It's that time of year again, when we are inundated with advertising pushing the Mother's Day holiday. We are cajoled and guilted into buying cards, flowers, and gifts, while showered with images of smiling, gentle mothers--the kind who kiss boo-boos, offer shoulders to cry on, and are just wonderful, glowing, soft-filtered human beings.
But not all of us have those.
Now, I don't begrudge good mothers a day of recognition, although I do have to question waiting until May to thank your mom for being a good mother. What I do question is the obvious commercialization of the day, and the idea that all children owe their mothers something special for birthing and nurturing them. See, not all of us had mothers growing up, and I think that in our modern age of rampant snowflake political correctness, it's high time we start recognizing that.
There are many, many folks out there who are orphans--people who lost their parents, or who were abandoned by their parents. For them, I'd wager Mother's Day is a bitter reminder of what they didn't have as a child. I empathize with these folks, because when I was a child, I, too, lacked a mother.
I don't mean that I was hatched from an egg or assembled in a lab. I mean that I literally had no mother for most of my childhood. My mother decided around the time I was about 5 to have an affair with a young man of 18 years of age she worked with. It was her seventh or so year of marriage to my father, and she was in her mid-20s, I believe. She again became a mother--carrying my half-brother and divorcing my father.
For a brief year or two, I lived with my mother and her other child. This was because my wonderful parents put me on the spot, telling me about the impending divorce and asking me who I wanted to live with. My father wasn't even present for this conversation--he called from somewhere else, forcing me to pick a parent over the phone. Reluctantly, I chose my mother, not sure what else to say.
After the divorce, we moved around a lot, and she had different men staying the night in our apartments on a regular basis. Most days, I was shoved outside and told to "go play" while she slept off hangovers. During the school year, I missed a lot of school, because apparently her nightlife interfered with getting up in the morning to make me breakfast and send me on my way. Tardiness and hunger were a daily way of life. I distinctly remember those days of walking to school late. An airplane flew over about the time I would be on my way to school. To this day, whenever I hear a propeller-driven airplane fly over in the morning hours, I get that sensation of being late.
By age 7, my poor school attendance was enough of an issue my father took custody of me. And that was pretty much the last time I saw my "mother". She didn't die or leave the area, she just refused to have anything to do with me; even at family Christmas gatherings. Years later, when I was 18, and about to enlist in the service, she tried to re-establish a connection with me, confiding that she had resented me choosing my father over her, and telling me about her LSD use and how her memories of the time weren't so good.
I reluctantly accepted this attempt at reconciliation, and her offer to provide me a free place to live while I attended college. But a zebra can't change it's stripes, and my mother soon found herself another much younger man in (sixteen years younger). I determined that the real reason for my residency was really just to be a role model for my sibling, while Mommy Dearest played cougar. I bid Oedipus and his soon-to-be-bride adieu and moved out.
Years later, when I got engaged, my future wife insisted I include my mother (once again divorced) in our wedding plans. We went through the motions, going over for dinner, meeting her, occasional visits, etc. etc. But things returned to normal when my wife and I had our first child. My mother visited her grandchild in the hospital, then disappeared for two weeks, until we bumped into her at a family reunion and she refused her own siblings' efforts to get her to hold my daughter. This ended, once and for all, any mother-child relationship I had with my mother. I may have suffered abandonment and rejection repeatedly at her hands growing up, but I was damned if I was going to subject my own child to the same misery and neglect from an indifferent grandmother. It's a decision I have not regretted once.
I realize that there are good mothers out there--I was fortunate enough to meet several of them (mothers of my friends) over the years. Many are indeed poster-worthy for this impending holiday and could give June Cleaver a run for her money. My own wife is beloved by our two daughters, and has a good mother herself.
But the point is, that growing up, my mother wasn't there--by her own choice. I often countered the intended insult of "son-of-a-bitch" directed at me with "You know my mom?". To this day, I joke regularly that I was raised by television, and that on Mother's Day that's who I choose to spend my day with (my beloved big screen).
This year, just as I do every Mother's Day, I'll ensure my kids will spend the day with their mom, and that she's able to get some quality time with her own mother. But for me, and the countless others like me who didn't have a mother there when we were growing up, or who had terrible, despicable mothers who were raging alcoholics, addicts, or otherwise just horrible, I'd like to ask that the rest of you rethink this weekend's holiday. Don't wait to thank your own mother once every May, and don't rub my nose in this holiday.