14 May 2017

For the Mamas

Disclaimer - this is an utter and complete train of thought ramble, and apparently my national train system is in need of some streamlining.  But I'm not going to edit it too much because I liked all of the points I made here, so please bear with me and excuse the impending train wreck.


Also, I think I may have already written something once called "For the Mamas," so maybe this one could be called "Also for the Mamas."


If you know me, you know that, like David Mitchell, I get a little persnickety about punctuation.  I can be a bit snarky about such things (but not really, because, honestly, everyone is just trying to communicate), but that's only because Mr. Sferro in 9th grade English was such a snark himself.

The apostrophe in Mother's Day indicates that it's possessive singular* - which means that it is a day that belongs to one mother - namely, yours.  But I remember once reading that Mother's Day as we know it now was originally intended to be Mothers' Day, and THAT apostrophic position indicates that it's possessive plural, which means that it is a day that belongs to ALL mothers (including, but not limited to, yours).

*unlike that apostrophe in "it's," which indicates something entirely different.  Gah.  English!

In other words, Mothers' Day is really a day for all the mamas.  (So the title of this rant could be called "Also for All the Mamas.")  And because I like Mothers' Day better, we are going to use that here.  But you can do whatever you like.

I was doing a little more digging around (because I like to know things, I guess, and also because I like to be snarky about such things that I know, so I can feel smug in my knowingness) and I found a little article by TIME magazine online that discusses the origins of Mothers' Day.  I won't link to it, because, basically, I didn't like it.

Not that I was arguing with any of the facts:

-Woodrow Wilson signed a presidential proclamation in 1914 that established the second Sunday in May "as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

-Earlier, in 1908 a woman named Anna Jarvis sent flowers to her late mother's local church in her honor, thus marking what some see as the first official Mothers' Day celebration.  She also worked for a mother's health day, where doctors worked with mothers to promote child welfare and health.

But then the article gets a little bit snarky itself about what other women at the same time (and perhaps before) were doing about Mothers' Day.  Julia Ward Howe, the abolitionist who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” had been organizing a "Mother's Peace Day" since 1870 in Boston.  Other folks as well (Mary Towels Sasseen of Henderson, Kentucky and Frank Hering of Notre Dame University) were advocating for mothers.  The article indicates that these folks - though well-intentioned - weren't really responsible for the proper Mothers' Day we know today.  The article argues that really only that one lady, Anna Jarvis, was the main impetus - but, if you come down to it, it was Woodrow Wilson who was, according to the article, the "'father' of Mother's Day." 


(If I'm honest, I don't even think Anna Jarvis is responsible for the proper Mothers' Day we know today.  Good ol' Hallmark has stepped in, and we are sending flowers and cards to our mamas for that one day.  Last year, our local florist sold out completely by the middle of the day.  And whilst I totally love those peonies I got last year - and am still waiting for some this year - they're not really the point.)


Everyone has a mother.  For some, that mother may not have been present, either physically or emotionally.  For others, that mother may have been there a little too much.  No one's relationship with her/his mother is perfect, but it is from these early lessons that we learn how to navigate life.  Sometimes those lessons come directly, and sometimes we take what we can from the mistakes our mothers made.


For me, Mothers' Day has absolutely nothing to do with flowers or cards or competition or who did what first or anything like that.  It has to do with cooperation and peace.  All of our collective ancestral effort got us where we are today.  Some of it was good, and some of it was utter and complete crap.*  And we - as humanity's children - have to learn how to navigate through this crazy world.   It has to do with the recognition that the work of the mother - the first educator of the child - is fundamental to the well-being of a society.  It has to do with honoring the sacrifices - often silent and unseen - that mothers offer every day for their children.

*I will lovingly submit here that much of the crap did not come from our ancestral mothers (although they are not entirely without blame), but mostly from our ancestral fathers and their ancestral patriarchy and stupid ancestral wars.  Really, y'all, enough of the wars already.

And also, might I add that I'm fed up with all of the false dichotomies that try to divide us in this world?  As a mother (and also as a human!), I want peace!  I want justice!  In raising children to be strong and healthy, I don't have time for all of this bullshit (pardon my language, but also, I'm an adult and can say whatever I like, thank you very much) that is going on in the world.  I want to protect those mothers who are vulnerable - while at the same time acknowledging that I am vulnerable myself - so that they may raise the best children that they can (and, me, too!).  I am really quite fed up with folks acting like they don't have a mother, which, if you don't know what that means, essentially comes down to acting like a puerile impetuous teenager with no thoughts of any consequences.  Ask any mother - she will tell you about consequences!

Just think about all of the worries of mothers!  Fundamentally, we want our offspring to survive, so we've got enough to manage making sure no one falls down any stairs or contracts any sort of perilous disease!  We don't need to worry about our daughters or sons being abducted, or harmed by another, or being sent off to war!  And what about those mothers who have lost children!?  Don't you think that there is enough going on in this world without some foolish and selfish people making poor decisions that divide and oppress humanity?  Please!  We need peace, so that each soul might grow and thrive - so that we don't need to worry about basic needs, like food and shelter and clean water, or even basic needs like emotional safety and autonomy!

And one more thing, while I'm at it (and I've been at it for a while - holy goodness - I would not get a passing grade from Mr. Sferro on this, for want of any sort of theme), let's stop imagining mothers as some saintly flat stereotype who bake scones and wash and fold your laundry the right way.  Mothers freaking birthed you into this world - do you know the depth or emotional and physical reserve that such a thing requires?  Sometimes mothers swear, but they also make sure you don't.  Mothers are worried about you but also they are fierce (like lions and tigers and bears).  Mothers have messy houses but also mothers have clean houses.  Mothers do your laundry - its true! - but sometimes they are cranky about it and make your fathers do it.  Mothers bake scones, but mothers also order out because they are too freaking exhausted to cook.  Some mothers birthed you, and sometimes the mothers who raised you didn't.  Mothers are there for you, but also mothers sometimes aren't.  Mothers want you to live, but sometimes mothers want to kill you.

So, this Mothers' Day, I want to focus not on the outward arguments and physical tokens of appreciation (although I totally love those tokens - still waiting on those peonies...), but rather on the inner life of mothers.  Because all mothers (and humans, for that matter), experience similar feelings: joy, elation, ferocity, grief, sacrifice.  And we as children - of our own mothers, but also of the collective mothers of the world -  should take the time not only to recognize that journey of motherhood, but to honor it, strive to protect it and protect ALL of those who are recipients of it.
 Mothers' Day is for all of us.  For us to recognize all the differences and seek out the similarities.  To search - as hard as it is - for justice and unity.  To make our mothers proud.