Stick to the Truth on Mother’s Day

It might make for silly jokes—and better family relationships.
(c) 2016, Davd

What would Mother’s Day be like if everyone told the truth, the whole truth1, and nothing but the truth?

Visualizing such a Mother’s Day, this year, one can imagine some silly comedy—or pathos. For Instance2:

‣ “Billy, I’d rather have gin-and-tonic than white wine with my dinner. You’re driving, so you shouldn’t drink wine anyway.”

‣ (from a young boy) “Why isn’t Dad here?” or “I want to go fishing!”

‣ (from an adult child) “Mum, your make-up looks too thick.”

‣ “Melanie, why can’t you put your home office in the basement and give me that room so I can be with my grandchildren every day?”

‣ “Jessica, that boy Rocky you’ve been going around with seems to have some really questionable friends. I think you’re playing with fire and I think you should stop.”

All of which things can be said on other days of the year; but are related to “honouring Mother”. Should Jessica break up with Rocky in deference to Mother’s advice? Maybe so—we can’t tell for sure from Mother’s concern.

Should Melanie’s mother be moved into her home? That depends on much more than Mother’s wishes; it especially depends on what Mother can contribute to Melanie and the grandchildren, and how willing she is to contribute as well as enjoy.

Should Billy abstain from wine with his dinner because he will be driving Mother home from the restaurant? I’d tend to agree he should—at least, someone in the group should—and that further implies, that people who enjoy wine with meals, even beer, should either have a Designated [abstinent] Driver, or take a cab home… or attend a restaurant within walking distance… or cook well and eat at home.

Should Billy’s Mother be allowed gin instead of wine with her dinner? Yes—unless she “has a drinking problem.”

Combining those two inferences about Billy and his Mother, we can see that taking her to dinner at a restaurant, while very much something many Mothers want for Mother’s Day, is a sacrifice for Billy: He doesn’t get the kind of meal he wants because he will be driving [and Canadian driving laws are very strict on blood alcohol allowance].

Perhaps giving up Rocky would be a bigger sacrifice for Jessica, and moving Mother into her home, a still bigger one for Melanie—or perhaps those sacrifices would have more than equal compensating advantages.

My main point is that truth is better than Nice manners. It may be less comfortable at the telling, but living a lie is much worse.

In telling Billy to abstain from the wine he wants with his dinner, Mother is exposing the sacrificial aspect of “dinner out with Mommy.” In telling Jessica to separate herself from Rocky, Mother is directing both their attention to a question of danger—and unless Mother is quite mistaken in her observations, it’s one that should be examined.

In asking to share Melanie’s house, Mother is claiming the joys of grand-mothering. Can she welcome the work that goes with that? If so, Melanie and the grandchildren might benefit. Mother’s cost of living will be less than if she lives alone in an apartment. The children will get to see two adults working out their differences and enjoying their common interests. Melanie might get free time to work, study, even vacation, with a competent adult the children know and enjoy still at home with them.

Working through the uncomfortable aspects of sharing the truth, ought to pay off for most relationships. Mother’s Day happens to be one occasion which most of us must somehow confront, when there is a commercial alternative to truth: “Pay For Ritual”, we might call it. Buy flowers, buy greeting cards, take Mother to a restaurant, give her a gym membership [which most Mothers would rather not have] or a “gift card” which amounts to money with a restriction on where it may be spent. (Greeting cards especially give adult children the option of giving Nicely dishonest praise in the form of a card written by a stranger. The actual truth is “finessed.”)

As for motivation to finesse rather than tell it like it is, CBC reports that polls show “six in ten Canadians who celebrate the holiday find some aspect of it stressful.” Commercial advertising promotes Mother’s Day for money’s sake, and in the process, pressures children whose Mothers are less than good, to pretend.

To what extent i can on this small website, I’m pushing back: Tell the truth. If you have a great Mother, that should be easy. If you have a mediocre Mother, tell the good stuff, but feel free to include the not-so-good as well. (I suspect the son or daughter who said Mother’s make-up was too thick, was factually correct.)

What Mothers most want on Mother’s Day, is quality family time. That’s far easier to accomplish on a truthful basis2.


The sad, unstated part of this speculative exercise, has been the assumption that no Mother and no adult child, was “married and living with spouse.” Unmarried is the modal state of Canadian adults these days, which is not to say it be preferable to marriage faithfully kept. I assumed unmarried adults here, mainly to keep this blog short and its analyses, simple… not to denigrate lifelong marriage.

1. Maybe the whole truth would sometimes take too long to state—as can also be the case “on the witness stand”—the intention is that what is said be not only factually true, but also representative of the “whole truth.”

2. these are made-up stories, [as also are Alice in Wonderland, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and most Nobel Prize winning novels, but these are far, far shorter]

3. Another important basis for quality family time, is modest expectations. If one or more members of the group expect better than they can have while treating the rest equally well—then a very important truth step toward quality time, is identifying the excessive expectations; which identifying needs to be followed by making them more humble.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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