(or Why I Hate the Hallmark Holidays)
You may be wondering why the divergence into motherhood.
I wondered that too, as I looked at the stories and themes that I wanted to commit to writing, instead of just let swirl around in my head.
For me, motherhood and my coming out process are intractably linked. Becoming a mother made me face, head-on, all that I had buried and repressed after I came out.
It was one thing for my parents to treat me badly. It was less tolerable for them to treat me and my wife badly. And it was completely unacceptable for them to treat my children badly, or to fail to acknowledge us as a legitimate family, or to see my marriage as “real,” or to belittle or demean me in front of my kids. It was a whole new ballgame.
Some of my parents’ behaviors are conscious. Many are unconscious and just the product of societal and religious prejudices. Either way, it’s toxic.
And so I find days like today, those Hallmark holidays in our calendar, particularly hard to endure.
A few weeks ago I suddenly remembered a small Good Luck trinket that my father bought for me on September 9, 2001. For a long time afterwards I carried it in my pocket, as a kind of talisman that would ward off bad spirits and keep me safe. At some point I transferred it to the change purse in my wallet, which is where I expected to find it when I went looking for it.
But it wasn’t there. I’ve looked everywhere I could think it might be but came up with nothing. Maybe it got lost when one of the kids dumped everything out of my wallet. Maybe one of the kids took it for themselves. Maybe I threw it out in a fit of rage.
Regardless, it seems to be gone. And with it goes the last kind thing I remember my father doing for me.
So yes, Father’s Day is hard. How am I meant to recognize and celebrate a father who hasn’t done anything “fatherly” in over a decade?
Mother’s Day is even harder, especially now that I am a mother myself. This is a day that’s meant to celebrate me and my relationship with my children. But it often seems trumped by the loss of the relationship with my own mother.
My mother has never called me to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day.” It seems the sentiment on this day is one directional. I am meant to honor her role as my mother but she can’t acknowledge that I’m a mother too, or that she has to share this day with me now.
For a few years I would still send cards on these days, and birthdays, and on other holidays. But I’ve pretty much stopped. I’m not sure the effort is appreciated, so I’ve stopped wasting my time and money. It makes me sad that just the simple exchange of a greeting card has become intolerable.
And this, of course, assumes that I’m even able to find an appropriate card to send in the first place. There is a burgeoning market for those of us who don’t have “the world’s best mom” (or dad) or a parent who “has always been there for me.” I often have to settle for a generic “for anyone” card (or worse those blank cards with all that space to fill!). Sometimes sending these types of cards makes me feel worse, where this is more meaning in what is not said, than what is said. I don’t have to say “you weren’t always there for me,” or “you’ve failed me,” or “you’ve hurt me,” -the generic card kind of does that for me, sadly.
Besides never being able to find an appropriate Hallmark card that comes close to expressing any of the feelings and emotions that I have towards my family of origin, there is also the stress of having to make these days “special.” This isn’t just on days like today, but also Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays – any day that we try to mark as different from the ordinary days of our regular routine. I find these days filled with so much stress and anxiety, and it seems, no matter how much I try or how much I plan, the actual day never seems to live up to expectations. Something always goes wrong, someone is always disappointed and in tears. I find myself saying (to myself or aloud) “I just wanted to make today perfect.”
I should actually be striving to just make the day ordinary. It would cause a lot less headache and heartache.
There was a point on this Mother’s Day, when I was exhausted and frustrated and annoyed because our two sons aren’t quite old enough to get the idea of giving mom a break on this one day of the year – with the added fact that we are two moms who both want to celebrate this day, leaving us with no back-up parent. It was at this point that I had to remind myself that it was just another Sunday, and we just needed to get through the day. I no longer wanted anything special, I just wanted bedtime.
So at least in our two-mom family, today is just a blessedly ordinary day. There is nothing special planned. There are no cards or gifts or special meals or outings. It’s just another Sunday, just the way I like it.