and another from Chris. Which is what got me musing about the whole “Mother’s Day” debate in the first place, the fact that the whole thing, at least in the first few years of a child’s life, has to be orchestrated by the other adult in the house. If Chris wasn’t around would my 4 year old and 2 year old be making me hot drinks unsupervised and carrying them up the stairs? Or buying, or indeed, making cards in secret, ready to present on the day? That would be a no then.
After gulping down my hot tea there was no time for dawdling, or breakfast in bed as we had places to be. Yesterday was the day we had chosen for scattering Joy’s ashes.
90 minutes and 100 miles later, we were in Trefriw, a tiny village in North Wales where Chris lived as a boy, and where Joy had enough happy memories that she’d mentioned it, in her final days, as a suggestion of where to scatter her ashes.
I’d never been before, so in the typical city-girl way, I was immediately in awe of the silence, and the lush greenery. We headed up to the waterfall where Chris had played as a kid, known as “Fairy Falls”. The little placard says the name comes from the Victorian era:
“The Trefriw Fairy Falls were named by the Victorians who were fascinated with fairies and identified many enchanting locations as home to these diminutive, mythical creatures.”
Scattering anyone’s ashes is an emotional task, but especially your Mother’s ashes. On Mother’s Day. So it wasn’t a “nice” day, because we’d all rather have not been there, but at the same time, it was a nice day. Because if your Mother’s ashes need to be scattered, then when better to do it than Mother’s Day, and where better than somewhere beautiful, where she was happy?
The kids (a description that now means not just our two boys, but our beautiful baby niece, who is now 3 weeks old) obviously had no idea of the significance of what was taking place. I’d explained it a little to Toby but he didn’t get it and I didn’t push the issue. Although his lack of understanding of the magnitude of the day did mean that his behaviour was slightly errr…sub-par, since he didn’t understand why he wasn’t getting anyone’s full attention, and why his constant whining about wanting to “paddle” in the (extremely fast moving) water, wearing jeans and canvas pumps, was being met with even more disapproval then it might usually have been.
After we’d been for something to eat, and sat out in the rare Welsh sunshine, on the drive home I got to thinking about the whole Mother’s Day thing all over again with a new perspective. I’d been thinking about writing this piece about how it was a bit of a sham, (or should that be shame?) that Mother’s Day only really works if there is another adult to uphold it in those early years. Then I got to thinking about appreciation and gratitude, which seems to be largely what Mother’s Day is all about.
“I know I take you for granted the rest of the year but I love you really, here are some chocolates and an easy listening CD” kind of thing.
But don’t we all take our Mother’s for granted? And isn’t it sort of the point? As a child at least?
As infants, when we cry, we take for granted that our Mother will hear our cries and put us to her breast, and then as we take our first wobbling steps, we take for granted that if we fall, our Mothers will be there to pick us up and kiss away our hurts. As we grow up, what we need and expect from our Mother’s changes, but no matter how big or old we get, we still have needs and expectations and we take it for granted that she will respond.
Some children learn, from a distressingly young age, that their needs and expectations are not going to be met by their Mother, and the effects of that can last a lifetime, but regardless of how shit a Mother is, a child cannot help but love her. They may not like her, they may not trust her, they may not be able to rely on her, but they have an intrinsic love for the woman who gave them life.
So perhaps the whole idea, of children showing their appreciation and gratitude towards their mother’s is what is flawed about Mother’s Day.
I don’t want my children to appreciate all that I do for them. They are 4 and 2 years old and cannot even fathom the magnitude of shit I do on a day-to-day basis to keep them alive, and the ways in which I mentally torture myself over the decisions I make on their behalf. I don’t want them to feel grateful for the hundreds of hours of sleep I have missed out on, or the scars my body bears from growing and birthing them. I don’t need them to say “thank you for feeding me fish fingers and beans and making sure I don’t get run over by cars on the way to nursery”. I want them to know that I do all these things because I love them, not because I expect thanks, or to make myself a martyr, or because I want looking after in my old age (although I do, just so you know!) I want them to assume I always will cuddle them after a nightmare or push them on a swing, or spend my last £20 on a pair of new shoes for their growing feet rather than a pair of shoes for my own. If I’m doing my job right, there will come a day when they will look back (probably when they become parents themselves), and appreciate the childhood they had, and the part I played in that, but until then I’d like them to be blissfully unaware.
I’m not saying I don’t want cute cards with pictures of ninjas, or a cup of tea in bed. I loved how excited their little faces were sneaking in with the card and Rudy saying “You. Open. It. NOW” (He speaks as though English is his second language, it’s hilarious). I loved enjoying a hot drink under the duvet before starting a chaotic day. I’m not saying we should do away with Mother’s Day at all.
But if anyone should be showing more appreciation and love towards Mother’s, it is not little children but society as a whole. We are so crap, in Western Society, at appreciating each other, and motherhood in particular is undervalued and overlooked in so many ways. I don’t want a red carpet rolling out for me just because I pushed a baby out of my vagina, and neither does any other Mother I know, but I think we could all use a little more love and support, from every corner of society, in order to better do our job of raising the next generation. Motherhood is not a hobby and children are not pets. One day these little cherubs of mine will be men of the world. Making decisions, and taking action and I only hope I can do a good enough job that the majority of those decisions and actions bring about happiness, for them and for others.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate mothers, new and old. Single mothers, women trying desperately to be mothers, foster mothers, mothers who have lost children, mothers of mothers. We expect children to appreciate their mothers but we don’t show them that motherhood is something to be appreciated.
Every mother probably has her own idea of how best she’d like to be celebrated and appreciated and what gift or action would mean something to her. I saw a lot of “Long hot bath ALONE” requests in the lead up to the day itself.
I didn’t make any requests, knowing what our plans were for the day but in hindsight feel that scattering Joy’s ashes in Trefriw was the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day. Celebrating the life, and mourning the loss of a wonderful Mother, who with or without support, did a fantastic job of raising her contribution to the next generation, and if I’m biased when I say that, well sue me.
And my own Mother? I am old enough now that I can do more than just carry her a hot drink up the stairs, so I have a special day out planned for her this Sunday instead.
Mothers. Let’s start celebrating them, every day, and not just our own.