By Alexandra Temblador
There are few holidays that can cause us to reflect on how diverse family structures are in America than Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. With these holidays just around the corner, it’s good to consider what these holidays symbolize in the lives of many children across the United States. For some, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is simply a day to show appreciation for one’s biological mother or father. However, not all families are structured with one biological father and one biological mother which brings up the question: is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day the best federal holidays to celebrate parents?
Perhaps not. In 2011 there were 2.6 million single father homes and 8.6 single mother households. On the other hand in 2010, about one fourth of all same-sex households were raising children. And currently, AARP estimates that about 1 million children are solely being raised by grandparents with neither parent present. These statistics are just a few examples of how diverse family structures may be and unfortunately sometimes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can make children feel left out or different from their friends when their parent or parents do not completely fit into the parameters of these two holidays.
Few may be aware that there is a federal holiday that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994, making the 4th Sunday of every July, Parent’s Day. What makes this law so unique is the language of the law which does not limit the definition of parent’s to “one mother and one father,” therefore making it inclusive to any person(s) who cares for a children in the role of a parent.
The text of the bill can be found below:
To establish the fourth Sunday of July as “Parents’ Day”.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled, That the fourth Sunday of
every July shall be established as “Parents’ Day” to be recognized as
a recurring, perennial day of commemoration.
SEC. 2. RECOGNITION.
All private citizens, organizations, and governmental and
legislative bodies at the local, State, and Federal level are
encouraged to recognize Parents’ Day through proclamations, activities,
and educational efforts in furtherance of recognizing, uplifting, and
supporting the role of parents in the rearing of their children.
Parent’s Day is very all-inclusive holiday for the modern families of the United States. Unfortunately, this holiday is not widely recognized by many. When’s the last time you saw a “Happy Parent’s Day” card by Hallmark? (You haven’t, because according to their website, they don’t make one.)
National Parent’s Day may not ever become as widely celebrated as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Bill Clinton signed the bill into law almost 11 years ago and it still hasn’t gained a lot of traction. However, that does not mean that you and your family can’t celebrate Parent’s Day or encourage your child’s school to consider it as an all-inclusive celebration.
Despite having the option to celebrate Parent’s Day, many families may have questions concerning Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, such as: how do we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day if our family structure does not include one? What if our child’s school includes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day activities but our child lives in a single mother home or a two father home? Will our child be left out?
If you wish to speak with your children about Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or if your child begins to ask questions that stem from these holidays, consider doing the following. First, help your kids understand that there are many diverse family structures and that your family is not “different” from any other family. Focus on the positive aspects of your particular family such as the love that binds you together.
Secondly, if you decide to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, you can do so by focusing on people who are significant in your children’s lives. For instance, your child could make a card for an aunt or a grandmother on Mother’s Day. Another option is to have children celebrate their single parent, grandparent, or same-sex parents on both holidays.
Welcoming Schools has created an initiative to assist parents or educators in how to best discuss Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with children from all family structures. It can be found here and it provides activities, books, and discussions on how to include all children during these holidays and how to embrace diverse family structures.
For many families, celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day echoes the structure of their family and allows them to honor their mother and father for a single day of the year. However, for many families Mother’s Day and Father’s Day does not accurately depict their family. Parent’s Day is an all-inclusive option to honor one’s parents even if that includes just one parent, a grandparent, two grandparents, or two parents of the same sex. Perhaps one day, Parent’s Day will gain wider support for it truly reflects the beauty of all families in the United States.