Where would we be without our Mums? So many, especially of my generation, worked so hard and put up with real privation just to make sure we nippers had enough and were well cared-for. They were just splendid. I will be praying for the repose of mine come this Sunday.
The 'celebration' started out as a Church Feast Day a long time ago. It was a Sunday when one went to the Parish one was born in, to the Church that was your 'Mother Church'. A little bit reminiscent of Mary going to Bethlehem for the census.
It was 'Mothering Sunday'. Nothing to do with our own mothers as such.
But that is all gone now.
Now it is the top spot of the year after Valentine's Day (that was about a Saint, slaughtered with arrows for his Love of Christ - now't to do with Cupid or the girl/boy next door) and Christmas (now't to do with Reindeer and shopping) on the Hallmark Company's profit column.
Mother's day ! Ker-ching.
The Department Stores are as busy as the Tavern this week. (But do not give their goods for free)
For many families it is a happy occasion and we try to make it so. The Tavern is decked with pretty stuff and the waiters are briefed on being deferential.
We are all for good mums in the Tavern.
But one notices the missing-in-action. Every year there are fewer Dads. Every year their are fewer genuine smiles on the younger kiddies' faces. Every year there are more 'forced' smiles on the mums' faces. A strained jollity. Every year the children have yet another reminder of the unworkable conundrums that blight their lives in our 'Hilary Village' society.
My mate Ron Collins was supping a pint and telling of how it is for him this year. I often chat with Ron. I have had chats with his daughter too. Splendid little girl. She is the apple of his eye.
Ron knows all about minefields in the no-man's land of the Human Heart.
Mothers' Day and the children of abandoned Fathers
I have a mother.I call her on Mothers' Day. She appreciates it. We talk, we enjoy it, and life goes on. My dad appreciates this too, as he has long been her champion and defender, and my staying on good terms with my mom is something that benefits the both of them, as they both know that this (for reasons I needn't go into) has been something that took years to establish on healthy grounds with both of them and their grown children.
Things happen, people hold grudges, and events like Mothers' or Fathers' Day aren't always something that comes naturally for even the most close-knit families.But, as with so many issues facing children with separated parents, and more often than not an absent father who is the household villain-icon in a mother-dominated environment, how often does anyone consider what these things mean to them? At the time while they are still children, and going on throughout their lives as future adults and parents themselves?To begin a truly adult discussion on this, may we at least be frank about the existing terms and conditions we face in modern life?
I often agree with Ron. He is right about disposable dads, but here though I need to interject that today even though Motherhood is ranked well above fatherhood, Motherhood itself is demeaned and dismantled while we struggle to 'Celebrate'.I assert that we live in a time in which motherhood is exalted while fatherhood is held suspect. That motherhood is considered fundamental and irreplaceable for children's well-being, while fatherhood is seen as conditionally disposable, even optional, for them.
Yes, the children are often seen in 'more need' of a mother than of a father, but motherhood itself, and children, are seen all too often as an encumberence that interferes with 'lifestyle' and a 'woman's right to do whatever she wants with her body'.
Which includes, of course, killing children, mostly before birth and all too often after as well.
Woe to the mother who actually wants to mother her children. She is cajoled back to work. The 'economeee' requires her quite modest taxes. And there are legions of late teenage girls and young women who need to be fed into the 'community' as 'Child-care Workers'. (Do not let those nasty boys and young men anywhere near the children, of course). The education departments demand their share of the social engineering action too. How are the schools to remain female dominated if women are allowed to stay at home with their children. Heck, some might even want to Home-School them !!!
That motherhood is held to a lower standard of accountability in terms of the long-term effect on children of mothers' actions, than is fatherhood.So, with these back-to-back events every spring honoring first mothers and then fathers, are we in fact celebrating a set of parallel roles to children, giving them the same respect and value as each other?
That is, in America, of course. In Oz the fathers do not get lumped in with 'grads'. They just get lumped.Or, is it no mistake that Mothers' Day exists as an event in its own sphere, while fatherhood must take a place in the greetings hierarchy as part of "dads and grads", as an honorable but less distinct achievement, as if fathering and finishing high school both were only what was expected of us to begin with but no more?
