Why Mother’s Day Is A Pisstake

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Before I start, let me just say that it’s not just Mother’s Day that gets on my nerves, it’s all these commercialised ‘days’ we have to have. It’s the fact that you can tell what ‘day’ is approaching by what exuberant displays greet you when you walk into the supermarket. For example, my local Home Bargains shop was nothing short of a confused mess just recently when they were displaying Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter all at the same time!

Loads of things annoy me about Mother’s Day. Maybe I’m bitter and cynical. Well yeah, probably a bit. I’ve had plenty of nice ones, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had plenty of those sweet little cards they help them to make at school, and I’ve had croissants smeared with jam brought up to me on a tray in bed, and I’ve had kisses and cuddles and flowers and the rest of it. But I’ve also never had a Mother’s Day where I wasn’t hanging the washing out on the line at some point, or sorting the next load out, or planning the next days lunch boxes. It’s like once the duties are performed, everything goes back to normal.

And I do think people see it as a duty. The shops tell us what we ought to be doing. They tell us what we ought to be buying and when. I was in my local Tesco yesterday and the ‘Mother’s Day’ aisle was full of bemused looking shoppers, hastily shoving bunches of flowers under their arms, as I did, whilst probably thinking exactly what I was, surely I can do better than this? It’s all so contrived, that’s the problem. It screams of tokenism to the extent that it just becomes embarrassing. It’s Mother’s Day, therefore I shall buy a pastel coloured card with flowers and butterflies on it and give it to my mother to thank her for giving birth to me way back when. What else? Okay, let’s look around. What do women like? More specifically, what do mother’s like?

This is the other thing that annoys me. It makes me want to pull out my hair. Because apparently us mothers are all the same. It doesn’t matter how old we are, or where we are from, or what we believe in or dream about, we all like flowers. And chocolates. And teddy bears. Oh, and polka dotted garden gloves. And pastel coloured watering cans. And ‘smellies’ to pamper ourselves with. And even more infuriatingly, chick lit books and rom com dvds! Grrrr!

It’s just as bad on Father’s Day. They get treated to the same assumptions. Whiskey and ‘manly’ chocolate such as Toberlone and Yorkie. Driving gloves, and footballs, and mini tools and t-shirts with slogans such as ‘I’m the Daddy’ on them. They get breakfast in bed too, cards made by the kids in the shapes of ties and cars, and then everything goes back to normal. Why do we do it to ourselves?

Now I’m sure there are people out there who put more effort in, and if so, I congratulate you. I’m sure there are husbands who put real thought into what their wife and the mother of their children would enjoy on this special day. Maybe she gets taken out for dinner, or maybe she gets a day to herself, or a voucher for a beauty treatment or some such shit. I still don’t care. I still think it’s a pisstake. I still don’t think we need these days.

It’s patronising for one thing. It’s like we’re saying; for most of the year I will take you for granted and neglect to tell you what you mean to me, but on this one special day I will do the opposite and make sure you feel spoiled. Surely we should be treating each other better on a more regular basis?

My husband and I, being the cynical pair we are, gave up on Valentine’s Day years ago. The first few years we were together we felt like we had to go along with it. We both bought soppy cards and we both scoured the Valentine’s shopping aisle for useless and pathetic suggestions. We soon realised what a complete waste of time it was. We don’t even bother with anniversary cards or presents now. What do we do instead? We grab small moments between child-rearing and working, to reminisce on how many years it’s been now, and what silly things we can remember about that night…I tend to remember music, and there are still certain songs that will make me think about meeting him and falling in love. Surely that’s enough? That, and being as good to each other as we can be.

Christmas cards is another. Why do so many trees have to die so that we can send cards to people we don’t bother with the rest of the year? I stopped buying them and sending them years ago. Tedious and pointless. I won’t be dictated to by my local supermarket. I know what time of year it is, and I don’t need their flamboyant displays of utter crap items screaming at me for months on end.

Mother’s Day is annoying because it so often ends up being a token day, full of token gestures that amount to very little. I’ve had too many where I have ended up bristling with resentment, because after all the flowers and chocolates, the daily grind goes on. In my opinion Mother’s Day should be spent in the following way;

Women who have given birth, and therefore know what is is like to carry another human around in their belly, before pushing and grunting and screaming and heaving that said human out of their nether regions, only to be then thrust helplessly into a whirlwind of sleepless nights, shitty nappies, teething and tantrums, should be able to get together with their own mother’s, minus the lovely, dear offspring.

These women, these mother’s, daughters and sisters should be allowed to get together around a kitchen table, with mugs of tea and plentiful cake. They should be left alone for as long as they require. They should not have the fear of interruption by man or child. They should be free to moan, bitch, gossip, cry and laugh with each other for as long as they need. They should be able to unburden themselves of fear, resentment, exhaustion and bitterness. They should be able to congratulate themselves on a job well done, before the day is done, and it is back to business as usual.

Tomorrow, me and my family are hosting a Mother’s Day tea party for my unsuspecting mother. She thinks she is coming over to have a cuppa with me, but actually it will be my brother and his family and my sister and hers. I’ve been baking cupcakes all day. I’m sure she will be touched and pleased, and I’m sure we will all have a lovely day. But I hope she knows when she leaves, that I feel this way about her all of the time, not just once a year. She gave me life and she worked her arse off to keep a roof over our heads. She makes me laugh with her eccentric ways and her sensitivity. I see a lot of me in her, and from the moment my first child was born, I began to develop genuine sympathy for what she went through looking after us all. Now, I know!

