Days that celebrate special relationships tend to be chock full of rituals that primarily benefit greeting card companies and gift shops. That it's annoying is perhaps the lesser evil. There’s worse; amidst the hype, the tinsel, and cutsie gestures, what loses a great deal of its significance is that special relationship that's being celebrated in the first place.
Celebrating interpersonal relationships takes sensitivity, authenticity, and style. Even birthdays walk a thin line between not-enough and way-over-the-top. So it's not hard to claim that there’s nothing tougher to get right than celebrating your progenitor.
Motherhood is a tough one. (If you’re a mother, you’ll know) There’s no getting it right. And no, you can’t listen to sons waxing eloquent about their mama’s cooking or daughters who declare their mother is their best friend, really.
The tension between deep love and simmering unfulfillment is always at play. And before your vehement denials ring out, stop for a second and let it sink in. With our mothers, there is always love and then other stuff. It could be resentment at her control or her criticism, or at the opposite, being self-sacrificing or not having enough confidence to make something of herself in the world. And if you have a conflicted relationship with your mother there is a LOT of other stuff.
And yet, she’s there. She’s always there. Even if it's impossible to tell her about some of the most significant things that happened to you (mostly because you’re sure she won't be able to handle it) you feel like she senses it, just in the way she ladles food on your plate. Her worry for you might drive her crazy sometimes, but she’ll hide it in mundane gestures, like grumbling while she sorts piles of ironed clothes or yelling about the tap not properly shut.
If she works a job there are all the dimensions that she brings home, making it hard to sort the mother and the woman. When she’s home, you want her to be all yours, available to take for granted. And yet, you want her to be happy, and not just for you, for herself, but her contentment is located in your happiness, and the loop begins again!
So we simplify, boxing all the nutty stuff in sentimental poems in pretty cards and elaborate meals cooked to give her a break for a day. (like she ever wanted a break from being your mother!) We buy jewelry and spa coupons and mugs with ‘WORLD’S BEST MOM’ on them. Because its impossible to actually express what we feel. Nothing is sufficient, so we settle.
Different forms of celebrating mothers are part of cultures all over the world. The founder of the modern-day Mother’s day on May 10th, was specific about an apostrophe after the word so that it would be clear that it was not for mothers in general or the idea of motherhood but for each individual home to celebrate their own mothers. And she was so mad about the commercialization that she boycotted the day and threatened lawsuits and was arrested for disturbing the peace.
So this mother’s day, give your mother the gift of really seeing her and accepting her unbearable love for you without squirming or diminishing or retreating. And marvel at the human design that wanted you to enter the world cocooned by this blanket of protection and benediction, so complete that you would spend your entire life seeking that complete and utter wholeness.
And also, maybe, get her a nice gift. Not super expensive, just thoughtful.