The title should have warned you, but just in case it did not, this is not a sweetness-and-light entry about Mother’s Day. I must also say that it does not necessarily reflect my experience of childhood or the day. Yet I feel it is something not often addressed, and should be.
Mother’s Day is so loaded emotionally, probably right up there with Winter holidays. Weeks ahead of time we are bombarded by radio, TV, newspapers, and the Internet, telling us how wonderful our mothers are and how we should buy them cards, candy, flowers, etc. etc. The catch is, not all mothers are wonderful. Some mothers have done harm. There are the mothers who looked the other way, or who stood by their child-molesting partners and refused to believe their children. Or their grandchildren. There are the mothers who were so wasted on alcohol or drugs that they couldn’t take care of their children. Yes, I know they were “sick” and may have loved their children dearly, but that doesn’t mean much when a child is hungry, or afraid to fall asleep, or . . . well, you get the picture. There are the mothers who actively abused their children, on a physical, emotional, and/or mental level. There are the mothers who neglected their children, sometimes out of ignorance, and sometimes because they just didn’t care. There are the mothers who did everything they were “supposed” to do for their kids — food, clothing, trips to the dentist, etc. — but who never gave them a hug, or praised them for a job well done.
Some people have scars when it comes to their mother — sometimes, very deep scars. And every year, at Mother’s Day, these scars are ripped open. See, kids are vulnerable. No matter how badly a mother mistreats them, she is still Mom. And kids keep hoping it will be different. If they just keep their room clean . . . if they just remember to lock their door at night . . . if they could just keep their younger sibling from crying so much . . . if, if, if. By the time these people reach adulthood, they have found ways of coping with the pain, with the memories (sometimes). Some coping mechanisms are “good” (such as becoming an over-achiever) and some are less helpful (becoming an alcoholic or addict, etc.). Some go through therapy and work out their issues and feel they can forgive or ignore what happened. Yet those early experiences are hard-wired, and every Mother’s Day, they get reminded. And it HURTS!
There are no magic answers. Being a therapist-in-training, I do think therapy helps, but it’s not an instant cure-all. This Mother’s Day, I have a suggestion, though it may be simplistic. For those who hate Mother’s Day, who still have conflicted feelings about your mother, who get angry just thinking about it . . . Do something nice for yourself. Is there something you always wanted as a kid, but never got enough of? Something you wanted to do? The list of possibilities is endless:
- Sleep late.
- Go to an amusement park.
- Eat a banana split.
- Listen to music you like (loud, if you want).
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Buy yourself new clothes.
- Buy yourself jewelry.
- Eat your favorite pastry (and don’t share with anyone else).
- Sit and read a book all day.
- Adopt a kitten or puppy at the local animal shelter.
- Go ahead and TELL her how you feel, but in a letter; then, burn the letter.
- Sit outside in your backyard or in a park, and don’t do one useful thing all day.
- Write a list of 100 things you like about yourself.
You get the idea. Do something just for yourself. Value yourself. Because you have made it this far, and you are worthy of having good things happen to you. It won’t cure anything, but it might make the day more enjoyable.
If you get nothing else from this entry, please remember: You are worthy of having good things happen to you.