10 May 2008

Hello Muddah

Five days from now my daughter will be 11 months old; five days and a month later, we will celebrate her first year with us. Right now it is just an average Saturday in May – and yet it is hard to convey the degree of excitement and passion involved simply in this moment, a very generic moment except for thinking about such things.

At almost-11 months, my child is a joy beyond anything I could have imagined. She is smart, funny, loving, communicative, both dependent and (trying to be) independent, and by and large gives the impression of someone who knows exactly what she wants and when she wants it. As a parent, I will lay no claim to perfection, but I take joy in the fact that my daughter is excited to see me when I come home from work, or that she hands me books to read and knows when I’ll make funny faces she’ll want to look up to see.

At almost 11 months, what I want for my daughter has not much changed, either. I want her to grow up to be a strong and independent child, and then a strong and independent woman, someone who engages with the world and who discovers the things she enjoys in life – and who gives back to society in some meaningful way, too.

And where Mother’s Day is concerned – or Father’s Day, for that matter – my thoughts have not changed since I wrote about the subject last May, before my daughter was born. This year, the holiday comes just as the Bush administration’s new “economic stimulus” checks are going out to people across the country, with the expectation that folks will use the money to buy more stuff, thus providing more “economic stimulus” than they otherwise might given the shoddy economy. No doubt that with Mother’s Day happening tomorrow, more than a few retailers are hoping to catch an early slice of that so-called and very short-term “stimulus.”

I still think these holidays are terrible, because if you love your mother (or father) then one special day is irrelevant and unnecessary. Every morning when my daughter sits up in her crib and says “Hi,” and every evening when I come home to her, and all those other moments in between ... make just about every day feel like a father’s day. If you are someone who hates your parents, then you have bigger issues than these two holidays will ever solve. And if, like most of us, you have a complicated relationship with your parents, well, the day may feel like a burden to try to address something significantly more challenging than a card or a special brunch can. Instead, the flowers or the card or the brunch become a placebo, helping us pretend to feel better about a situation that remains emotionally fraught.

So, along with all those other things I hope for my daughter, I hope that she will approach these holidays (and others) with the appropriate degree of skepticism and independence, and figure out what (if any) meaning they have for her, and make her decisions from there – without guilt, without a sense of obligation from her parents, and without some absurd sense of societal judgment. More importantly, as I wrote last year: “I certainly hope for my child’s love and affection – and I definitely hope that we never find ourselves in a situation where the expression of those feelings is channeled towards a single day or event.”


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