Time to resurrect a recurring feature of this blog I call “Allison’s Word.” In the past, this feature has included a disembodied voice intruding my thoughts to you. However, said voice is sitting out this post, and instead I’ll share a couple of thoughts on my mind about an important subject for particular weekend:
If you’ve noticed on your calendar or in your nearest greeting card section or flower shop, Mother’s Day is taking place here in the United States this weekend. The day is, as its Wikipedia entry so eloquently puts it:
You’re probably asking me, “So, Allison, are you going to do something for your mom for Mother’s Day?” Well, I’m not sure about my mom’s work schedule, and it’s a 2-hour drive from Madison to where she lives. But I did send her a card, and I will text or call her on Sunday to wish her a happy day.
I’ve also sent Happy Mother’s Day cards to both of my sisters, who each have two daughters. At this moment, the younger of my two sisters is on somewhat rough terms with her two daughters (they’re 20 and 15 years old). I didn’t get to see them (or my other two nieces) at our family’s Easter Sunday to-do; they were spending the day with their father, unfortunately.
Remarkably, Little Sis appears to be taking her offspring’s conflict in stride, at least from the interactions I’ve had with her. At least it’s not like her daughters never want to see her again. Still, I can’t help but think that somewhere inside she is feeling a bit of sadness over the chill in the mother-daughters bond. That’s why the Mother’s Day card I chose to send to her has a message of hope that she does feel appreciation for what she’s meant to the not-quite-mature-but-still-growing women she brought into this world.
(For the record, I sent the very same card to my other sister, whose bond with her daughters, ages 16 and 14, is still pretty solid.)
On this Mother’s Day weekend, there’s another thought I had on my mind, and with that I turn back to that word and how it’s been, unfortunately, used:
The literal definition of the word mother is the female parent of a child (thank you again, introductory section of Wikipedia). And for better and (much) worse, that’s all what some male Homo sapiens regard women as, especially those who hold a certain cultural ideology prevalent in a Homo erectus-like era. (Well, perhaps the very early Holocene epoch.)
Why do I refer to “the old days” in the end of that paragraph? Well, let’s talk about when I was a little kid and got to visit my maternal grandparents. It was only around my teens that I knew what my grandmother’s actual first name was. Us grandkids always called her Grandma, and still do even 12 years after she left this world. My mom, naturally, called her Ma in the same way. So, regularly, did Grandpa, or at least in the very few times when he called her Kit (that wasn’t her real first name). Back then, I had the impression that since their 15 children called her Ma, their father would follow suit, all in respect to the matriarch of the family. It was probably a sign of respect they picked up from their own parents, who likely picked it up from theirs, and so on.
Somewhere in my adulthood, however, I started to think that the patriarch of the family calling their beloved spouse “mother” may not always have been a term of endearment. It’s been crystallized by a certain scary figure in American politics right now. No, not You Know Who, but the man one proverbial heartbeat away from succeeding him. The V.P. holds a longing for a time where, among other things, men were in charge of the roost while the wife was supposed to be a yes-woman… and the bearer of his children. Reportedly, the V.P. has called the Second Lady “Mother” on at least a few dinner occasions with guests (e.g. “Mother, who prepared the meal?”). His use of the term in such a way has also reportedly left their guests a bit weirded out. And knowing how he’d like to turn The Handmaid’s Tale into a real-life theonomy, it should weird you out as well.
In that context, I see my grandfather calling my grandmother “Ma” in a clearly different light. Just as with the V.P., his calling my grandmother “ma” (again, just as their kids called her) may have been a preferred term of endearment. But it was paired with a now self-evident belief from the bygone generation he was raised in, one that ranked the man of the house as lord of the castle and left the wife as a subservient yes-woman… and baby-making machine. “You are the mother of my children,” was his likely thinking.
And that’s a belief that conveniently leaves out the rest of the actual definition of the word “mother.” Let’s circle back to that Wikipedia definition of Mother’s Day:
Mother’s Day has never been intended to be all about the father; he has his own day in June. It’s about the women in this world who desired and set forth toward being a mother in one way or another, be it as part of a family or through not-as-traditional means (i.e. same-sex couple, single parent, adoption). However they went forth to becoming a parent, the mothers of this world should take pride in doing it.
Mother’s Day is also about how the bonds between mother and children have been built and remain, even if they show signs of fraying. I’ve had my disagreements with my own mother, just as my nieces have had disagreements with their mothers (my little sister and her kids in particular). But not once have I or my sisters failed to appreciate how strong she’s been, what she has meant to our family, and how much of an influence she’s been.
So, so-called all-powerful patriarchs, realize what the mother of your children has meant to your own family. She’s so much more than just someone who gave them life. She’s nurtured them. She’s taught them right from wrong. She’s guided them through their learning years. She’s encouraged and supported them in their adult years. And she has done so with or without your being there.
In other words, she’s a mother, not your property. Take time to appreciate that fact this weekend.