Just Be

The concept of the Mother’s Day Gift is a crock of shit.


My first couple of Mother’s Days as a mother, I eagerly accepted gifts from my kids (which were really from my husband).  I made sure to demurely say, while looking up, humbly, from under my lashes, “You really didn’t need to get me anything.”  As the years went on, though, I couldn’t kick the pervasive, hollow feeling attached to these presents. 


The flowers.  The books.  The spa gift certificates.  They were all lovely gifts.  And I know that my husband and (albeit to a much smaller degree) my children had put some thought into them.


No matter what they bought, though, or how much they spent, the hollowness grew.


This year, my 7th year as a Mom, I finally got through.  I was insistent.  No.  Presents.


And there weren’t any.


And I was relieved.


Because here’s the thing.  My husband can spend till it hurts.  My kids can (eventually) save up their little allowances, buy me bigger, better, shinier shit. 


It will never be enough.


No gift will ever compensate for the flesh ripping pain of delivering a couple of nearly 10 pound babies.  Or the feeling of hysteria and manic depression brought on by 30 plus consecutive hours without sleep.  The numbing loneliness of realizing that, ultimately, this whole shebang rests on your shoulders.  The nauseating worry that a bump on the head will result in eventual brain damage.  The guilt for not watching closer as the kid climbed at the playground, thus acquiring that bump.  The gut searing howls of a scared child dropped off at daycamp.  The look of betrayal on a little girl’s face when her “friends” exclude her, and the knowledge that you can’t possibly make it better.  The sleep-robbing fear of drugs and guns and street gangs and school shootings and nuclear war.  Years 13-18.  The sudden, whiplash inducing stop when those kids leave, and even if they do call and talk and maintain a close relationship, ultimately, they’re gone.


No gift can ever truly thank me.



Now, before you rush off to the comments section to call me a selfish bitch, keep reading.


Because as with any theorem, there is a corollary.


While they can’t buy me a physical token to “thank” me, I have been paid back a thousand fold, already.


I was paid back the first time my son held my gaze.  The first time my daughter laid beside me, breathing in, breathing out.  When I came back from a trip and my baby hugged me around the head and licked my face like it was a lollipop and refused to let go for an hour.  When my girl sat up for the first time, right after I said “No, she can’t sit up yet.”  The time my child was hurt and ran past 3 people he loves to get to me, the only one he wanted to comfort him.  During our Rockin’ Dance Parties in the kitchen while I should have been making supper, but instead got swept up in moshing to “Jump Around”  with them.  When my water shy kids would resurface, with chlorine in their eyes, and utter triumph in their smiles.  In the middle of the night, with a barfing kid in my bed, watching cartoons at 3 in the morning, because what the hell else could we do?  Every time I know I’m supposed to be giving them crap, but I nearly can’t because god damn, those are some funny kids.


No, kids, don’t buy me stuff.


Just keep being.


27 responses to “Just Be

  1. Being a parent scares the crap out of me. I’m still going to go for it, and do my best, but honestly it’s scary as shit. I seriously don’t feel qualified to raise kids. Fortunately I don’t often think that far ahead, so I figure I’ll do what every other dad does, and wing the hell out of it, and maybe my kids won’t be serial killers or watch the 700 Club. (one day of course, not now or soon, screw that)

    Side note: your tiny little URL doesn’t look old enough to be a mother of seven years, so uh, good job on not being old looking. I hope I look that good when I’ve been a mom for that long. (I’m not good with compliments, happy you know what day)

  2. I used to loathe kids. Until the Godson came along.

    Now I loathe only him.

    Na, am kidding.

    I think.

  3. I was feeling pretty good about my gift selection – a half day at a spa – until I read the first half of this post.

    Then I read the second half and realized just how frighteningly good you are.

  4. You are really an incredibly writer Ginny. Makes me wanna quit blogging all together! Great Post.

  5. That was beautiful Ginny!

    And I agree, it’s never about the present itself.

    It wasn’t the fact that my 9yr old spent $4 of his allowance to buy me flipflops, that made me smile yesterday.

    It was the fact that he KNOWS how much I LOVE flipflops, and the time and care he took to make sure he chose JUST the right colour for me 🙂

    Size? Yeah. Whatever. Look at the COLOUR Mom! 😉

    Hope you had a great M Day!

  6. Yesterday, after hanging out with our respective families, me and some friends sat outside and had a conversation about how fucking glad we were not to be parents.

