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The beginning of May signals the end of the school year, the start of spring, and of course Mother’s Day. As with most American holidays, with their emphasis on spectacle and consumerism, my relationship with Mother’s Day is complex. Yet, my conflicting feelings surrounding Mother’s Day (like Father’s Day) have more to do with a feeling of both celebration and sadness that surrounds this holiday.
Of course, it’s a day to celebrate my own Mom. As I look in the mirror, and think about my role as a teacher and a writer, as partner and a father, I see her influence in so many ways. Having grown up watching her teach nursery school, and then ultimately teaching alongside her and my grandmother for several years, her influences are felt each and every day. Mother’s Day is a moment to reflect on the love, the lessons, and the sacrifices. It is a day to think about her unconditional support.
Growing up, I struggled in school. These struggles, my learning disability, and my own insecurity made school difficult. Rather than confront, I retreated. Through all these struggles, through less than stellar grades, and troubles when I started college, my mom always supported me. She encouraged me, she nurtured my curiosity and supported my every decision. When I lacked confidence, she held me up; when I lacked the drive, she waited for me; when I found my passions, she stood with me. I don’t say this enough to her, but any accomplishment as a teacher, writer, commentator, parent, or in life is a testament to her influence, guidance, and love.
It is not simply a day about sending love to my own Mom, but also to Anna, who is an amazing partner, a teacher, a compassionate soul, and an inspiring mother to our children. It’s about watching my kids say, “thank you and I love you,” about their recognizing that they have an amazing force sitting with them. It’s about Anna’s mom, and the blessing of Anna, and my sister, Amanda, who inspires each and every day with her ability to fully commit all her energy to both her child and her work. It’s about Monica, Tamura, Heidi, Stephanie, and Tanisha; it’s about Imani, Cynthia, Yaba, Leigh, Duchess, and Nicole. And then there is Joan, Cole, Ada, Shannon, Tamy, Salamishah, Rosa, and Fanshen. And most certainly, I will be celebrating Gaye, Jamilah, Safiya, Cynthia, and JLove; Susana, Crystal, Rachel, Kishonna, Fabienne, Lisa, and Kirsten. It’s a day about Karin, Camille, Erika, Nitasha, Vernadette, Breeze, Anamaría, and Rebecca. It’s about Jenny, Kristal, Whitney, Mary, and Alisha; Jessica, Lori, Marcie, Lea, and so many friends near and far. It’s about the many amazing friends, whose love of life and their children, is inspiring; it’s about the many friends whose commitment to their children is a priceless gift to their families, and to us all. It’s about grandmothers and aunts, about those many who themselves are gifts, treasures to their moms. Mother’s Day is a day of joy . . . it’s a warm embrace . . . it’s family and it’s the beauty of the love and hope we all see in our children.
But it’s also a day of sadness for me. I cannot help but think about Marissa Alexander, who still faces 60 years for standing her ground. It’s about the thousands of mothers who are locked up, unable to receive that special mother’s day brunch in bed, or even a hug. I cannot help but to think about the “1.3 million children have mothers who are in prison, jail, or on probation.” There will be no celebration for these moms, disproportionately black and Latino, who are locked up. It’s surely a day of tears for Sybrina Fulton, Lucia McBath, Monica McBride, and those who have lost children, #every28hours.
There will be no celebration for those who have lost their mom to any number of diseases, many of which result from persistent inequality in our health care system. What about those many people whose desire to be moms was thwarted by discrimination, economic barriers, and the lack of communal support? What about the single mothers who endure public ridicule and scapegoating all while policies, whether the lack of affordable daycare, abysmal wages, or the destruction of a public safety net, work to undermine their opportunities? Most days are not days where single mothers, particularly mothers of color, are celebrated, leaving me to wonder if this Sunday is any different.
My thoughts are with the mothers of more than 300 girls in Nigeria, who simply wants someone to #BringBacktheirgirls, who continue to chant “#bringbackourgirls.” My thoughts are with the mothers whose children are enslaved on chocolate plantations, or the many women who picked the flowers that are given in “celebration” of Mother’s Day. The gifts of love are also the gifts of pain, despair, and violence. I will be thinking about those mothers and families whose children have “gone missing;” the many children who won’t be with their moms on this Sunday — the thousands of black and Latino mothers whose kids did elicit national concerns. I know it is a day of pain for all too many.
My heart will be heavy this Sunday. Yet amid a feeling of powerlessness and sadness, I will spend time thinking about how the moms inside and outside my circle, and how so many others, are working to dream the world anew, to demand that this be a day of celebration for all.