Saturday, May 19, 2012

Apparently this is actually a thing. When did it become a thing?

About a week and a half ago, Scott and I made a late-night Wal-Mart run to buy cards. It was the day before Youngest Younger Brother's birthday, so it was kind of urgent. (We were seeing him in person, so fortunately we didn't have to mail it.) It was also four days until Mother's Day and six days until Younger Elder Brother's birthday. (We did have to mail his card.)

Anyway, I sent Scott to the birthday card aisle while I puttered around the Mother's Day card aisle. He knows his brothers better than I do, especially YEB. He ended up getting a Star Trek card for YEB, which I happily signed because I'm always in favor of wishing somebody long life and prosperity. :) Then he got a sort of generic nice card for YYB, which I signed because I love that kid. My rule on signing cards: Parse the meaning of the card and decide if it makes sense. So: "Dear YYB, Happy birthday. Love, Scott" is a sentiment to which I can happily add "and Megan." (Scott signed YEB's card "Love" too, and while I don't have the deep and abiding affection for him that I have for YYB--mostly just since I don't know him very well, since he'd already moved out of the house by the time I started dating Scott--I figured I can extend some sister-in-law-ly regard. Plus, I couldn't resist the Star Trek card.) This point is important later on.

When Scott got over to the Mother's Day card aisle, I pointed out to him all of the accidentally hilarious cards. (And some of the intentionally hilarious cards.) You could wish a happy mother's day to your mother and your grandmother, which I think is pretty normal, though neither of us got a grandmother card for our surviving grandmother. I don't remember why. Probably because I'm a cheapskate. I will remember to send my grandmother a card for her birthday next week to make it better. And Scott's grandmother has 16 children and 30-ish grandchildren; I doubt she was lonely.

Anyway. In addition to the "normal" cards, you could wish a happy mother's day to your daughter, your aunt, your sister, your godmother, your mother-in-law, your daughter-in-law, your sister-in-law and of course your wife. The last one I already knew about, but I want to comment on it more extensively so I put it last.

Now, I'm all about husbands appreciating their wives, but Mother's Day is Mother's Day, not Valentine's Day. (Which is an overblown holiday anyway.) The Mother's Day adds should not be for jewelry and chocolates. I'm not sure what they should be for, but not that. Mother's Day is the kind of day when your husband lets your toddler scribble on a piece of paper and then signs it "Love, Teresa" and gives it to you. Or the kind of day when your 8-year-old brings you breakfast in bed that they made all by themselves. Or when your slacker of a 22-year-old doesn't do anything because she forgot to mail your card until Saturday so you're going to get it on Tuesday.

Again, if you and your husband find it mutually agreeable for him to pamper you excessively on Mother's Day, more power to you. I'm just saying it's an even huger leap than making Valentine's Day what it is, because Valentine's Day is at least sort of about honoring your significant other, whereas Mother's Day is about honoring your mother. So people shouldn't get worked up if not every single person they've ever met sends them a card or something.

I wouldn't have written this little rant based solely on an aisle in Wal-Mart. Hallmark exists to make cards for every conceivable occasion and some inconceivable ones. I laughed and moved on with my life.

Then I was surfing the internet randomly and came across this post at Ask Moxie. I think the letter-writer is reading way too much into it, and I think Moxie is feeding the flames instead of encouraging a) letting it go or b) getting to the root of whatever underlying issue causes the daughter-in-law to be so angry about this particular thing. I know about getting mad over nothing. I do it to lots of people, not just my mother-in-law. But once I've cooled off a little bit I realize that either a) I was hormonal at the time and nothing I felt had any bearing on reality or b) I'm taking a small thing and making it emblematic of a larger problem which does need to be addressed, but which can't be addressed if all I'm doing is throwing hissy-fits over tiny annoyances.