As merits of compliance with standards set by others on us, but not of actual adult accomplishments in their own right?I have dealt with this conundrum of the value of fathers for many years as a man separated, against my fatherly wishes, from my children.
And, Mothers' Day is an annual torment for me, but not because I don't appreciate motherhood or even because I don't think that my children can be well and happy with their mothers and without me. Enough experience has been gained historically by now in this world, to make the claim that maybe children don't need fathers to have happy childhoods.Indeed, the challenge for the separated father begins with not being the source of misery and conflict his role as a rejected parent seems to demand him to be.
We have to learn the craft of both believing our children need us, and accepting that they aren't ever going to get what we have to offer them in full measure, and try to live with both these conflicting realities.
If we don't, it is all too easy for a man to live down to every negative remark, every justification offered, every oft-repeated accusation of how like their fathers our children are, and play that part perfectly whether we mean to or not. And be the very engine of discontent we were accused of being when we were abandoned in the first place.Something just happened today to put this all in a very unexpected perspective.
My daughter, who has had separated parents for essentially her entire life, called me today to ask some innocent advice about some Mothers' Day plan she is making, and despite my (not at my best?) efforts, she picked up something in my tone of voice.
She asked me why I sounded so "gloomy" (while I'm thinking "daughter, you don't know the half of it..." let's just say, things are not so good between her parents these days), and I was trying to compose the rest of a properly fatherly reply which had begun with, "honey, I'm glad you love your mother, I'm glad you want to do something nice for her..."
Before anyone jumps in to critique me in handling this very delicate moment, assume if you will that it's not my first rodeo here. I've tried to deal fairly with both my children for eighteen years, and with two different women who each openly abandoned and rejected my place in their lives and theirs in mine. I knew from the beginning how easily children will blame themselves for these adult failures, how hard they take them and how many ways they will internalize them or act them out. I have always tried to be as supportive of their mothers' parental role as I could manage, and my tongue has the scars to prove it from all the biting of it I've done to keep from saying things more impulsive and vindictive than my children would benefit from hearing.So, this cue from my daughter was not by any means the first time I have had to find the right words.
But, this time she was onto me to begin with, because as a brave and loyal daughter, she has made every effort to be her father's rightful child and uphold my place in her life against all the circumstances that have had us apart so much of her life.She knows me too well, it turns out, for me to just act the part and deliver the lines. I had to say something honest, but not bitter or judgmental, in the context a longtime standoff between her parents that is more than visible to her, and for which she is not to blame.But, I never got the chance.I never heard any click or odd noise, but as I said it's not my first rodeo, so when I heard her mother's voice saying (at that exact critical moment...) she needed the phone to call the office?
A safe bet she'd been listening in from the start.If so, all she managed to do was spoil our little girl's heartfelt surprise for her mother, but not catch me saying something I had no intention of saying anyway.I called my mom and dad to verbalize my frustration over this kind of thing happening again and again for years now, not to me but to my kids.
What are they (the children) going to make of how awkward and constrained it was throughout their childhoods, just to be on close and earnest terms with their adult male parent?
What will they invest of this in their own lives as adults and parents?
What will they think of either of us, or of the whole institution of adult life, when this is how it has been presented to them?
Strained, self-censored, careful conversations, monitored, eavesdropped and debriefed for a lifetime by the offended parent whose hegemony is so easily threatened by a child talking to her or his father as if they were actually part of the same family?
Mom and Dad had plenty of supportive commentary and sound advice, but this wasn't why I called them, and they knew that too. I just had to let it out, that aside from how ridiculous and unjust it is for a man to try and operate as a father on these terms, how can we even calculate what this does to children to have to be in the middle of it?
Enjoy Motherhood, ladies. It is God-given. A Gift.And how has it come to pass that a mother has this kind of power to define to a man she has walked away from on her own volition, what he may or may not say to their children?So, go ahead and observe Mothers' Day. I know I will. Heck, some of my best friends (to borrow a cliche) are moms. But maybe give a thought or two to the children of abandoned fathers, and wonder for the sake of humanity's future, what all this elevating of motherhood as a thing above and of greater value than fatherhood does to the children who have both, but with the former dictating to all parties the terms of their relationship with the latter?I know I'll be doing that too, this Mothers' and Fathers' Day, both.
From God the Father.