Happy (Imperfect) Mother's Day! [6 Cards My Teens Would Give Me If They Could]

This Sunday, my family will try. We're planning a "nice day" together, but the resentment, sulkiness and "why-can't-I-just-be-with-my-friends" sentiments are palpable already. At the moment, my family is awfully far away from a greeting-card, Pinterest-worthy Mother's Day celebration. 

Listen. My oldest child is 17 and in the throes of his adolescent "identity crisis" (Erickson, 1968). I am 46; the evidence of aging in my body and in my parents--all of whom I expected to stay young and healthy forever--hits me daily like so many unexpected and violent slaps to my wrinkled face.

Lately, our little family has struggled with death and disillusionment; some of my core beliefs have been shaken as if by hurricane winds; we've been battening down hatches and trying to get some footing in the storm. Even the dog is going senile, doing his personal best to unravel my sanity with his barking (at everything, at nothing, all the livelong day).

A Mother's Day full of appreciation and warm feelings and "I love you, Mommy" breakfast-in-bed is deeply unlikely. The children who honored me by making me a mother? Well, they resent my very existence, and most especially the mother-y things I do. It's confusing. We'll spend part of the day celebrating my mom, of course--which is right and good--but even that is confounding. I don't know about you, but patterns of misery with my adolescent children tend to agitate miserable memories from my own mis-spent youth.

I know this much: expecting an imperfect Mother's Day celebration is the only way to guarantee a good time. Sunday will be special because my husband and I will do our best to remain present and open--even in the midst of adolescent grumbling--to the spontaneous joy of being together. The more I let go of commercialized visions of My Perfect Mother's Day, the better my day is bound to be.

In the meanwhile, here are a few authentic Mother's Day sentiments my teenagers might express if they thought they could get away with it. Because sometimes, keepin' it real is the best way to face the hype of the holidays. 

You don’t even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup — which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse. - J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

Anthems of Youth: Ah, Sweet Rebellion!

Teenagers fashion their rebellion precisely to piss us off.

Generation after generation, adolescents figure out new and specific ways to drive adults up a collective tree. Every now and then, I spend a few moments contemplating my own wild quest to form an identity different from my parents. Granted, it's not pretty, gazing too closely at one's mis-spent youth. However, through the lens of middle age I see my rebellion with humor and fondness (and maybe I can do the same when I look at the teenagers I am raising).

It helps that Jonathan Larson wrote an anthem for my generation (at least for the under-employed, lost, creative people in my immediate circle). With his last breath, Mr. Larson opened RENT in New York and gave voice to my fears, disappointments, and atavistic urge to dress like an asshole. I wept and cheered in the front row on Broadway, along with my bohemian, twenty-something comrades. Together, we raised a giant, cynical, vulnerable, hopeful-despite-ourselves middle finger to convention. And on that stage, they harmonized it in big, beautiful voices to stir our souls.

Tonight, I listened to the cast recording and was struck once again by how specifically it spoke to my late adolescence. La Vie Boheme was our very own, celebratory, F-You to the world. More than two decades later, I am considerably less arrogant, slightly more resilient, perhaps even a bit wiser. But those lyrics are a litany of my personal formation, and for that I cherish them. Here is the labyrinth of influences, instincts and indulgences I navigated in my rather ill-conceived quest to become My Own Person. Put to music, with a snazzy dance number!

Remembering my own pathological need to practice Shock and Awe on society (and on my parents) helps me see teenaged rebellion with kinder eyes.

It even helps me make more sense of (and rant less about) the likes of Nicki Minaj and Kanye West and those Trailer Park Boys and that Honey Boo-Boo and any other number of infuriating things going on up in my house. But that's another story for another post.

"The Garden of Earthly Delights," Hieronymus Bosch c. 1500 AD

For now, play the anthems of YOUR youth; they go a long way toward helping forgive the younger generation for their unrelenting, vulgar attempts to cut those apron stringsMeanwhile, enjoy this disgruntled canticle of my salad days. (Good times, but you couldn't pay me to go  back.) 

The middle lyrics (and my personal creed, c. 1994) from "La Vie Boheme" by Jonathan Larson:

To days of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing,

The need to express, to communicate,

To going against the grain, going insane, going mad!

To loving tension, no pension, to more than one dimension,

To starving for attention, hating convention, hating pretension,

Not to mention, of course, hating dear old Mom and Dad!

To riding your bike midday past the three-piece suits,

To fruits, to no absolutes, to Absolut,

To choice, to the Village Voice, to any passing fad!

To being an Us for once, instead of a Them,

La vie Boheme!

 To hand-crafted beers made in local breweries,

To yoga, to yogurt, to rice and beans and cheese,

To leather, to dildos, to curry vindaloo,

To huevos rancheros and Maya Angelou.

Emotion, devotion, to causing a commotion,

Creation, vacation, mucho masturbation.

Compassion, to fashion, to passion when it's new,

To Sontag, to Sondheim, to anything taboo.

Ginsberg, Dylan, Cunigham and Cage,

Lenny Bruce! Langston Hughes! To the stage!

To Uta, to Buddha, Pablo Neruda, too.

Why Dorothy and Toto went over the rainbow

To blow off Auntie Em,

La vie Boheme!

 Bisexuals, trisexuals, homo sapiens,

Carcinogens, hallucinogens, men, Pee Wee Herman.

German wine, turpentine, Gertrude Stein,

Antonioni, Bertolucci, Kurosawa, Carmina Burana!

To apathy, to entropy, to empathy, ecstasy,

Vaclav Havel! The Sex Pistols! 8BC!

To no shame, never playing the Fame Game, to marijuana!

To sodomy, it's between God and me, to S & M

La vie Boheme!