When Mother’s Day Goes Awry

Alina Verdiyan talks to an injured soccer player on the side of the field. | Photograph Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


Big Brother Roland called today to see what my plans were for Mother’s Day and to ask if I wanted to join him and his family in case the children were not with me this day. He is always looking out for me and invites me every year.

I declined, as always, because I will be writing (and buying an iPhone). A sudden burst of inspiration and opportunity has me writing constantly these days, even in my dreams.

However, it does feel strange to realize that this will be the first time ever that I will not be able to be with my children for Mother’s Day. Their dad wanted to take them somewhere this weekend. No, it did not make much sense to me either, but we have this fight every year.

When I tried to dissuade him of it, he threatened to not let them compete in the Michigan Chinese Schools Storytelling Contest State Championships the weekend previous. So I had to choose.

Of course I chose the State Championships. Two children qualified for the State Championships and they had teammates depending on them. (Did I mention that Hao Hao won first place in the state this year? Awesome!)

I did not think it would be a big deal. Mother’s Day is just one day. The children and I show our love and appreciation of each other every day, so the actual date should not be that important. The children and I often celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter a day early to accommodate work, relatives, and travel plans. We often postpone M’s January birthday party until after finals. We certainly never get around to cleaning the house for Chinese New Year’s until…uhhh…ever.

And I am the queen of making the schedule work.

Besides, we always go out to dinner with all our friends after the State Championships, so I figured that we could just have that count as our Mother’s Day dinner. It would be more fun with friends in any case.

However, despite my rationalizations, I was surprised to discover how upset my children were. They really wanted to be with me on Mother’s Day.

Eight-year-old Little Brother sulked and complained to anyone who would listen about how unfair it was that he could not spend Mother’s Day with his Mother. I tried to explain to him about different calendars and schedules. Chinese Father’s Day, for example, is August 8 (In Mandarin, the date 8/8 sounds like “Ba Ba,” a homonym for father), so that is when we usually celebrate Father’s Day with my father. I told him that when I was teaching my Chinese class how to read a Chinese calendar, we discovered that the full moon (the 15th of every lunar month) was going to be on Cinco de Mayo this month, a weird cross-cultural coincidence. I even tried to convince him Star Wars Day “May the Fourth be with you” was the cooler day to celebrate. I told him how Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate any holidays at all because they believe every day should be a celebration.

He would have none of it.

Unfortunately, I forgot about kodomo no hi (Japanese Children’s Day) until after he fell asleep that night, although I doubt that he would have bought that either.

Whenever one of our “traditions,” however defined, goes awry because of scheduling or illness or some crazy thing, I always try to redefine that tradition for the children and to give them the skills to create something else to hold onto. Now the children are learning to do it for themselves.

Little Brother decided that he “had to” get me a doughnut for Mother’s Day. However, since he won’t be with me that day, he started walking the dog to the grocery store once or twice a week, every week for the past month, to get me (and him) an early doughnut for Mother’s Day. “I’m a big boy now.”

The children are agitated and I am aggravated. Still, there must be something we can salvage from this. Instead of trying to force my friend the MacArthur genius to go see “The Avengers” with me, I call my mom.

“Hi Mom.”

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Michigan and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is a contributor for New America Media EthnoblogChicagoistheworld.orgPacificCitizen.org, and InCultureParent.com. She teaches and is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at franceskaihwawang.com, her blog at franceskaihwawang.blogspot.com, and she can be reached at fkwang888@gmail.com.


  • frances

    May 13, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Big shout out to Dawen’s Song for Mama x ting mama de hua. Warning: Tearjerker!

  • HapaMama

    May 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    You know, I think Mother’s Day is right up there with New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day as a contrived holiday. Clearly, your children love you… it’s the big picture that matters, not just one day. For what it’s worth, I came to the realization that I’ve been so overworked and need to prepare for a business trip this week, that we’ll just go out for lunch and then I’ll hunker down in front of my computer and pack for the rest of the day. That would really make me feel better.

    Happy Mother’s Day!