Tag Archives: mother

To pledge, or not to pledge

There’s been a big brouhaha in my town lately about whether or not it should be mandatory to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The high school student leading the charge, to make reciting the Pledge mandatory, has gotten quite a lot of coverage for himself, and our town, in the local press. Not surprisingly, it appears that there already is a law concerning this very subject, the upshot of which is that it’s up to each school’s principal to decide whether or not time is allocated for this activity. While I am impressed by any young person’s willingness to hustle on behalf of a strongly-held belief, I get nervous whenever this subject comes up.

‘Round about third grade, I stopped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t honestly remember why. It could have been that it was the mid-sixties and there was something in the air. Or maybe I just didn’t like being told I had to say it. Whatever the reason, the school didn’t like it, so they called my mother. I don’t think my mother cared very much one way or the other, but the call from the school coincided with a visit from my beloved New York grandmother. She cared very much. I thought she would be proud of me, but alas, that was not the case. She was very, very disappointed.

I don’t, however, think anyone was unduly surprised. I started actively questioning authority at a young age. I wasn’t capricious; I was vigilant. I asked for clarification when things were unclear, or the authority figure contradicted himself. I pointed out inequities in portions, time allotment and seat assignments. I refused to be blown off if I didn’t understand something; I held the communicator responsible for making herself understood. This persistent behavior led to my being voted ‘Most Argumentative’ of my senior class in high school (which had, as I recall, upwards of 800 graduates). I was flattered to be singled out, but I didn’t see myself as argumentative. Apparently we didn’t have a ‘senior superlative’ for ‘hyper-vigilant.’

When I was little, it’s possible that my unwillingness to recite the pledge was driven by my early doubt about the existence of God and, therefore, I objected to saying the Pledge. My stance as an atheist was solidified when I was twelve. In response to my assertion that I didn’t believe in God, my Hebrew School teacher told me, “You’re too young to know what you believe.” If there had been any doubt in my mind before, that clinched it, I became a full-blown atheist.

My grandmother passed away right before I graduated from high school. To this day, I feel a small twinge of guilt when I think about her response to my third-grade rebellion. Painful as that memory is though, I wouldn’t do anything differently today. I still tend to stand quietly during the Pledge of Allegiance, worrying about how the rest of the world perceives us, and wondering if God really does exist. But I fully support your right to recite the Pledge. The fact that you and I can agree to disagree is what it’s all about anyway.


Call your dad

Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Hallmark and its ilk made out like bandits; FTD is still recovering from the onslaught of last-minute, guilt-ridden orders for flowers; and even restaurants that don’t normally offer Sunday brunch are licking their chops over the land office business they did. But what of the mothers, I ask? Are the recipients as pleased with the attention as the businesses are with the cash infusions?

Mother’s Day too often functions like a maternal Yom Kippur. On that Jewish holiday you’re either deemed worthy of being sealed into the Book of Life for the following year, or not. Once you’re in, you can pretty much relax for another year until it’s time to take stock and atone for your sins just in time for the next round of the Days of Awe. Taking Mom out for brunch once a year, however, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for the next 364 days.

There’s a generally accepted rule in business that there should be nothing in an employee’s annual review that will come as a surprise to them. If you manage someone who does not perform to your expectations it behooves you to meet with them regularly to try to help them improve. If they’re not making the desired changes at least they’re not surprised when you tell them that something drastic may have to happen.

If you are in the habit of telling your mom you love her, and showing it in little ways throughout the year, I’ll bet she’d excuse you for not contributing to Hallmark’s coffers on Mother’s Day. Conversely, if you treat your mom badly all year, do you honestly think that one gesture is going to make up for it?

And what of the mother who is also a daughter, and a daughter-in-law? Which title takes precedence? As a daughter, are you obligated to spend time with your mother rather than taking your rightful place as Queen-for-a-day within your nuclear family? Is it acceptable to be the honoree at brunch while your own mother sits alone in the dark saying, “No, no, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine here all by myself.”

As a daughter, I could do without one more obligation on my calendar to worry about. I could probably ignore Mother’s Day and not lose my place in her affections; my mother knows I love her. I would, however, like my daughter to make at least one positive gesture in my general direction each year and if Mother’s Day facilitates that, count me in.

And just when we mothers have successfully navigated the emotional waters of Mother’s Day, it’s time to pass the baton to dad for Father’s Day. I think I’ll call mine today and tell him I love him, just to get a jump on the holiday.

What’s freakin’ wrong with the F-bomb?

When I was a teenager I swore a blue streak. There were one or two words that I considered taboo, well, one anyway, but other than that not much was off limits. I might have made an effort to curtail the swearing in front of my parents but I couldn’t have been 100% successful because I remember my mother telling me, with a long suffering sigh, that the problem with swearing wasn’t intrinsic to the words themselves. The problem was that when I swore I wasn’t using my brain to come up with a more effective way to express myself. I respected that argument and am ready to use it myself if and when it becomes necessary with my own daughter.

Despite the logic to my mother’s assertion, there were times at work when no other words would do, which brings me to the F-bomb. First let me say that I was very much a grown-up when I first heard the term ‘F-bomb’. I’m fairly certain that I was in my late thirties, perhaps even early forties, before I was introduced to it. That may be because in my generation we didn’t censor ourselves so there was no need for euphemisms. It seems, however, that the crew coming up behind us was a more genteel lot.

Some years ago I became aware that often when I used the F word, people would laugh in that slightly shocked way, indicating that while they would never use that language, coming from me it was entertaining. Then a strange thing happened. I started hearing the word ‘freaking’ all over the place, usually without its final ‘g.’ The same people who squirmed when I said the F word (or as they would say, “dropped the F-bomb”) not only didn’t seem to mind the word freakin’, but used it themselves!

I ask you now, what’s the freakin’ difference between the F-bomb and the word freakin’? If we all know what’s really meant, why is my use of the F word shocking (and apparently occasionally, as someone once reported me to HR, upsetting) but the word freaking itself is not a problem? Are the people who say freaking use their brains to come up with a more effective way to express themselves than I am?

I don’t know the answer to that. I’m going to ask my mother.