Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mother's Day

My friends and I are about to start watching a movie (Country Strong, Gwyneth is fantastic, and the faces of these actors, so gorgeous, and I am such a sucker for a good country song) when the phone interrupts.

So I pick up.  Everyone else seems to be on the phone, too. There should be a rule, but okay.

It's my daughter-in-law asking me to come for a Mother's Day brunch.  This takes me by surprise, because usually it's my generation making the brunches, the dinners for Hallmark holidays.  And Mother's Day is a bear because so many people, believe it or not, want to see their therapist on Mother's Day.  My people.

I'll do Father's Day, is my reaction, and will knock off by 10:30 on Sunday morning to make it to the lox and bagels, hopefully there will be quiche.  What can I bring, has to be a part of that conversation, but I forget, in a hurry to watch the movie.

Later on I begin to think about the gifts, because there have to be gifts, and it occurs to me that the better you know someone, the easier this is. And if you don't know someone very well, it's almost impossible to get the right gift.  But your mother-- you know her.  How hard can this be?

This is why it's so funny that we buy for our mothers-in-law, too, because really, their first degrees should be doing that, they know them better.  But okay.  Over the years, we know them, too.

Sometimes there's a theme of the week in therapy, to change the subject for a minute.  Like last week the song, I Will Always Love You, popped up twice.  The Whitney Houston song!  Different reasons, different people, same concept.  People become separate, move in different directions, but that attachment isn't going anywhere, or so says the song.  The song is wrong, though.  If you wait long enough, actually, it does dissipate, even for mothers. That can be good or bad, depending.

The theme this week, not by coincidence, seems to be about giving, and how that's so easy for some people, and yet these same people can't take a gift graciously. This is communicated with clarity:

Don't spend money!
Don't waste your money!
Please, I don't need anything!
Please, I'll just return it!
I won't like it. Whatever it is, I won't like it.  Not my taste.

I had to beat more than one person up over this, not wanting to take gifts, not giving someone else the opportunity even to do anything for them.  Why is this so bad?  Independence is a good thing!

Because the joy in life, for many people, and you don't know who these people are, is in the verbs, the action.  Giving is an emotional exercise for them.   They need to give.  And they're not co-dependent, they're just nice.   People who don't let them do this are denying the use of that muscle, the one that feels really good when it gets a giving-doing work out. 

It's a feel-good workout for everyone, imho.  For a few moments, under the influence of giving, a person feels selfless.  At least in those moments we're not engaged in our everyday selfish behavior.  And we know, come on, how far that can go.

Don't forget, whether giving or receiving, that the gift itself is symbolic, it will be remembered.  If you're the one giving, this is you, this gift.  Be it a vacuum cleaner or a Swarovski figurine, this thing has your name all over it.  He gave it to me.  She gave it to me. His taste.  Her taste.  The gift has fingerprints-- touch, attention --all wrapped up in a little box.

Little gifts, little boxes are a good idea, if you're unsure about what to give.  (My kids give me winder toys-- why didn't I ever mention Swarovsky!-- just kidding, kids, don't you dare spend the money)  Little is good in case the gift misses the mark.  Some of us won't throw a single gift away, even if they have long outlived their usefulness or we never like them.  How hard that is, throwing gifts away, even cards.  Those boxes in the basement!  We pray for a flood.  I've started sticking a post-it in my cards to other people, writing on it:
I love you, please reuse this card.
So it's a crazy day, full of emotion for a lot of people, and probably if you get invited to brunch, you should totally go.  Check out the whole gestalt of the gift giving thing.

And when it comes to a gift for mom, if you still have one, I know it can be hard sometimes.  Not everyone can, not everyone even wants to give a gift, or even a card, certainly not a call. That's how it can be when people don't treat us right.  We avoid them.  It's not being selfish, either, believe it or not, rather it is what it is.  Staying disengaged can preserve sanity for certain sensitive souls.  And somebody has to stay sane.

Those of us lucky enough to know that we have to get something for Mom, whether we want to or not, had better get going on it.  Brunch is coming right up, and it's going to be good.

Just one last thing.  Moms, when you open them up, those cards, those presents--  smile and say thank you.



Isreview said...

I really enjoyed reading this post you have a few wonderfully interesting points - thank you.

Oh and I love the idea " giving cards, signing them on post-its that say,I love you, please reuse this card" -Great idea:)

Margo said...

This is when you post a video of the crawling baby winder toy I just gave you so your readers can understand the true awesomeness of what your children do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this phrase: Staying disengaged can preserve sanity for certain sensitive souls.

I took the best care I could of my my folks and several other family members, and the last, my Mother, took me to the breaking point.

I cannot deal with her even more difficult sister, who has kids. I helped out some and found myself being pulled into the primary care mode. I finally put my foot down to her kids,and I feel guilt for staying away even as my head heals.

I am preserving my sanity by being disengaged. I love those words.

Dawn said...

And when it comes to a gift for mom, if you still have one, I know it can be hard sometimes. Not everyone can, not everyone even wants to give a gift, or even a card, certainly not a call. That's how it can be when people don't treat us right. We avoid them. It's not being selfish, either, believe it or not, rather it is what it is. Staying disengaged can preserve sanity for certain sensitive souls. And somebody has to stay sane.

Wow. This whole paragraph. You should do a post about it. Its funny that you said there are themes, and this is exactly my theme this week. I don't understand by disengaging from your mom isn't selfish, when all she wants to do is engage you. This is where I am at. How can you ever stop feeling the guilt knowing you are hurting your mother? How can you not stop feeling like the worst daughter in the world?

therapydoc said...

Dawn, I'm assuming you're doing this with professional help. I'll do a post on it. Thanks for expressing this. It is a problem, no question, with no easy answers. In my practice disengaging like this is supposed to be temporary, and mom knows it. But sure, I'll write about it.

Could be a whole book, right?

Dr. Deb said...

Mother's Day can be a happy day or a reminder of emotional pain. And everything in betweem.

Syd said...

Reusing those cards is good. I do that too. And food--what mother doesn't like to have a meal prepared for her or be taken out for lunch or dinner? I wish mine were still around.

Tzipporah said...

This mom stuff is hard. We all try so hard to NOT be like our own moms (except for one friend I have whose own mother was wonderful). I'm just starting to deal with what it means that for my whole life, although she loved me, my mother clearly gave me the message that my feelings are not to be taken seriously, unlike those of real people (her and her friends and my father and practically anyone else). How do you take yourself seriously when your own mother doesn't?

therapydoc said...

Maybe it's better not to take ourselves too seriously. Don't worry, I know what you mean. If our parents don't value us, who will? Actually, lots of people, but we want it from the rents.

Rayna Eliana said...

I totally enjoyed reading this post, the poignant and humorous, together.

grants for single moms said...

Relationships with mothers can be very difficult, but they are unique.

Better Things-- Seeing Ghosts