How we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States

Mother's DayMother’s Day is a day to honor our mothers and thank them for their sacrifices and everything they have done for us. Children in the United States, like in Brazil, make or buy their mother presents and/or cards. Children traditionally begin the celebration by making their mother breakfast in bed, which they prepare themselves. They may take their mother out for lunch or to a movie. According to Wikipedia, on Mother’s Day more families eat at restaurants than on any other holiday. They spoil her on her day and do the dishes for her, and make a fuss about her to let her know how special she is to them. Dads take the children shopping so they can buy her perfume, a pretty blouse, chocolates, flowers, jewelry, bubble bath, books, art, CDs, DVDs, or something else they know she will like. Kids may help Dad make a bar-b-que or picnic lunch and enjoy the beauty of nature with Mom by taking a walk together or visiting somewhere special. My kids took me to Longwood Gardens one year and the National Forest another time.

President Wilson declared Mother’s Day an official holiday in 1914 after Anna Jarvis initiated efforts to commemorate motherhood. One can read about the origins of Mother’s Day in many articles on the internet, for example Mother’s Day , so I would like to give you a more personal account, an insider’s view so to speak, of how we celebrated Mother’s Day in my family.

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In my family, we would take the family out to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for breakfast when the children were small. One year they surprised me by making me pancakes themselves from scratch, using their grandmother’s recipe, and serving me and my husband in bed. With freshly squeezed orange juice, which they squeezed with their tiny precious hands. They were excited about the new computer software we had just gotten, which makes holiday cards, and they composed me the following card. “To our honorable, mineral water mother! love, M—and C—“. It was illustrated by clip art that they lovingly chose. You may well be wondering what in the world mineral water has to do with mothering. Children learn languages differently than adults. When I had taught them the words “honorable and venerable” as words that show respect, they had remembered them as “mineral water, which was the kind of water we ordered in restaurants when we went out.” I treasured that card which showed the tender hearts of loving children eager to show their mother their special, innocent love in the most respectful manner possible.

Another time each of my children composed me a song and performed it for me. They would invite their friends over to perform skits for us mothers and share cake that the children had baked for the occasion.

When I was young, I wrote my Mother a card using the letters of the word Mother to begin each line of the message, like this:

M – because you’re Marvelous
O – your’re Oh so beautiful
T – This card is to show you how much you mean to me
H – Hugs to show you how much I love you
R – youré Really wonderful.
S – So, Happy Mother’s Day—I love you!

In school the students prepare presentations for their mothers to attend: skits, recitations of poetry, songs, art work, or giving a speech they researched and wrote for the holiday. The teachers often devote some class time to gift making. When I was young, we made our mothers elegant silhouettes of our profile by tracing onto black construction paper, the outline of our shadow, cast by a projector onto the classroom wall. My daughter’s class was still making these classic silhouettes for a new generation of mothers, and it filled my heart with a mother’s pride to receive this precious and unique gift of my daughter’s profile cut out with care by her young hands.

Teachers plan their lessons around the development of tiny motor skills. Learning to cut with scissors and how to string beads is very difficult for young students. So, it meant so much more to me than any store bought gift could have meant to see how my daughter had succeeded at cutting out the difficult shape of her profile by herself. (Maybe the teacher helped a little).

When she was in Kindergarten, she made me a necklace. Her 5 year old fingers could not use a normal sized needle to string regular beads. They used huge wooden beads with large holes so the thick string would easily pass through the holes. I still have that necklace and I have received many compliments on it, because it is so unusual. I proudly tell them my daughter made it for me, if they can’t tell.

My children were always very creative and put a lot of love and thought into their gifts.

My son made me a porcelain duck which he painted in art class. In shop class, he made me a wooden clock which he assembled, stained and varnished himself.

My oldest daughter made me a lamp which she carved herself out of wood, and my other daughter made me vases and other pottery in art class.

My children thought of the idea to make me coupons, which I could cash in whenever I wanted. For example, one coupon was good for a free carwash. Or I could cash in a coupon for having the lawn mowed or the dishes done or the vacuuming done by the kids. I always loved celebrating Mother’s Day with my Mom and later when I had my own family, with my kids. In my family, we started celebrating Children’s Day like they do in Japan to reciprocate all their love they showered and their Dad me with, although it is not common in the United States.

Children learn what they live. In my house my children gave me wonderful Mother’s Days, filled with love. I will always fondly remember all they did for me.

See you,

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Mary Ziller

I'm Mary Ziller. I tutor ESL at the IHM Lteracy Center in Philadelphia. I lived a year in Brazil where I became certified to teach English as a Foreign language.

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