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May 10 2013

Friday Night: Is One Day of Appreciation Ever Enough?

By at 2:58 pm

breakfast in bed for mother's day“How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?”

This is what all the moms were asking each other in our “Shabbat Shalom” toddler group this morning. For some, it was only their second Mother’s Day as mothers. For others of us (hand raised), Mother’s Day almost feels like a regular facet of the calendar. The real question, though, was eloquently asked by my friend and Kveller contributor Rebecca Schorr: “Are you in the “Mother’s Day means I want to be nowhere other than with my precious children” camp or the “Mother’s Day means I want to be nowhere near anyone who calls me Mom” camp?”

While I don’t want to throw Mother’s Day on the trash heap of “Hallmark holidays” like some people (see under: my husband), I have used these years to realize that Mother’s Day is nothing if not anticlimactic. Spend the day making brunch for nearly 20 family members? You’ll have togetherness, sure, but you’ll feel exhausted and somewhat put-upon. Opt to spend the day away from your children? In a fleeting moment, you’ll wonder why your “celebration” of being a mother is so dependent on being as far away from the people who make you a mother as possible.

I’m appreciative of any and all efforts made on my behalf (hint!), but I think this Friday night we’d be better off thinking about Shavuot than Mother’s Day, because the former is much better at meaningful expressions of appreciation and gratitude than the latter.

For those of you asking, “What the heck is Shavuot?” it’s a holiday starting Tuesday night which marks the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Observant Jews count every day between Passover and Shavuot, an in-between time called the Omer. This is meant to signify the transition from freedom, as my friend Rabbi Sharon Brous told me, to freedom with a purpose–the purpose of being Jews.

The reason Mother’s Day, on a fundamental level, can never really be satisfying is because the work–physical, emotional, mental, spiritual–of mothering is an all-year-long, 24/7 event. One day of breakfast in bed isn’t going to cut it in terms of adequately expressing appreciation and gratitude. A week wouldn’t do it either–it would actually take a lifetime.

That’s the point of building up to Shavuot: anything worthwhile is incremental.

The joy from my children’s card that I browbeat them into making me for Mother’s Day is significantly less than the everyday joys: my daughter setting the table, my son going out of his way to be kind to a new kid in school, my son apologizing to his brother with a sincere hug.

The years have taught me that honoring one’s mother and father isn’t just in bouquets of flowers or balloons. It’s not in the breakfast in bed. Rather, it’s in the joy of waking up every day to a life that we should work hard, with each day, to deserve. Our children honor us by being the best people they can be, and we honor them by appreciating the journey.

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