By Dwight Wolter
“Does it bother you” I ask my son, “that I won’t be able to come to your college to celebrate Mother’s Day with you?” “No, Dad. I have to study for two finals so it’s just as well.”
It isn’t until I hang up the phone that I realize how strange our two sentence conversation might appear to many people.
I have been a single father for many years. I have, by necessity, tried to be a good mother. And I have tried to be a good father. I am not trying to let the air out of the “Happy Mother’s Day” balloon hovering over the dining room table. I am not trying to dishonor the special relationship between biological mothers and their biological children. I am, however, questioning what a mother actually is in this strange world where the word “family” and “mother” and “father” are not as simple as they may have once seemed.
My son, who is now 20, has not seen or spoken to his “mother” in 10 years. In a way, it hurts me to put the word “mother” in brackets and, in a way, it hurts my son too. But we have adapted rather well. I have received Mother’s Day cards and Father’s Day cards for years. I feel doubly blessed, like having two birthdays each year.
What is a mother, anyway? Clearly it is not merely a biological relationship. Should we not, on Mother’s Day, celebrate two men who adopt and raise a child? When two women adopt a child, should we celebrate “Mothers Day” rather that “Mother’s Day”? And what about incarcerated mothers of children being raised by another “mother”? Nothing is simple anymore. We could seek advice from Hallmark Cards. Or we could seek advice from Jesus.
In Matthew 12: 46-50, someone says to Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you” and Jesus replies, “’Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he says, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’” Aha! According to Mother Jesus, being a “mother” is more about action and spirit than it is about biology.
So, Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! Happy Mother’s Day to those who are not biological mothers, but wish to celebrate those who are. Happy Mother’s Day to the so-called childless Mother Teresa who did so much mothering to the poorest of the poor. And let us not forget to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother Hen, Mother Mayeye and our strong and compassionate Mother God.
Personally and somewhat silently, I choose Mother’s Day to honor and celebrate everyone who ever had a mother. And that, by definition, includes my son, the mother of my son, me and you. Have I left anyone out? With this in mind, I gladly, gratefully, sincerely and lovingly can say to all mothers, regardless of who is celebrating or how they choose to do it: Happy Mother’s Day!
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