    Me and my sisters will be the last ones to have kids, if ever. My cousins’ kids will probably have kids before us.

    I don’t have any friends (other than all of you glorious internet friends) that have children. Acquaintances, sure. People I hung out with years ago. Before they bred. And then they have kids and they just…disappear. I see them maybe every other year, and they only want to talk about their kids, and how they weren’t complete until they became parents, and don’t I ever want to have kids? And it drives me fucking nuts. First of all, children require sperm, fuckers, and second of all, I don’t wanna.

    And now, I don’t wanna be friends with them.

    Why can’t they be more like you? Grateful, loving, insightful parents who make motherhood seem wonderful, without making me feel guilty?

  7. Well, I’m glad you threw the “corollary” in there because I was about to say, “What the hell…?!?!?!?!?”

    My parents try to tell my brother and I the same thing on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays and whenever else; we don’t listen.

    It’s not always something fancy. They both like to read, so it might be a gift card to their favorite bookstore. Or one to the nursery my mom visits for her gardening. Or the home improvement store my dad frequents.

    We don’t do it to make them feel guilty. We do it because we want to.

  8. I recently told a friend who is trying to get pregnant…

    It’s gonna suck sometimes…but, it’s gonna not suck just enough to keep you in the game!

  9. mongoliangirl

    This was lovely, and so are you.

  10. This is a very interesting and beautifully written post. And anyone who is a parent who would take issue with the fact that there aren’t really any material things that can ever compensate adequately for the job we do and call you names for it like “selfish bitch” are likely humourless precious assholes who probably think their kids don’t fart…

    The only thing I find myself thinking right now, though, is that gifts are not just about receiving. They are about giving. And learning how to give honestly and well is pretty important, I think.

    If someone is being forced and rushed into giving then it’s often not much of a gift – but if they’ve really thought about it and they WANT to give to us in some way because they have their OWN ideas of what it means for us to be their mother and ways in which they would like to recognize that on a day designated for that recognition then, I’m wondering if maybe it’s only gracious to accept it because it isn’t really about us anyway – it’s about a child’s need to give and don’t we want them to learn how to do that?

    I also can’t help thinking that there is value in modelling how to receive gifts graciously as well. I mean, I suck ass at allowing people to give things to me though I’m trying to get better at it because I really want the boyo to be gracious when receiving and sincere when he is himself giving…

    If it happens on mother’s day then it happens on mother’s day. If, as happened in my family for a while, he wants to give me a gift on HIS birthday cuz he knows who did the birthin’ that day then that’s when it happens.

    I mean, what if at some future time, your very writer-brained son – in the midst of pre-mother’s day frenzy at school for example – decided to write you a story all on his own. A beautiful, beautiful story about how much he values you as a mother – the things he sees and recognizes just as you see and recognize things in him… What if he then decided to ask his father to help him get a pretty folder for it and HE really wanted to get you a pedicure because he’s whip-smart and heard you saying you wanted to get one and asked for help with that too? What if he wanted to give it to you on Mother’s Day because that is the most logical day to do it?

    I respect the idea of some kind of embargo because there’s too much damn “stuff” most of the time and I too am more than “repaid” by my son’s “being” but I guess I’m throwing it out there that we have to careful not to substitute our idea of what a gift is for our childrens’ if for no other reason then it is not really supposed to be about the repayment of a debt so much as it is an honouring of us and the job we do and if we don’t let ourselves be honoured, if we decide for them what their gifts are to us, then how will they learn to honour, how will they learn to give?

    No answers from me on this one — I just know this post took me these places and raised these questions and I’m stuck on “excessive babbling” today…

  11. You didnt even need part two, I got you from the first few lines. 🙂
    You are right, although I do not have kids I am the same with anything. I do not want presents, ok I like them but i would rather have the time together than something that I will probably never use.

    Happy Mother’s Day!!! 🙂 (no gift attached lol)

  12. don’t forget “ages 19-29″… oh, and my kids made me laugh so hard i damn near lost a tooth. i call it “paying the rent”. and i’ve never loved so much or so deeply and i know i never will…

    loved this post. more than you could know…

  13. Agree with you 257%

    and still

    I secretly like the presents

    a lot

    but I’m an only child and I love when I’m the center of attention.

  14. I am finally catching up on blogs after having my first three months ago and this post articulates the ups and downs of those first days so well… thank you!

