Ever since I became a mother, I’ve ironically become cynical about Mother’s Day. There’s something so sacharine about the way the whole thing inevitably pans out, not to mention the inevitable commercialisation whereby a woman cannot actually go out for a meal on that day without paying double the price for some already overpriced confection. But the commercialisation bothers me less than the glorification of motherhood that happens on the day, which always gives me the feeling that although I’ve berthed a child or two, I somehow don’t meet that ideal nor do I want to.
This year, I thought I was thawing a bit. It helped that on Friday Benji came home from school with this adorable necklace – beads on rope – and a Mother’s Day book (with two figures that should have been him and me in it, except he didn’t colour in eyes and mouth. Not an artist that kid) and wished me Happy Mother’s Day is this adorable little lilt and followed it up with “I love you” and a hug. Nothing like a handmade prezzie to melt this jaded heart. Mimi was feeling left out, so I pretended a house she had made in craft was her gift, except later when looking through her art stuff, it turned out there was a cute little cardboard handbag there for me, but it seemed like Mimi kinda wanted to keep it.
Then, on the day itself, V who is even more of a cynic than me, got the kids to wish me, and bought me breakfast. I went for a hike up a mountain that Benji had been wanting to do and seemed surprisingly capable of. Mimi chickened out halfway, creeped out by the spiders, and V had to carrry her down a hundred stairs while I plodded up 400 more with the Benj. All the grandpas doing their morning constitutional – yes, this is what oldies in HK do for exercise, hike up mountains leaving us puffing in their wake – were very impressed with him.
I called my mum and wished her. See, I feel like Mother’s Day is meant for women like my mum who really went out of the way to sacrifice for their kids. And I am just not that mum. And while I agree that the day may be meant for the legions of mothers who are, I feel that the day is deifying a kind of ideal that is actually unfair to women in the long run. My mum loves Mother’s Day and we have always made it special for her, long before it became a Hallmark event. My sister sent her a bouquet of flowers from both of us, and I’ll admit, I was taken by surprise when my mum mentioned it.
Post-lunch though, things took a downturn. I was tired after the morning’s activities but Mimi, who was also tired, seemed in no mood to sleep. I ended up yelling at her and being kind of rough, yanking her arm. I stormed out of her room, then she decided to go get a colouring book, which I refused to let her have, she started wailing. I decided to do a timeout myself, and sat on the couch with my phone ignoring her. Mothers these days get a lot of flak for being on their phones all the time, but I think it’s basically a zone out device during drama. Like a quick and easy fix, a way to switch off and then on. Mothers in the past probably busy themselves with ironing or something, which sounds more productive but probably isn’t because you’d end up getting tired and then more snappish.
But yeah, not my finest moment, and V called me on it in the evening. I got a bit defensive. Yes, I need to curb my impatience. On the other, is it only our generation of mothers that are expected, and I mean in real life not just paintings etc., to be so beatific in the face of meltdowns and drama? I am positive that when I was a kid, there would be one tight slap delivered, whereby the kid would howl and then fall asleep. Now, I’m against the one tight slap approach theoretically, though I’ll admit the odd occasion when I’ve delivered a smack, though not very sharply and never more than one on the arm or something. And when I do that, my kids don’t really get it and think I’m playing because they don’t (so far) identify hitting with us being angry.
But apparently, even shouting is out of bounds these days. One is supposed to be super composed and calmly tell the child off or even better, reason with the child. It does not help that I interviewed a parenting expert and it really does sound lovely if one could achieve this. Except I’m short on patience so not the best candidate though one might argue it’s exactly people like me who need to practice this. On the other hand, does anyone achieve it? I mean people with kids like Mimi? With Benji, yeah, I could pull calm and composed off because it’s not a drama-a-minute.
Anyway, despite my irritation with V at pointing it out, I feel like I need to try and hold it in. Or walk away and zone out and the return to the site of the drama. Mimi is old enough to be left alone, I guess. The problem with me losing it is that not only is it ideal for the kids but it sets a bad example for the helpers. E is exactly the kind of paragon of virtue who manages to calmly correct the child without resorting to evil adult mode (as far as we know). But J might take her cue from me. And that is not something I want.
So yeah, I need to pull back and do better on this front.
On the other hand, I’ve binged on Project Runway and improvised bhel (made by the genius V) and it was exactly the medicine I needed after a very stressful week.