Thursday, May 14, 2009

Honorary Mothers

During a speech, Hillary Clinton reminded Americans that “it takes a village to raise a child.” When I first heard Mrs. Clinton recite this proverb I did not immediately agree. This, I’m sure, had something to do with a stubborn “I’ll let you know when I need your help,” mentality.

But this last Sunday it began to make sense to me. When I was a kid, the mothers of my friends acted as representatives of all of our mothers. They were there acting as a chargé d'affaires, a stand-in, and sometimes a stunt double to fill-in for Mom when she wasn’t present.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, sometime in June it will be Father’s Day, and Children’s Day as we all know is everyday. This particular Mother’s Day was different for my brothers and sisters and I as we are still in that first year of being with out Mom. A period of adjustment is to be expected, or so I am told.

So this past Sunday, in addition to remembering my kid’s mother (my wife) and my own mother, I also thought my friends’ mothers. Most of these guys still have their mothers around for them to call, send a card to, or maybe just stop in to visit with them.

I am lucky enough to still have some of the same friends I had when I was a kid. For the life of me I can’t understand why, because some of these guys are actually quite intelligent. We spent a lot of time at each other’s homes when we were young – just hanging out. But it wasn’t all fun and drinking games. The mother on duty saw to that. Rarely was a house without a mother in it to keep watch. A few mothers had jobs outside the home – but 30 years ago most women stayed home during the day. We can argue about the merits of such an arrangement and the patriarchal society it represented; but let’s be clear – for the kids of a generation ago most homes had a mother in attendance during the day.

When the men were away at work in that baby-boom period, the women were in charge of the home and anyone occupying the house. That included children born from other women. The same rules of honoring your father and mother, and respecting your elders also applied when you were at someone else’s home. I remember being lectured right along side my friend as his mother reminded us of the reasons why our behavior needed correction.

But under extreme conditions the discipline was delayed. Men meted out the punishment. The well-worn phrase “wait until your father comes home,” was often recited to get our attention and turn us into clock watchers. A friend of mine usually didn’t have to wait until after 5 o’clock though. His Dad would bolt the 12 miles back home in 10 minutes or less to immediately correct the situation – usually throwing the car into park in the driveway while the speedometer was still displaying 30 mph.

But other than the disciplinarian role, most of the other duties were left for the mothers. They were the advice columnists for the lovelorn, bailiffs, chaperones, chauffeurs, chefs, Cub Scout den mothers, financiers, guidance counselors, jailers, movie rating bureaus, nurses, prayer warriors, referees, religion teachers, and zoologists.

So on Monday (because Sunday is reserved for their children) I called some of these mothers to wish them a Happy Honorary Mother’s Day. It may not take an entire village to raise a child. But you to do need a few caring mothers to help.

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