Mother's Day: A New Dimension

Mother's Day: A New Dimension

Clif Cleaveland, MD
8 May 2008

Despite the commercialization, Mother's Day provides a time for the nation to pay tribute to its mothers. Visits, flowers, special meals, and notes of appreciation will be the order of the day. I respectfully suggest the addition of another dimension to this special day. Mother's Day in May, and Father's Day in June, should become an occasion for parents to re-dedicate themselves to the sacred tasks of raising children.

During the past few years, I have had the privilege to discuss heroism in classrooms with students ranging from third to twelfth grades. Often, we share a writing exercise in which each student composes a brief passage about a hero. For the majority of students of all ages, the hero that is singled out is a father, mother, or grandparent. Many times that parent or grandparent is the sole guardian for the child. Sometimes alcohol, drugs, or prison have taken one or both parents. Sometimes a parent has simply walked away from the family. Stories of abuse of a father toward his wife or his children are not rare.

I have read of parents and grandparents, singly or as a team, overcoming staggering odds of poverty, disease, and rotten luck to provide a secure and loving environment for children. "She is always there for me," is a repeated refrain. I have read of parents whose homes have been foreclosed and whose furniture has been repossessed. I have read of parents who must battle cancer and sky-high drug bills while working to buy food and clothes for their children.

Certain traits dominate the students' writings about their parent or grandparent. Optimism, selflessness, devotion, predictability, and advocacy for the child's welfare are repeatedly commemorated. The purpose of an annually renewed pledge on Mother's and Father's Day would be its focus upon the responsibilities of parents to uphold these virtues.

The American idea for Mother's Day began during the Civil War with the work on Ann Jarvis in Grafton, West Virginia. She urged mothers of that especially conflicted region to declare their neutrality and to devote their efforts to the care of casualties from both Union and Confederate sides. After the war, she promoted an annual Mothers Friendship Day at her church to unite citizens of all political beliefs.

In 1870, Julia Ward Howe, who had written the words for the Battle Hymn of the Republic during a visit to a Union encampment during the Civil War, issued a Mother's Proclamation, calling for a united effort by mothers to seek universal disarmament and peaceful resolution to political quarrels. The proclamation furthered the idea of recognition of mothers, especially those who had lost sons in battle.

Following the death of Ann Jarvis in 1905, her daughter, Anna, pursued the vision of a national celebration of motherhood. The first formal Mother's Day was held in the Methodist Church of Grafton in 1910. Many states subsequently staged similar recognitions. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation passed by Congress to establish the second Sunday of May as "a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country." The day was meant to honor especially mothers who had lost sons in war.

At a time when we daily read of disintegration of families and of loss of adults and children to violence and substance abuse, Mother's Day and Father's Day offer special opportunities for parental commitment to provide loving and safe havens for their children.

I offer this pledge for parents:

With God's help always, I pledge my best efforts to give my child unconditional love, encouragement, and devotion to their enduring welfare. I will fulfill my responsibility to be an optimistic and responsible role model.

What would your pledge be?

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