Mother’s Day and the Bag of Shit: More in Common Than You Think

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Friday is our trash day so I get up early to pick up our two dogs’ business before the garbage truck arrives at our house. My daughter comes out on the patio and looks at the weighted HEB grocery bag and asks me about its contents with a hopeful look that perhaps I have brought her an extraordinary breakfast treat.

“It’s a bag of shit.”
“No really, mom, what is it?”

There’s an eye-roll and she returns to the kitchen to contemplate what to eat now that I have ruined her breakfast fantasy. I return to my task, hearing the garbage truck rumble, brakes squeaking, a few streets over.

It’s the Friday before Mother’s Day weekend. I think about my Mom in Maine, alone on her first Mother’s Day after my dad’s death, and then about my own kids.

Mother’s Day is May’s cultural emotional land mine, only to be followed by a second sucker punch, Father’s Day, in June. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to diss the annual Mother’s Day brunch if it’s a true celebration, but for many the day is conflicted, at best.

I think back to the bag of shit that I’m holding and the approaching garbage truck. And then it hits me – a thought, not the garbage truck.

Picking up the shit is the price we all pay for being able to love and care for other beings. You have to search it out because if you pretend that it’s not there, you’re going to step in it. Not only that, but you have to keep doing it until the very end of the line.

There are no perfect moms and kids, even if we all want to pretend it to be true on Mother’s Day. The reality is that what spans between unconditional love and the bag of shit is what it really means to be in a relationship of any kind.

So whether you love, like, or hate Mother’s Day remember to give yourself a break. Relationships are messy and there’s a lot of never-ending cleanup. But that’s the brilliant part of it too, because if you are alive and willing, you can pick up the shit.


14 thoughts on “Mother’s Day and the Bag of Shit: More in Common Than You Think

  1. O I’m sorry but I cried as I laughed at this recent part of your blog. In spite of the esoteric message in your blog,I haul my own bag of shit around and trust me, it has nothing to do with dogs. Then in a flash, I remind myself to be be gentle with myself. I deserve a break and to forgive myself for not being a better mama to my kids. We look into each other’s eyes and we know that we love each other in spite of and because we know that we are all doing the best we can.

    • It’s so hard to come to terms with our short comings as parents and even more difficult to embrace our children’s more challenging personality traits and how the interplay affects our relationships with one another. Where does our influence end and their decision-making begin? How have we helped and how have we hurt? So much of parenting, or any relationship for that matter, is forgiving ourselves for being imperfect and willing to let go of the anger and grudges. It’s messy work – the joy, the shit, and everything in between. Love you, Judy!

  2. Love it! You are so talented. As you know, my mother passed away from Alzheimer’s complications in 2009. Mother’s Day is never easy, but from now on, I will laugh and think of DOG POOP!

    • Thank you Lauren. I think we should have a national Bag the Shit Day where we celebrate and acknowledge the full continuum of what it means to be human! A true celebration of all relationships, even the one we have with ourselves!

  3. Reminds me of

    “I’ve come to wonder what traits we allow our mothers to have, and which ones we view as temporary, expiring with age and the beginning of motherhood. Can a woman be both sexual and maternal, daring and responsible, innocent and wise? Mothers are either held up as paragons of selflessness, or they’re discounted and parodied. We often don’t see them in all their complexity.

    For daughters, these old photos of our mothers feel like both a chasm and a bridge. The woman in the picture is someone other than the woman we know. She is also exactly the person in the photo — still, right now. Finally, we see that the woman we’ve come to think of as Mom — whether she’s nurturing, or disapproving, or thoughtful, or delusional, or pestering, or supportive, or sentimental — is also a mysterious, fun, brave babe.

    She’s been here all this time.

    – Edan Lepucki, Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them.

    • David,
      Another friend had sent this to me as well. It’s a good read. I’m putting together an album for my son, Eli, who is graduating from high school next month. In the process, I found an old picture of me at 15, when I was camp counselor at Silver Bay on Lake George. My twin daughters are now 15. It was a raw age for me and it’s currently a difficult period for the three of us. We are like a three-legged stool that’s always tippy. When I showed them the picture of me at their age, I saw them soften, just a bit, to wonder who I really am.

  4. Love it! So true. You made my Mother’s Day. Sharing with best friend of 40 yrs. Hell, I’m just telling her to subscribe. She’ll enjoy your blog immensely, as do I.

    • Thanks. Being a mother, or a daughter/son, is infinitely more complicated than the box that Hallmark wants to put us in. Social media just exacerbates the myth with endless posts of perfection and happiness, most of which I believe are genuine. But the shadow side of our lives, which is just as real and important to our growth, is hidden and shamed. Here’s to the shit and imperfections!

  5. I’m sharing with other mothers who I think will enjoy. Give yourself a hug until I can give you one in person. Keep on writing and cleaning up the messes! Dani

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