Monday, February 18, 2008

More thoughts (not mine) on Family Day...

Judith Timson is one of my favourite columnists. And today's column in today's Globe & Mail, about Family Day, will show you why (boldfaced emphasis mine)(check out some of the comments on the website too):

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Statutory Holidays: A day off that's all relative
To celebrate Family Day, start with low expectations

From Monday's Globe and Mail
February 18, 2008 at 3:59 AM EST

Happy Family Day?

Surely this can't be the correct greeting on this statutory holiday, newly minted in Ontario, and already existing in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

What about unhappy families, financially fragile families, severely dysfunctional families? Won't it be a slap in the face to those trying unsuccessfully to conceive? Aren't the sadly single going to mope on a day called Family Day? Aren't those satisfied singles going to be bored? The childless by choice a little cranky?

Really, they could have come up with a more imaginative name for this midwinter break. Manitoba's day off was supposed to be called Family Day, but they decided, hang that, and renamed it Louis Riel Day.

I thought we might have called it Humanity Day, and allowed ourselves to get in touch with something beyond our nuclear family boundaries. But maybe that would have been even more morally demanding than Family Day.

As it is, this is a day that could end up doing the opposite of what was intended - evoke envy and bewilderment or even political discontent. Economic analysts have already predicted the holiday will cost Ontario between $500-million to $2-billion. If governments really wanted thriving families, they could spend that arranging a tax rebate and more daycare spaces.

No matter what their family status, people I know are grappling with how to observe it.

On Labour Day, after all, while the media highlights work and union issues, we celebrate the end
of summer at a blowout barbecue or nervously get the kids ready to go back to school. On Thanksgiving, we dutifully give thanks. On Christmas we resolve to a) not drink or eat too much and b) get along with difficult relatives. Which usually renders that first resolution futile.

In anticipation of this day, however, a preschool teacher tells me even little kids are confused: "But why can't we go to school?" a determined child asked her mother. "Because it's Family Day," said the mother with an equally determined brightness, "and we're going to spend it together!"

Then there are the workaholics who dread having to explain to their spouses and kids that, yes, even on this pointedly named day, they still intend to march into that office.

True, every day is Family Day if you have a family. But this clearly takes it to a new level. Those with families now have to do something exciting, no arguments allowed -"We can't fight on Family Day," will be the plaintive cry, or "You should have seen the meltdown we had on Family Day," the regretful postmortem.

There's the inevitable commercial tie-in. One "Family Day" commercial beckons consumers to buy yet more stuff to renovate the family room. Enough stuff already. (Although Family Project Day - that has team-building potential.)

And inevitably CBC Radio invited listeners to call in to "discuss the changing meaning of the word family."

But here's my modest proposal.

Perhaps in honour of Family Day, those of us who have made it through 20 or so years of family life should invite one young couple on the verge of it over to discuss what family life really entails: from wistfully eyeing the stroller brigade to joining it, to marvelling through fatigue and fear at both the miracles and mind-numbingly repetitive daily tasks that make up family life.

"It's beyond hard," I would say with a slightly self-satisfied sigh, but of course there on display would be all those gorgeous framed pictures, glossy evidence of the fact that while there are no perfect families, there are perfect family moments. Like the one with the kids bundled into candy-coloured snowsuits, looking so cute next to that huge snowbank; or the carriage ride through Central Park with them as adolescents (the picture so winsome I conveniently forget the searing teenage battle we had right out in the open on Fifth Avenue).

Family life expands and contracts in thrilling and painful ways. It nearly buckles under stress and inevitable disappointment and loss. How do you honour that on a statutory holiday?

My perfect Family Day would begin with coffee - and lowered expectations. A conversation with either - or hitting the jackpot, both - of my grown kids in which they seemed even relatively content with their lives would be fine with me.

Today I picture those of you with young ones out skating or skiing, cheeks rosy, and then enjoying the creamy warmth of a hot chocolate. And later, with maybe a few fireplaces ablaze, a nice casual dinner with friends or family. No special menu, no special toasts.

But if even that's putting too much pressure on you, no worries. Maybe Family Day is just a day in the life, after all - a time to simply kick back, take a deep breath and say - thinking more of the long run than this one short precious day off - this isn't half bad, after all.


  1. Interesting - I didn't know such a day existed. I'm glad someone in the media wrote such a sensitive article about the subject. I can imagine that it would be very hard to know how to feel about such a day. On the one hand, I will take any day off that I can get; on the other hand, I don't see the point in calling the day off something that has the potential to upset so many people.

    At any rate, I hope you have a good day off, whatever it's called!

  2. Lori - Thanks for the support re: the adenomyosis and starting up Lupron.

    How was your holiday?

  3. I found it odd that they would name it Family Day ... hope you had a restful day off anyway.

  4. Came over from Mel's lushary...uggg, can I just barf a little for you? Family Day...
    Hope you were able to enjoy it regardless! Ill share a pina colada with you=)

  5. Thanks so much for your comment, it will be a tremendous help!

  6. I wouldn't mind a day off for my hubby no matter what the heck the day is called. His company has terrible leave and no sick days. Uggghh.

  7. Here is your pina colada, dear. This is a great article.

    It's sort of one of those holidays that makes you respond: every day is family day. And that sentence takes on 1000 meanings depending on the speaker.