When Mother's Day approaches, I scurry around getting cards for my mother and my partner. I want both of them to feel seen and loved. I think about myself a lot too, about how I want to spend my Mother's Day which (in an ideal world) would involve absolute quiet or, at the very least, a chance to go to the bathroom alone. I never stop to think about the origins of Mother's Day...at all. I have become a Hallmark Whore or typical American. This week, however, I was reminded about the true beginnings of Mother's Day by this piece and also by the statement issued by Queen Noor. So, I read again Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation and as I read the words,
"We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
I remembered an extremely hot summer night in 2005. The children were sleeping in our room because we had a window unit on in there. Luisa and I were downstairs watching a news story about an "accidental" bombing of a civilian building in Iraq. I shook my head in disgust as I watched the Iraqi women, mothers, crying over their children - the dead, the injured and their children living in constant danger. I was intellectually outraged but I turned off the TV and the images faded quickly.
I had trouble sleeping that night. I made lists of things to do, I stared at the ceiling and thought of ways to fix a certain crack. Eventually, I rolled to my side and looked down at my son sleeping on the floor. He looked so beautifully calm. Then, I felt my daughter (3 or 4 months old at the time) snuggle into me and place her tiny hand on my back. As I lay there, wrapped in the steady rhythm of my children's breathing, the intellectual outrage I had felt earlier gave way to an emotional response to the unthinkable - harm coming to one's children. I am a worrier and notoriously fearful about my children's fate but that fear is abstract. It is not a response to any significant and true threat. I don't spend my days wondering where the bombs will fall, where the gun shots will be fired. I know that my home is a safe place, that I have access to all that I need to meet my children's needs. I do not live daily with the fact that my children may be killed, civilian casualties in a war that seems never-ending. In that moment, because I was a mother myself, I felt that tenderness to which Julia Ward Howe referred.
This Mother's Day, I will try harder to remember this. I will love my children and, because of that love, I will try to think less about my own peace and quiet and more about peace for all mothers.