 Now, if your mother-in-law wants to send you a Happy Mother's Day card, that's cool. My paternal grandmother (she's the one who's still alive and who didn't get a Mother's Day card from me this year) sends my mother cards on her birthday, often with money, but she's never send my mother a card for Mother's Day. (I asked my mom.) My maternal grandmother (who died many years ago and therefore definitely did not get a card from me this year) apparently never sent one either. And Grandma M. was one of those people who keeps Hallmark in business. She had this quirk of sending everyone she knew cards for St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, among others. Some people like to send "Thinking of you" cards; my grandmother preferred to find a holiday, any holiday, and hope you had a happy one even if you never knew it existed before you got that card.

(About 2 weeks after they started dating, my mom got my dad a St. Patrick's Day card. He thought it was the weirdest thing ever. Scott and I started dating in early April, so when I sent him a card honoring our first St. Patrick's Day together he already knew I was weird.)

It never would have occurred to me to get a "Happy Mother's Day to my Mother-in-Law" card and send it to my mother-in-law. I doubt it has occurred to her to wonder why I didn't. I don't have children, so of course I wasn't expecting anything from her, but I doubt I would have even if I had children. If I write a weepy post in a couple of years about how my mother-in-law doesn't love me because she doesn't send me a card, feel free to point me back here and also slap me with a dead trout.

I didn't even sign the card that Scott got for her. I did find it for him. (And he compared it to two or three others he'd found himself and decided it was the best. So he put effort into the finding; I just happened to spot it first while he was distracted with birthday cards.) It goes back to the thing I said way up near the top of the post about how I think about what I'm signing before I sign it. "Dear Mom, Thank you for all the effort you put into raising me. Happy Mother's Day. Love, Scott" is not something I'm going to add my name to. She's not my mom and she didn't put any effort into raising me. Now, I am happy that she gave birth to and raised my husband. That happiness extends to writing a Facebook post in which I tag both her and my own mother and wish them and all my other Facebook friends a Happy Mother's Day. (And when Facebook informed my mother that she'd been tagged in a post she accidentally marked it as spam. It was kind of hilarious.) It doesn't extend to getting her a separate card which includes a mushy poem. (I hate mushy poems, and Hallmark hasn't yet come up with "Mother's Day to my Mother-in-Law--Humorous". Probably they're afraid the first person to get one of those would take it the wrong way and blow up in a big fiery ball visible from space.)

Meanwhile, my husband didn't sign the card to my mother and didn't even wish her a happy Mother's Day on Facebook or anything. There is an untapped "Happy Mother's Day to My Mother-in-Law (from Son-in-Law)" market! Somebody needs to get on that!

I don't have a conclusion to this post. Except maybe: Don't be a drama queen. Really. There are enough things to get worked up about in life already without creating them. If you're getting that worked up about Mother's Day, go buy yourself some on-sale chocolates and eat them until you calm down.


GeekLady said...

...dear, while I agree with you on the mother-in-law daughter-in-law card dynamic (with the caveat of do whatever causes the least drama, even if it's mildly annoying like signing cards) you're way off base otherwise, especially regarding the wife/husband dynamic.

It is entirely appropriate that a husband show some appreciation to the mother of his children on Mother's Day. Stupid modern cultural methods of showing this are beside the point, which is that motherhood is brutally hard work. And while you might have mental images of a three year old's scribbles, or an 8 year old's pancakes, life doesn't always work out that way.

Sometimes your husband is the only who even acknowledges your motherhood.

The Sojourner said...

I think perhaps I did not articulate that part well, since it was aside from my main discussion of m-i-l/d-i-l drama. I have no problem with husbands acknowledging their wives on Mother's Day. I do have a problem with what seems like a growing commercialization of the holiday with attendant expectations of a particular kind of acknowledgment from particular people. That was my point, not beside the point at all.

Now, the point of Mother's Day itself (rather than just this post) is another discussion entirely. My opinion is that the point is for children (actual children and grown "children") to acknowledge their mothers. No, that does not always work out in a rosy, ideal way. (I don't have children myself, but I also don't live life hermetically sealed away from mothers of young children. I know how this works.) However, in my mind the main role the husband/father plays on Mother's Day is encouraging and directing the children's appreciative impulses. You seem to have a different understanding, and considering that you're not related to me it doesn't bother me at all that your expectations are different than mine. I hope your husband AND children spoiled you rotten on Mother's Day.