Here & there: Our kind of crazy

Stock image, St. George News

FEATURE – We buried my mother-in-law this week. Alzheimer’s disease took her mind and memories over the last two years. And then it took the rest of her last Friday.

She was the quintessential modern woman before that was even a thing. She worked full-time, canned peaches, hosted dinner parties and raised four children, all while propelling her family up the socio-economic ladder.

Nila Jean Dayton, Ogden High School Tigerette. Ogden, Utah, circa 1961. | Photo courtesy of the Dayton Family Photo Library, St. George News

She grew up dirt-poor and fatherless in Ogden and wanted more for her children. So, she worked and fought and scrapped. Sometimes she’d take her kids to work and hide them under her desk because she and her husband couldn’t afford child care.

My husband saw her tell off doctors, lawyers, cops, bankers, principals and Mormon bishops – sometimes so directly and harshly that even the memories feel embarrassing to him. And she could be equally uncompromising at home.

She and my husband didn’t always get along, especially in his teenage years when he pushed her buttons and she pushed back.

She had truly unusual ways of pushing his buttons: One time she showed up center stage at a Thompson Twins concert holding a giant sign that bore his name until he presented himself to her. The reason? It was the night before he was to leave on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and she didn’t think he should be at a concert. She showed up to drag him home – and humiliate him a little along the way.

The way he tells it, she was “kinda of crazy, but she was our crazy and, well, now that it’s over, I’ll miss it.”

In fact, that was part of his public tribute to her. And it has resonated with people. This notion of the imperfect in our lives being something we can not only tolerate but appreciate and embrace – whether it’s imperfection in mothers, imperfection in ourselves or both.

In spite of our social-media-perpetuated perfectness. Rather, because of it.

I don’t need to cite sociological studies to prove the dangers of this perfection mentality because we’ve all seen them. And now there’s “Penn Face,” the “Duck Syndrome” and a Duke University study that all point to the phenomenon and stress of trying to look effortlessly perfect. It’s a problem cited in news stories about the increase in college suicides across the nation.

For heaven’s sake, there is even a thing called “Pinterest Stress.” Look it up.

So, when a son writes in a public obituary of his mother’s life that she was amazing but kind of crazy, it resonates.

In many ways, my mother-in-law would have been the social media bane to many others had those platforms been in existence when she was raising her children. She was Utah Young Homemaker of the Year 1980-81.

But she would also publicly show her “crazy.” She would yell at her kids. She would tell off authority figures. And she would also laugh at herself.

One of my favorite memories of her is how often she would let her grandkids play with her “Relief Society” underarm skin as she got older and it got flabbier. And she’d once been the lean captain of the Ogden High Tigerettes.

Several years ago, my girlfriend created the Instagram account @KidsAretheWorst. It celebrates the imperfections of children and, well, parenthood. It now has 318,000 followers. Which is a lot. Except if you look at the innumerable “perfection accounts” that have millions of followers. Those are hard to combat, and yet my friend tries.

My husband’s public statements about his mom’s “crazy” do too. Especially when you read the litany of her accomplishments. She had many – but she also had imperfections. Those imperfections are OK to talk about when we celebrate her life. They are more than OK to talk about.

Otherwise, we are incomplete. Otherwise, we are only curated versions of ourselves. And that’s simply dangerous … for us; and for others.

In honor of my mother-in-law I’m going to try to show my crazy a little more. I’ll show it in my real life. And I’ll show it on my social media life. And, who knows, maybe if enough of us do that, we’ll buck the perfect pressures and all that goes with it.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected] | [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Proud Rebel June 25, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Condolences to you and your husband, Kat.
    It’s kind of sad that so many of the “characters” of life are slipping away. It used to be, that a person who was known as a “character” would be fondly befriended by strangers, as well as family and friends. But in today’s world, if someone marches to a different tune than most folks, people start trying to find some type of pigeon hole to describe them. And if there is no convenient pigeon hole, then people will often become afraid of them! And of course, along with fear, comes hate and loathing.
    I feel for you and your husband, to have had to watch her declining over the past two years. I’m going through this right now, with my wife.
    “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”
    Robert Browning lied.

  • comments June 25, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    “One of my favorite memories of her is how often she would let her grandkids play with her “Relief Society” underarm skin as she got older and it got flabbier. And she’d once been the lean captain of the Ogden High Tigerettes.”

    Wow Kat, now how do I scrub that mental image out of my mind. hahhah 😉

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