When I was little, I loved Mother's Day which felt like an inverted Christmas or something. I liked picking out flowers and making cards and the look on Mom's face when we surprised her with scrambled eggs in bed. I was sure that she never saw it coming, that she slept through all the noise of us bickering over breakfast-making in the very nearby kitchen.
Like most of the things that seemed magical when I was little, Mother's Day has lost a little of its glow for me. This is in no way a reflection on my family who are delightful. We're pretty good at holidays in general, and they spent the day properly devoted to me.
We've continued the tradition of handmade cards, and while my three sons lean toward straight printer-paper and pencil (my sisters and I were all construction paper and elaborately colored designs), the sentiments they express are pretty fantastic. There are the standard love yous and thank yous and you're a great moms, but then there are often gems like this one from a few years ago: Your life was pretty great until...three babies came along and ruined it!
For the record, my life is so much better with them, in part because those babies grew into the most delightful and funny young men, but the position of "mom" is still all-in-all a pretty shit one, and it makes me happy to have the kind of kids who acknowledge that.
The word that's never appeared on one of their cards, and this should come as no surprise, is selfless. I've said before that David is the more generous parent, but he's not selfless either, and I don't think any parent should be. That's the word we use though. That's the word for moms, that's the fucking pinnacle for mothering and it's on every card and Facebook post and ad. Maybe you wrote it of or to your own mom (and you should call her and apologize if you did).
Dear Mom, the collective culture says, thank you for not having any goals or hopes or desires. Thanks for not being an actual person but more like a shell of a person who exists only to serve us. That's swell of you. That works out really well for us.
It's true that mothers make a lot of sacrifices for their kids. Mothers give up careers and school and money and opportunities and free time and just about everything you can think of. Some mothers don't give up some of these things (or not completely) and for everything of their own that they hang onto, we give them the gift of making them feel like shit. She's only thinking of herself, we might say, and god knows, mothers aren't supposed to have one.
We really don't even have to acknowledge their sacrifices because they aren't really sacrifices when all moms care about are their families.
And the truth is, I don't think most of us really buy into that. I think we see how hard it is for our mothers. I know in my family growing up, our favorite stories were always variations on remember the time Mom lost her shit (or Dad, but this is holiday-themed after all). Those are the favorite stories for my kids too. Inside our homes, we don't really want to have relationships with selfless entities. We want the people we love to be human and flawed and honest. Next year, let's be fucking honest. We take things from our mothers, and she might act like she doesn't mind, doesn't even notice, but we take. We ask and then we take. Let's at least be clear about that.
My kids brought me breakfast in bed last week. They do every year. When they were little, they'd bring the tray and then huddle around me, eyeing the food till I shared. They're bigger now, and I've raised them to be frank. They brought me breakfast, it's true, but they also brought their own forks. I love it even more that way. It just seems fitting.