My mother is a quiet, reserved person and she would never be described as an activist. She spent her life molding the minds of her students in her many classrooms. She may be quiet, but she has always had strong opinions about things and the way she taught me about them influences me even now.
These days it is not uncommon to see advertisements that feature what I call purposeful role reversal. A father may be folding the laundry or a mother is coaching sports. In the 70’s, there was an ad for Jif peanut butter and the tag line was “choosy mothers choose Jif.” The fact that the commercial insinuated that only mothers choose peanut butter and that you’re not a good (choosy) mother if you don’t choose Jif pretty much outraged my mother. She stuck with her favorite, Peter Pan, thank you very much. She showed me that it was possible to “vote” with your wallet.
Long before conservative Christians began speaking up politically and years before the Moral Majority was formed, my mother was on guard to protect me from certain types of religious indoctrination. Vacation Bible school was forbidden and if a friend invited me to church or youth group, the group/church had to be investigated by my mother. If they had any conservative/prejudiced/evangelical leanings, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend. My churchgoing desires were satisfied by her taking me to a local liberal Episcopal church, where I would be confirmed.
In 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land. The first thing my mother said to me about the decision was, “too bad Uncle Max and Charlie aren’t alive to see this.” Uncle Max was her paternal uncle and Charlie was his partner. I knew about Uncle Max and Charlie because my mother was honest about their relationship. In the mid 60’s, most gay people had to keep their orientation a secret even from family members. As a young child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I knew my Great Uncle Max was different, but in my eyes, he and Charlie were just handsome relatives whom we saw at holidays.
My mother is now 75 years old. I love the fact that she has friends of all races and religions. Her strong opinions are something she holds close to her and unless you are family, you might not know about them. As long as you respect her, she will respect you and her political views won’t be discussed among friends. I admire this and strive to emulate her quiet strength.
I am tempted to temporarily suspend my Facebook account until after graduation season is over. I just find the constant graduation pictures and celebrations, complete with tears and “my baby is all grown up now” posts too much. First of all, your five year old didn’t graduate from kindergarten. They are moving to 1st grade. Your 8th grader will be a high schooler now. If your 5th grader failed elementary school and has to stay back a year, I’m sorry, but for the rest of the kids moving on, it’s no big deal. Really. One friend of mine actually posted that today was a big day for her daughter as she moved from 9th grade to 10th. Um, not a big deal. Let’s put away the tiny caps and gowns and save the celebrations for graduations that really matter, like high school or college. Enough with the tears and emojis all over Facebook. Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I apologize. It’s been 6 years since my youngest child graduated high school and the oldest one graduated college. I can guarantee that I did not go crazy on social media then, bombarding all who gave a shit with pictures and tears. I posted one picture of each of the high school and college graduations. One. There was not a countdown to the “big day” or collages of the children or side by side comparisons of him as a toddler and him as a graduate.
Why am I so cranky about this? I feel as though I should comment on all of these pictures with appropriate supportive comments such as, “Aw, congratulations to little Johnny” or “I can’t believe she is 10 years old already!” Your child is doing what every child in every school has done everyday for hundreds of years and the fact that they “passed” kindergarten or 5th grade is not necessarily a reason for caps and gowns, diplomas and parties. My youngest son had a rough time in 5th grade. I was happy that he did make it and took him out for lunch on the last day of school. We didn’t have a party and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to participate in any graduation ceremony if the school even had one.
Celebrations are fun. I get it. Some people live for parties and like to make a big deal out of things. The problem I have with all of these “graduation” ceremonies is that when you make a huge deal out of every transition or every childhood growing up step, it diminishes the importance and specialnesss of the ones that really matter. It also teaches the child that simply making it from one grade to the next without failure is really something to be commended. I disagree with that. It is expected. It was expected that I would graduate from high school. (For the record, not a single one of my peers ever had a graduation or ceremony for any graduation except high school and/or college.) Same with my children. I did not feel the need to whoop it up and hoot and holler and when they walked across the stage to get their diplomas. The fact that they graduated was not the reason for celebration, but the recognition that they were no longer public school students and were moving on to the next phase of life, which is adulthood, was certainly a reason to celebrate.
I want to preface this post by saying that I have been through shit in my life. Divorce, abuse, familial estrangement, mental illness, job loss, health issues, etc. I could go on but I’ll just leave that there. I have never asked for help or cried out to friends and family about my situation. There have been rough financial times in my past when my children were small. I have always found ways to make it through by cutting back expenses, or by making difficult choices such as going back to work when my children were small. Our home was never large and sometimes we shared a car. Many cold mornings I bundled my son, put him in his car seat and drove my ex husband to work. I made the heart wrenching decision to work when my kids were small so that we could afford the bare necessities and some extras for them, such as rec sports, music lessons, and even private school when we had to. It’s what grown ups do. Put on our big girl or big boy pants and make hard decisions that aren’t necessarily our first choice.
My own parents got married young and had two children 16 months apart. From what I’ve been told, we lived in a shack while my father finished his degree and my mother took care of us. After that, we moved out of state (from all family) for my father’s job. Our childhood home was small and my parents rented it until they could afford something else. (still not a mansion) I don’t ever remember my parents burdening us with the struggles they had to endure. Life was simpler then, I suppose.
I had to use WIC. I’ve used food stamps and food banks in my adult life. I have worked when I could barely get out of bed due to the worst depression anyone could have had. I was pregnant at the time, by the way. I have had an abortion when my ex and I found out I was pregnant before we were ready for a child.
I was in a shitty marriage with two children, but I never once ran back to my parents like a child.
When you are an adult, you don’t make bad financial decisions over and over again and then expect your parents and friends to bail you out. I have a friend who has done this and I am finding it very hard to respect her. I feel that an adult friendship requires some level of respect and I don’t respect her anymore. I even called her therapist’s office to pay for her therapy sessions a few months ago. Then, bam, a month later she is posting on Facebook how sad and depressed she is because her parents aren’t alive anymore to bail her out financially or emotionally. Sooner or later, you must grow up.She can’t even bring herself to help out with the selling of her parents’ house. I guess her brother and sister will have to take on that burden. I won’t be friends with people who are so foolish and immature. I just can’t do it.