I hope she goes home knowing that she is always loved and appreciated, because really we shouldn’t need the greeting card industry to remind us to do it! So my advice is this. If you have a mother, go and see her. Go and spoil her. But not just tomorrow. Do it whenever you can and do it when it is least expected. Think about her dying and not being with you anymore and get your arse over there to share a cup of tea and a conversation. Life is bloody short, and if we leave it all to random, token days to tell people what they mean to us, then we’re really missing out. We’re really missing the point.



Stay In Your Own Lane; first music gig

Last night I took my thirteen year old daughter and her two closest friend to their first gig. The band was their current favourite, Twenty One Pilots (their wikipedia page describes their sound as schizophrenic pop, in case you’ve not heard of them!) Anyway, the genre and the band are not particularly important to this post, although I will say I was enormously impressed.

My daughter has been to family music festivals before, but this was the first time she got to a see a band of her choice, a band she has discovered and fallen in love with herself. I have to admit, I felt kind of privileged to be able to experience this rites of passage experience with her, even if it was politely from the side-lines. I watched their excitement build as we finally arrived at the venue, and watched their confidence soar as they joined the massive, snaking queue of teens, who all looked just like them. (Checked shirt, skinny jeans, red beany hat.)

My daughter has a phrase she sometimes uses when I show an interest in her music tastes, or when we discuss our musical differences. She will say jokingly; ‘stay in your own lane’! Which basically means, don’t try to get it, don’t try to understand, go back to the 90’s where you belong!

So, with this in mind, I kept to myself in the over excited queue, whilst keeping a watchful eye over my hyperactive charges. I wasn’t there to enjoy the band, and had to keep reminding myself of this. I wasn’t there to join in, or embarrass them in any way. I was only there because under fourteens must be accompanied by an adult.

Once inside, they queued for their merchandise or ‘merch’ as they call it these days, we found the toilets, and then found our seats in the circle upstairs. Once seated, I looked around and felt immediately old and out of place. I go to gigs and festivals as much as I can, but I go to see either music from my era, the 90’s, or music I have gotten into lately. I was surrounded by teenage girls and boys who all looked remarkably like my strong minded daughter. I was also really tired and could have easily dropped off asleep at that point. I then started to notice the other parents. Dotted here and there among the beany hats and checked shirts, sat sedately and smiling gently while the excited chatter built to a crescendo around them, were parents, around my age or older. They were out of their lanes too.

Then the band started. The four teen girls in front of us instantly leaped to the feet and started bouncing and screaming, and pretty much didn’t stop. Everyone else followed suit, while us oldies remained seated, as we were only there because we had to be. We didn’t want to get too excited or too involved, no matter how good the band was.

I tried to mind my own business, whilst stealing the odd glance at my teen as she enjoyed herself. I’ll admit I had to choke back the odd tear or two, watching the utter joy on her face as she sung along to the songs she loved. It was more than just excitement though, more than just joy and the wonder of a first time time experience. It was their sudden sense of belonging, of being part of a tribe to while they automatically knew they belonged, of seeing themselves in the people around them, feeling a powerful sense of unity and without a doubt, pride in who they are.

It made me think back to my first gig. Pulp is always the one that sticks in my mind. I think it was 1994 and I went with my then best friend, a girl who had always been bullied and ridiculed at school. I remember how it felt for us, to walk among a crowd of young people who looked just like us, who loved Pulp as much as we did. We belonged. We’d found our people, and no one was going to laugh at us for being different.

That feeling was repeated for me many times over the years, and even more recently when I finally got to see the reformed Stone Roses at Finsbury Park in 2013. That smile you get on your face when you recognise the people. When you all sing along. When you jump and bounce and wave your arms all as one. A tribe. A belonging. Add to that the utter thrill of finally seeing a band you love, in the flesh, right there, and they are talking to you, and singing for you, and giving it all for you. Nothing can beat that! The only sad thing is that it ever has to end.

So, in the end, I was up on my feet like the rest of them. At one point a mini drum kit had been placed on a platform, and passed out on top of the crowd. The drummer then climbed onto it and drummed on top of the audience! The singer vanished, only to suddenly appear up on the balcony with us. Like all great front men, he had complete control of the crowd. If he had asked them all to jump off the balcony for him, they would have done so willingly.

I crept out of my own lane just a little bit, just long enough to be extremely impressed, and to wish I was young again! I didn’t sing or dance though. My daughter would have been mortified.

On the way home, the kids were buzzing and hyper. My daughter talked about the next gig she wants to go to. I can see now that she has the bug and I am happy for her. If anything can help you get through this confusing life in this crazy world, it’s music. It reminds you why you are alive.

I was left wondering if I would be welcomed along next time. By that date, she will be fourteen, and in most venues, won’t need and adult with her. I felt a brief stab of sorrow at the thought of being asked to merely drop her off and pick her up again. I’d miss out, but that is as it should be. She’s got her lane and I’ve got mine. I’m sure they will cross paths again at some point. Festivals are great for that.

In the meantime I will just savour the memories, of being able to witness one of her first experiences once again. Like watching her take her first steps, learn to ride a bike, and learn to read. I’m glad I got to be a part of it, even if it is unlikely to happen again!