Another Mother's Day finally draws to a close here in the UK and as seems to be becoming an annual habit, I'm watching steam curl from a mug of scorching tea as I ponder hitting publish. Every year I've struggled with how to acknowledge a day that for most of my life has cast an enormous shadow. Up till now I've shook my head, flipped my laptop closed and walked away to brood further with the tea and Florence and the Machine giving me the feelings I need to feel.
This year though I remembered the single mother who approached me at a knitting festival and thanked me for being visible in a world of mothers blogging about nuclear family life. This year I remembered my friend grieving for her mother who finally lost a fight we'd all watched for so long. This year I thought about my friends and how they celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day in parallel, arguing they are a family with two mummies but hey, they play at being fathers too right? We don't all fit in the stereotypical Mother's Day box and I wanted those who find themselves here at the end of what could have been a hard day to know that it's ok not to fit in that box.
I am glad to see the celebrations. Truly. Every year I smile at women being appreciated and hopefully treated with the reverential love they deserve to be for every day of the year. For me, it's the word 'Happy' that sticks most in the throat. While I've seen a fair amount of acknowledgment that loss makes these days hard, there appears to be a general discomfort with the idea of negative emotions appearing at the family table along with the usual bouquets on special days.
Christmas, birthdays and special celebration days have been a hard graft for me from a young age and now I have my own experiences as a single mother added into the mix. Not all of us found ourselves tucked into the bosom of a family that gave us everything we needed. For some of us, the all encompassing nurture that should have been given without question fell short and so days like today became particularly painful. Forging new relationships that bring the nurture and love we need to feel as humans can help heal that hurt but it doesn't make the wince reaction to the day disappear.
My Mother's Day began like any other weekend morning: two cold little feet tucked up on my belly for warmth as my daughter snuck under my duvet to nestle in with Mummy. We had breakfast in bed and shared picture books while I knit. I looked down at her and pondered her emerging understanding of Mothering Sunday. Soon she will have her own feelings about celebration days. What did I want her to take from them?
I made a few decisions there and then. Having made them I scooped us up and headed outside. It's now though, in the quiet of the evening that I find myself once again pondering the legacy of Mother's Day and whether I should share those resolution here, with you. In writing them here, in publishing them, I hope to acknowledge that Happy is not the only option.
I hope to teach her to understand that there is no shame in a negative emotion. It is ok to cry and it is better still to feel that way rather than run from it, hide it or resent it.
I hope I can teach her that by owning our emotions, we then have the power to turn them over in our hands and examine them. By understanding those emotions, their roots and their potential to harm us, hopefully we can learn to live with them a little better.
I hope to show her that each holiday and celebration date can be about nurturing ourselves and the healthy relationships around us. By modeling that nurture every day of the year rather than placing so much emphasis on one day in the calendar, I hope to make the legacy of that date less daunting.
I don't think I can stop a shadow falling on celebration days given our family dynamics but I can bring in light too. I hope to show her that there is always a balance to be struck between those feelings which make things dark and painful and those which make things rich with light and love. Both have their place. Both have their lessons to give.
For all of you who struggled through the Mother's Day gift reminders, the sales, the memes and inspirational photos plastered everywhere, know this: it's all just noise. Tomorrow it returns to every other average day and most people are none the wiser. For those of us who know, this was another day that we lived through and that is sometimes the best we can do.