I am thinking about my mother — and your mother — because Mother’s Day is just around the corner. On the one hand, it seems like just another made-up holiday in which card companies and florists get a big boost in their sales. On the other hand, perhaps there is meaning to be discovered or recovered. After all, it was her intention that worked to prepare the way for us and every woman makes huge sacrifices to give birth and raise us. This year offers another chance to acknowledge this woman — your one and only mother!
I had assumed that Mother’s Day had been around forever, some ancient tradition. Truth is, it was first established in 1908 by a woman whose mother was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War. Her daughter set aside this special day in order to honor her mother — and all mothers — because she believed that mothers do more for us than anybody else in the world. The idea caught on.
As a child growing up, Mother’s Day in my family was marked by fancy lunches with my mother, aunt, and grandmother. We got dressed up and went out to eat. The spring flowers were in bloom and moms of all ages were dressed up in their favorite outfits, their hair and nails done just so. Each year my mother would ask for flowers to plant in the garden, so when we got home, we would ditch the nice clothes and hit the nursery. This ritual is a nostalgic memory for me.
I am grateful for the good fortune of having a healthy relationship with my mom and to have gained from her influence throughout my life. My project, Gay Sons and Mothers (GaySonsandMothers.com), which I have mentioned before, stemmed from an appreciation of having grown up in the 1960s with a mother who truly accepted me. Bringing up a gay child back then was challenging. Given societal constrictions, entire families were forced to live in the closet in a way. My mother, however, simply embraced me as her son. Of course, this isn’t everybody’s experience, as some people are raised by unhealthy women and have endured pain as a result.
How lucky I am to get to chronicle this journey. There are supportive stories that touch the heart, and others that include great sadness and disappointment. Either way, the connection between mothers and their gay sons is pivotal. One of the themes that shows up time and again is how sons and mothers often see each other in themselves!
Here are a just a few of the voices from my project that show the deep-seated resonance between mother and son. I know that none of these is a perfect relationship, yet the joy in the connections so clearly shines through.
“There’s no one who can set my mom off giggling like I can. The chemistry just escalates.”
“Mom, you are here to ensure that I am blessed continuously, and I am thankful to you.”
“My mom is one of my best friends and she helps boost my confidence when I need it the most. That being said, sometimes she annoys the crap out of me.”
The relationship with our mothers — whether a delight or a struggle — is one worthy of renewed attention. After all, reconciliation with her memory can forge a level of reconciliation with a part of ourselves. Perhaps this Mother’s Day deserves to be marked by something more than a perfunctory card from your local drugstore. Perhaps you can take this moment to more deeply appreciate your mother and the gift she gave you — your life.
Take some time to really think about …
- The important lessons she has taught you over the years.
- The ways in which you identify with her.
- How you can use negative experiences with her as opportunities for growth rather than for continued disappointment.
- The things you most admire about her (perhaps some of which you carry forward).
- Activities you have shared with her and the ways in which your memories of them still move you.
Once you have paused to reflect on the hidden treasures of this unique relationship, why not rethink Mother’s Day? For example, find an interesting way to impart your gratitude to her — write a letter or make a recording for her or do something creative with photos of the two of you.
If your mother is deceased, take a few quiet moments to imagine her presence — recall a time when she was bright and hopeful. Instead of sorrow, let yourself enjoy that earlier memory, the way she would like to be remembered. Let her know that you are bringing her influence into your future.
In summary, I am looking forward to this Mother’s Day with a new lens — and I hope you do the same! If the relationship with your mom is (or was) positive, make some time to celebrate the best aspects of the connection in a meaningful way. If the relationship has never been good or has slipped away in recent years, instead of waiting for her to change, for her to be a “better mother,” let her know that you are thankful to her for your life. This level of gratitude will actually help you release the chains of the past.
No matter what, Mother’s Day does not belong to the folks at Hallmark, it belongs to you!