Mother’s Day: Give and Take

Joanna Brichetto essays

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Don’t offer to wipe the kitchen table because it’s Mother’s Day. Wipe the table because IT IS DIRTY.  

—my fantasy Facebook update

Mother’s Day is how the word “asinine” entered my youthful vocabulary. Asinine: Mom’s sole descriptor for a holiday invented to stimulate the greeting card industry. She thought it ludicrous to set aside one arbitrary day to “honor” mothers with store-bought sentiments, flowers (even if they didn't trigger allergies) and chocolates (even if they were the good kind), while the other 364 days of the year card-signers take moms for granted, en masse, tacitly and utterly. “Take,” being the operative verb. Take, take, take.

Mother's Day made assumptions that did not fit my mom. The assumptions didn’t fit me either, even when on my very first Mother’s Day our neighbor tucked a card into the doorjamb with the wish for a happy one. How sweet, and yet, how saccharine. Sentimental in a Hallmark kind of way. I had been a mom for about six months at that point, still gasping for sleep, stillness, sanity, aswim in untreated post-partum depression and anxiety. The card was somehow foreign, like when cartoon aliens visit Earth and try to identify the meaning and function of a squeaky dog toy.

Today, right now, Facebook is full of breakfast trays, bouquets, status updates about how darling the kids, how sweet the husbands, how generous the dinner plans, how marvelous the gifts. All of which make me feel even more of a weirdo. These things do not happen to me, and if they did, would I brag about them online? Would I ever want to photograph a greeting card and a grocery-store bouquet? Am I a snob? A bitch? An ass?

So, Joanna, how is your un-Mother’s Day scheme going? What’s it like to not celebrate Mother’s Day? Are you happier than the proud recipients of dyed carnations?

Here are my Mother’s Day happenings at a glance so far:

1. The kids ate the last cookies (which I baked).

2. High-schooler ate my dinner (with her fingers, while standing at the counter) when I was out of the room.

3. High-schooler asked me to “come see the beautiful bouquet of wildflowers” that she picked for herself.

4. No hugs, cards or well-wishes were proffered (and it’s already dinner-time. Well, not my dinner-time. See #3 above).

5. High-schooler refused to drive to the dog store for food, so guess who had to?

6. I have barked at children and dog innumerable times. My throat is in shreds.

7. And my favorite, described here to detail one interaction representative of the day:

My kindergartener threw a fit when I turned on a David Attenborough documentary instead of Blue’s Clue’s and whined and wept at how unfair it was that he “had” to watch what I wanted, then tried to negotiate which chapter of the nature show might be acceptable and then tried to get me to switch to a different Attenborough show altogether (“the one with the elephant”). It took me several moments to see this game for what it was (more manipulation, more tests), and then wise up to switch back to the exact chapter of the exact show I actually wanted to see (amid louder wails), but just in time for the phone to ring, which meant I had to leave the room and leave the show running, but since darling boy didn’t want that show, he ignored the television and kept “playing” anyway. I should mention that the whole point of my turning on the television was to make him stop “playing,” i.e. scaring the dog, throwing himself on the dog, bouncing racquet-balls in the living room, and asking me for help, materials, tools, permissions, etc. every goddamn three seconds. When I finally get off the phone (arguing with my husband, who is out of town on business) and reenter the living room, all the activities formerly in progress are again in progress, with David Attenborough narration as absurdist soundtrack. Add to this the grounding, grinding guilt about using TV as a parenting tool in the first place, which means I ranked a negative Parent Score before the first Blue’s Clues sniffle was snuffled.

18 years of first-hand Mom experience does not make any of this easier. Am I wiser? I doubt it. Except I know that kids take, take, take.

Bedtime cannot come fast enough.

But the bottom line for Mother’s Day, this Mother’s Day, does not even need to take these things into account. If I don’t buy the premise of the holiday, this day need not be different from any other. The important thing about today would be that I am lucky to have a Mother and be a Mother. This is worth celebrating every day, without being asinine, without making assumptions. I’d like to celebrate in a more realistic, prosaic, unsentimental, 364-day way.

Like this, for example, which is what happened before bedtime:

1. With an email to Mom reminding her about “asinine.”

2. With a reminder that I can be grateful and unhappy at the same time.

3. With the first ripe honeysuckle blossoms.

4. With an invitation from my High-schooler to watch a YouTube clip together.

5. With a Fat Mo’s burger I buy myself.

6. With my boy starting himself on the swing for the very first time.

7. With the crushing awareness that this day will not last forever, that soon enough my two children at home will be one, and then none, and I will be running after them for a bit of attention, begging for another chance to give, give, give.


About the Author

Joanna Brichetto

I write at , and am a monthly columnist for BookPage.

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