Approximately one year ago today, I forgot to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day. My excuses were plentiful (I had just been home for her birthday last weekend, I was biking, my phone died, I figured she was busy, etc.), but my guilty conscience remained thereafter.
Yet the guilt dug a little deeper than the missed mother’s day wish; even if I had sent that text, left that voicemail or mailed that Hallmark card— as I had successfully remembered to do for the past dozen some odd years—the thoughtless, three-word sentiment would have still fallen flat of a more genuine appreciation, one I wish I had more frequently communicated and treated as more of a priority whilst growing up.
Granted, there were other important things to do in the 22-year meantime: do well in school, make friends, try to talk to boys, learn right from wrong and all of that jazz. There was little time to appreciate the woman whose nine months of physical and mental nurturing gave (literal) life to such a busy bee.
And granted, mothers are often too busy themselves with our self-development long after our birth to leave time for them to be appreciated; as my own mother tearfully recounts to me at each birthday and graduation, “you, my daughter, are my truest pride and joy.”
Despite often having their own list of important things to do, our mothers make us feel like we are their first and foremost priority; they treat us as if our “important things” are their “important things” too.
This prioritization dates back to our youth, when our mothers would enthusiastically sit through our ear-wrenching recitals, sweltering-hot sports games, and tedious, two-hour fake “school” lessons, even when they could have been doing far better things for themselves.
Indeed, they prioritized our “important things” when it didn’t make rational sense to them; they bought us the Spongebob-shaped Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, even when the America’s Choice brand was a fraction of the cost; they followed us into the miserably dark and over-perfumed quarters of Hollister to buy us jeans, even when they had coupons for JC Penney; they sponsored an extravagant college education and experience, even when they could have sent us straight into the working world.
And underlying our mothers’ selfless acts, there were benefits we didn’t even know we were reaping; underlying that decision to let us draw on our bedroom wallpaper with Crayola crayons was the decision to encourage creative expression; underlying that choice to let us play kitchen with real-life baking products was the implicit fostering of our curiosity to experiment; underlying the permission they granted us to design our own outfits and style (or simply refuse to style) our hair was the permission to become individuals.
Sometimes they had even bigger implications; the times they scolded us for hosting house parties or disobeying their requests were also the times we learned what guilt was; the times they let us cry to them after being rejected by a program or having our hearts broken by a boy were also the times we realized the triviality of life’s little speedbumps; and all of the times (which these days seem like daily instances) they remind us that we are beautiful and special and loved are also the times they help develop our self-esteem and give us a sense of self-worth.
Judging by the contemporary era of everything from “self-started” businesses to “self-ies”, it seems our mothers’ efforts to make us value ourselves have certainly paid off. But I worry that we might have gone too far, and that we have become so focused on our own self-development and success that we forget to acknowledge the people who are quite literally responsible for our life; we forget that all the so-called “important things” that we do were because someone gave us a sense that who we are and what we do is important.
So Mom, although our history of ignored texts and forgotten phone calls may prove otherwise, I love and appreciate you more than a holiday or Hallmark card could ever express.
I realize now, with graduation around the corner, that everything I have accomplished is because you made them seem worth accomplishing. And I realize now that the self-assured woman I am today is a product of every selfless decision you’ve ever made on my behalf.
Happy Mother’s Day, and thank you for making every day feel like “Daughter’s Day.”