Mother’s Day is for Planting

I’m Gardening Instead of Grieving

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Mother’s Day means I can put flowers in the ground without fear of frost. It’s the commercial name given to my annual ok-to-plant day. It’s time for warmth and new growth in my planting zone. Any other reason to honor the day has been determined by someone else. Consumers are expected to spend roughly $25 billion dollars in honor of Mother’s Day this year and I wonder if my plants are included in that total.

When I was seven I lost my mother to a car accident. It happened in February and I still had to make a Mother’s Day craft with the rest of my second-grade class in May. I was told she would still see it in heaven. That set the tone for the rest of my school days. Whether it was a craft to make or a poem to write, the day served only to twist the knife for what I didn’t have. I was the minority along with foster children and others who have lost. We are the ones you can’t plan around because then the majority suffers.

My Dad remarried when I was eight. I got a stepmother. I love her very much. But that only made this Mother’s Day thing more confusing. Other children of blended families must have felt the same way. A stepparent in the mix is certainly more common than the death of a parent. Am I supposed to celebrate her on this day? I wondered. Do I give her my homemade gift? If I do, am I betraying my other mom? It was a hard enough struggle to try and understand how I could love my stepmother and all of the opportunities that she brought to my life. It made me feel that if I appreciated my stepmother then somehow that meant that I was glad that my birth mother was gone. This prompted me to grieve my birth mother even more. I had to know that I still loved and missed her and in my adolescent head that meant that I must actively mourn her. Otherwise I’ve just forgotten about her, right?

As an adult I’ve wrapped my brain around it a little better. I understand that I am allowed to love them both. Now, I am a mother. I am both a bio-mom and a stepmom in a blended family. We’re a mismatched perfect set of genetics and love on our second-time-around.

We don’t celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Knowing the stress it put on me as a child, the last thing I want to do is make my kids feel as if they are obligated on this specific day to honor me, analyze my title and place me in some predetermined category. Who I am and what I mean to my children is as individual as they are. No. On Mother’s day I plant. I put flowers in dirt and let the commercial expectations of maternal celebrations pass me by. In mid-May there’s no danger of frost on the ground or in my heart.


Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is an award-winning freelance writer who writes service journalism articles, personal essays, columns, and op-eds. Bonnie often contributes to The Cincinnati Enquirer and USAToday. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Scary Mommy, and here on Medium. Bonnie is the Communications Director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. She is a board member of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a member of Journalism and Women Symposium, and the National Federation of Press Women.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp

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Bonnie is an award-winning freelance writer and Communications Director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Find her on social media @WriterBonnie

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