We take Mother's Day seriously here at The Parenting Post. That's why we had "dahGuy" (a.k.a. Dr. Lester K. Spence) write today's post while dahGurl lay on the sofa in her jammies, being fed grapes by her gang of five. We hope.
— The editors of Parenting.com
So off the rip, I've got to say that I'm not one for holidays. I don't really celebrate Christmas, and not only does my birthday come and go without fanfare, but a few years ago I actually changed it to January 1 so it would be easier for me to remember how old I am (yes, some professors are absentminded!). When I was asked to do this Mother's Day thing for Shawn, I committed to it, but I committed to it without much of the sentiment that folks usually muster up for this type of thing.
That's why I decided to think about Mother's Day in a larger context. Civilizations have been celebrating and worshipping mothers as mothers for thousands of years. But Mother's Day itself? Though I've been attending Mother's Day brunch in one form or another for well over 30 years, it occurred to me that I really don't know why the U.S. celebrates the day. This is kind of surprising given that I'm a card-carrying social scientist and I was curious enough to figure out why Easter changes every year...and why Christmas was celebrated on December 25... Yet, all this time, I took Mother's Day for granted.
Doing some digging — though I would never let my students use it for a paper, Wikipedia is a GODSEND! — I came upon one name: Julia Ward Howe. Born in 1819, Howe was a pacifist, an abolitionist, and an early feminist. In 1870 in response to both the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War she wrote "The Mother's Day Proclamation." An excerpt (taken from Wikipedia):
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have breasts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From this came the call for Mother's Day.
Some 137 years later I reflect on what Howe wrote. It's fairly clear how it relates to us in terms of the larger political and social context. But what might be less clear is how this relates to people like Shawn, to the literally tens of thousands of mothers who have made the decision to stay at home, and to those who also homeschool not one, not two, but five children!
What is it that mother's are supposed to teach their children, if we look to Howe? Charity, mercy, patience.
I've got skills for days. And on my best day, I can do charity, I can teach mercy, I can be patient.
But this is Shawn every day. The power that our children exhibit on a regular basis reflects me in as much as they are my children and I spend time with them. But their humility, their integrity, their compassion for those around them? That doesn't come from me. That comes straight from Shawn.
It is more than unfortunate that people don't know more about Howe and about the real purpose of Mother's Day. I'm sure we wouldn't be in the position we're in today if it were otherwise.
So, even though I'm not one for holidays...if there is one day we should literally make holy, it should be this day. Because in the case of the Spence household (family motto: This is a gang, and we're in it!) our power comes from one person. Who deserves more thanks and love than it's even possible to receive.