  15. “No gift can ever truly thank me.”

    Holy CRAP that was classic.

  16. Kids are the best presents, no? Just waking up and nuzzling their necks to wake them up for school is enough. Seeing them tromp in the yard. Achieve the unimaginable. That’s all I need . . .

    Great post, Ginny.

  17. Aw, I love this. My self-absorbed teenage self is rolling in her (finally admitted) metaphorical grave, but I seriously can’t wait to be a mom. But I hate mothers day. Thanks a lot Hallmark. Make me feel guilty for not spending money on potted flowers for mom, stepmom, and the one grandma I actually like. But of course we do it anyways. I want nothing to do with it! Cards get thrown out or obsessively kept in drawers, flowers die, dinners get digested. If anything, give me breakfast in bed, quality time with the kids, and then quality time without the kids. Way-hey-hey 😉

  18. Super post. Truly awesome. I know exactly how you feel. I’m so relieved that the husband was too busy to remember to buy me anything. He doesn’t get it. I don’t think he ever will. And I sat in church crying over how lucky I was to have my boys, no gifts, not even a homemade card because they’re too young. But they’ll never be this young again. Even after the hustle and bustle to get them there, it was the best to listen to the two-year-old try and sing and the three-year-old try to kneel and pray.

    I think this may be my favorite post so far.

  19. for years i said i didn’t want kids and now i don’t know what i’d do without them, the kicker being that if we do a good job as parents we ultimately raise them to leave us and live on their own, it wasn’t till i had a kid of my own that i realized how much parents sacrifice, i told my old man i never thought about how he felt the day i got on a plane at 17 and left home, his response “proud and sad”, light dawns on marble head so to speak…

    and i’m not saying everyone should have kids, honestly they shouldn’t, if you don’t think you can give up being the center of your universe get on the pill, wear a condom etal, if you think you can then do it, Ginny hit it on the head, it’s the hardest most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.

  20. Josh: Aren’t you the little honeydripper? The avatar was specifically selected for those exact properties.

    Monty: “am kidding. I think.” Yup, that’s parenthood.

    nursemyra: Thanks 🙂

    Xbox: Dude, indeed. Thanks (I think?)

    cdv: You SHOULD feel good. I don’t want to deny anyone the pleasure of giving. I’m just saying that for me, I’m trying to look way deeper for the receiving. Did that make sense?

    vinomom: Thanks, but for the love of mike, don’t quit. Do your thing.

    Kim: Mine was a marigold in a pot. But that wasn’t the gift. The gift was the smile, the shine in his eyes when he gave me something HE’D created.

    Betsey: Thanks!

    Rassles: I think maybe I got to where I am (maybe) because kids weren’t really a goal for me. They’re a series of surprises, all the time. (Or maybe you were just hanging out with a bunch of douches before. Hard to know.)

    Southern (in)Sanity: Gift cards are awesome. I was just working out my own stuff on the subject.

    Nikki: That’s good stuff, right there.

    mongoliangirl: Thanks, lady!

    Sulya: What could I possibly add?

    Loni: Thanks!

    daisyfae: Glad you liked it. But what do you mean 19-29? No, things will be perfect as soon as they turn 18. I am now sticking my fingers in my ears, because I will hear no more.

    formerlyfun: Well shit yeah, I like presents! There was just something about the “payback” aspect of mother’s day that riled me up. I blame those damn “They went to Jared!” ads.

    furrychocolates: Welcome! The first few months are an exquisite form of whiplash.

    Kathleen: I hope people know I meant the gift itself, and not the thoughts behind it. Thanks.

    tysdaddy: The achieving is a big one for me right now. I feel positively greedy, lapping up all those “light-bulb” moments.

    Em: There is something kind of awesome about the first Mother’s Day. For me, it cemented my membership in this club.

    faemom: Glad you had a good one.

    kono: I get mad at people who say that not wanting kids is selfish. No, selfish is knowing you’re too self-centered to do it right, but having the kids anyway.

  21. So perfectly written in every way.

  22. 19thmayflower

    i got my students to make a card for their mothers. but i agree with you. gifts are nothing compared to the love they show towards us.

  23. michael.offworld

    Whoa. What a brilliant post. Your husband’s lucky he doesn’t have to buy you presents anymore… 😉

  24. Gwen: Thanks so much.

    19thmayflower: Those cards that teachers make our kids make us are invaluable.

    michael: Hey, wait just a damn minute…

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