Mother’s Day Do-Over

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Throughout all the years my mother was alive, we had the best Mother’s Days ever.

Everyone gathered at my folks’ house and showed up on time. No one came or left drunk. There were no loud or soft arguments. No nagging or critical comments. We never spent our time with video games or mobile devices. (True, we didn’t have any of those growing up, but still.) We children, and later the grandchildren, were always well behaved, polite and helpful. Ok, most of that is true. Still, Mother’s Days at our house were loving, fun and unifying.

This is not the case in everyone’s home. Sometimes a family gathering is anything but fine and fun. Active grudges bloom. Even a raised eyebrow or a scowl can start a family skirmish. Words are sometimes said that are regretted later. Expected family members don’t show or come over late. Tears and anger flow.

So what is someone to do if this past Mother’s Day was a partial or complete disaster? Perhaps the sentiment that “Every day should be Mother’s Day” can help in these situations. Though the Hallmark Mother’s Day has passed, would there be a chance to have a Mother’s Day “do-over” in the weeks ahead?

Here are some of the elements that could make things right.

(1) Forgiveness. What benefit is there in remembering any slight that took place this past Sunday? Just let it go. This is more difficult when a person has been sinned against over and over again. The unpleasantness of the latest family gathering is just the latest in a string of insulting moments. This is where forgiveness is most important. Think of it as changing the bag on a vacuum cleaner. After a time there is just so much that can be sucked up before the bag is filled with the dirt and dust of life. The refusal to empty the bag only leads to that same dirt and dust being blown all over the room. There is a moment where we just have to discard it all and start again. Forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice. And today may be the day we can choose to dump the past hurts and start again. Or don’t. Keep stuffing the bag and keep the fights going. No, wait, just let it go.

(2) Say how you feel, not suggest blame. “I felt so annoyed and frustrated that you agreed to bring the appetizer but showed up with it after dessert” actually is healthier than “You are the most inconsiderate person in this family.” And seek out how others are feeling. “Mom, it’s been a few days since Mother’s Day. How do you feel after what happened?” Then listen and don’t offer defenses or pile on additional criticisms.

(3) The do-over. It probably might not work to assemble all the same cast of characters that behaved badly. But what about treating mom to a more pleasant encounter with some of the people involved? Go for a walk in one of Long Island’s public gardens. Or give mom a day while you and the grandkids work in her garden—then have an afternoon tea—without cell phones. Involve the kids in deciding what to do for grandma during the do-over.

As long as God has blessed your mother with another day of life, you have a chance to do something loving for her and with her. One day, as I have experienced, you’ll no longer have that chance. I’m grateful for the wonderful memories. May you have new opportunities for good memories ahead.

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Pastor of St. Bernard's since 2013 and known for his engaging homilies and community presence, Father Ralph Sommer is also a treasured columnist for the Levittown Tribune.

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