There’s a debate brewing in my household. It’s between me, one of those guys who hates buying a bunch of outlined gifts shown on commercials for Valentine’s Day — flowers, chocolates, jewelry — simply because I’m told to by society, and my wife, who appreciates that said society forces men to show their appreciation on such “holidays.” We can’t agree on who is celebrated on Mother’s Day. While I was under the impression it’s a day to celebrate your mother, my wife thinks it’s for spouses too.
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“Why do you think I make such a big deal out of Father’s Day for you?” she asked. She has a point.
I won’t use the excuse that men think differently than women. That never ends well. While I’ll still fight against commercialism dictating that we buy lavish gifts to show our appreciation, I can’t argue that my wife doesn’t deserve gratitude on Mother’s Day. But it took some thinking about it objectively to realize just how much.
During our debate, which I lost, by the way, I focused solely on societal pressure. I try really hard in life to live at my own pace, make my own rules when I can and find comfort and satisfaction where there’s usually pressure. It’s my path to contentedness — focus on my family, not on keeping up with the Joneses. It’s served us well, I must say.
Every once in a while, though, I have to step back and realize others are on this path, and their needs might not be the same as mine. And if it irks my wife that her same-aged co-worker received a gift on Mother’s Day while she is busy helping me buy my mom one instead, I need to pay attention to that, right?
So I took a step back and tried to walk in my wife’s shoes. In doing so, I remembered the days — nights actually — that she gave birth to my daughters. I was surprised with the specific detail I could recall from those experiences, when I often can’t remember things I’ve said and done only a few weeks prior. In vivid detail I remembered the shape of my eldest’s head right after birth and the way my youngest breathed when she slept that first night. I remembered the “bed” I slept on overnight in each room, more than once being a love seat or chair I hung over the side of like a clock in a Salvador Dali painting. I even remember what I wore — I still have the “Gonzaga Bulldogs Basketball” t-shirt I had on in the hospital during both births, which wasn’t intentional.
But most importantly, I remembered the way my wife looked at me as she held each child for the first time. The strain from pushing a kid out was still on her flexed forehead, but her tears of physical pain had shifted to tears of joy, and the mixture of them both made her beautiful face glisten under the hospital room lights. She looked at me like she was pleasantly surprised by what rested on her chest and thankful that we made it through it all together. I gave her a kiss each time and told her I was proud of her, and it was true.
If I can remember such things as a guy coaching from the sidelines, what can my wife remember as the quarterback in the game? Mother’s Day probably brings back memories of contractions for half a day, labor for an entire night and no sleep for several months (or years, really). She can probably distinctly remember each child’s first cry, their birth weight and dimensions. And she definitely remembers what it was like carrying them both for nine months — the heartburn and endless Tums, the cravings for popcorn and coffee-flavored ice cream at all hours of the night and the magical feeling of something coming to life inside of her.
I realized it’s no wonder she feels the need to be a part of Mother’s Day. Her children are too young to show the appreciation my siblings and I will show my mother, and on top of that, her experiences of motherhood are not only still fresh in her mind (the youngest only being 19 months old), but her job as a mother is still ongoing. Her kids haven’t moved out of the home and started families of their own, they’re still waking up in the middle of the night crying, learning how to put words together (my youngest) and discovering ballet for the first time (my eldest). The joys and sorrows of motherhood are essentially in full effect right now.
I wish I could retract my side of the debate the other night. My points, while valid, really don’t matter in the scheme of things. There I was trying to make a point about how I care about my family first and not what society tells me to do, and I’m neglecting the most important member of it because of it. Shameful.
So I accept my defeat graciously because my wife is right. Every mother deserves to feel special on Mother’s Day, and it’s our job as children and spouses to ensure that happens.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.