I’ve been thinking about my Mom this weekend. She’s been gone for six years now, and I think about her often, but especially this weekend, as we in the U.S. celebrate all things motherhood. I felt as though I wanted to say something in regard to that, and then realized I had already done so a couple of years ago in this very space. So I offer it here again, because I know how much my mother meant to me, and I to her:
It’s nearly impossible to overlook Mother’s Day today. In the U.S., stories on the news, on the Internet and incessant commercials on television have been constant reminders that we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to our mothers and we’d better pay off a portion of that debt today! Such reminders are frequently followed by suggestions of gifts to bestow on our moms, ranging from flowers to diamonds. (Personally, I’m not sure what my own mother would have thought about receiving a diamond bracelet from me on Mother’s Day, although I suspect that she would not have accepted it.)
Mother’s Day is a world phenomenon, with versions of it having been observed for centuries. Its United States version was created by presidential proclamation in 1914 and we’ve been buying greeting cards ever since. In a sense, it’s too bad that we need a day to show gratitude to our moms. In another sense, we’re grateful for the official day to remind us to do so. If my Mom was still alive, she’d be hearing from me, as she always did.
Of course, motherhood is one of the undeniable, universal ties that binds us together, men and women alike. Not all women become moms, and no dads (that I know of) have become moms, but we all have a mom and thus a shared experience. As different as our cultures may be around the world, the connection with our moms is one of the great equalizers of humankind, transcending borders and customs alike.
I watched a news program last night, the final story of which had to do with Mother’s Day. It featured an entire classroom of six year-olds engaged in the task of creating handmade Mother’s Day cards. As adorable as the children were to watch, their sentiments were even more precious to hear. Each recited thanks for a special gift from their mothers that made these moms so wonderful. “Thank you for getting me breakfast every day.” “Thank you for letting me watch movies.” “Thank you for cooking dinner.” “Thank you for making lunch for me.” “Thank you for loving me.” And one little boy reflected on the fact that when thinking of his mom he thought of chocolate cake.
As I listened to this litany of gratitude from the hearts of little kids, it occurred to me that not all little boys and girls around the world would necessarily be thanking their moms for such blessings. While Nicaragua will not celebrate Mother’s Day until the end of this month, the gratitudes expressed on that day are likely to be quite different from those heard on the news segment: breakfast, lunch, dinner and chocolate cakes are less frequent amenities in Nicaragua than they are in the U.S. But while the specific thanks might be dissimilar between the countries, one thing is not. The hopes and aspirations of the mothers are very much the same.
Nica moms love their kids, have hopes for a better standard of living, aspire to see their children be able to read and become educated, pray that their young evolve into decent people, and envision lives for them that are free from the exhaustion and indignity of poverty. I can imagine hundreds of mothers in Nigeria today whose visions for their children reach far deeper than breakfast, lunch and dinner. As well as in Ukraine. And Syria. Motherhood in such places is not the same as in the United States.
If the dreams that are dreamed by Nica moms are the same longings as U.S. moms, the likelihoods for those dreams are not. For U.S. moms, dreams still hold the very real possibilities of becoming true, and kids can and do grow into their mothers’ yearnings. For far too many Nica moms (and Nigerian, Ukrainian and Syrian moms), their dreams are the gift to their kids, because there are limited chances of such hopes ever becoming reality. It’s the most and the best that they can do.
If the sentiments of Mother’s Day are shared across cultures, the context of life and the future are not. As we celebrate the love and sacrifices of those who brought us into the world, we artificially limit our regard for motherhood if we do not acknowledge the love and sacrifices of all moms….