By: Amber Leventry
Mother’s Day is quickly approaching. Commercials, internet pop-up ads, and blog posts are reminding you to remember the woman who gave birth to you. But for many reasons, not everyone celebrates a mom on Mother’s Day. Some reasons may be painful, while others may stem from indifference or peace. For children being raised and loved by two dads, Mother’s Day shouldn’t be a day of anxiety or sadness. The joy of having two fathers on Mother’s Day should not be dimmed by the routine occasion in May. But that doesn’t mean a child can’t feel anxious or unsure of what to do when classroom gifts and celebrations are being planned for a mom they do not have.
The children’s book Stella Brings the Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, addresses this exact scenario. Stella’s teacher surprises her and the other students when she announces that the class will be having a Mother’s Day party; each student can invite a special guest, but when her classmates excitedly get started on party planning, Stella starts to worry.
“Stella had two dads. Everyone else had a mother. Howie had two! Stella would be the only one without a mother at the Mother’s Day party.”
All week long Stella is focused on the party; she can’t sleep and her appetite is gone. But when Jonathan asks her what’s wrong, Stella talks to her friends about what’s bothering her. She explains that she doesn’t have a mother to invite to the party. Leon wonders who makes her lunch like his mom makes for him. Howie wonders who reads stories to her at bedtime. Carmen wonders who gives her kisses when she is hurt. When Stella tells them that her Papa and Daddy do those things, as well as her Nonna, Aunt Gloria, Uncle Bruno and Cousin Lucy, Jonathan wonders why she doesn’t invite all of them.
Stella gets to work and hopes it will be okay to have so many guests at the party. It turns out to be better than she imagined. Everyone at the celebration has someone there they love and who loves them very much in return. Instead of feeling excluded, Stella feels very much included in the day’s festivities. She lets her teacher know that for Father’s Day she won’t be bringing so many people. Just two, she proudly announces.
And that’s exactly how it should be. On any day, holiday or not, a child should feel included in the conversation about family. Today’s families are made in so many diverse ways—aunts, uncles, grandparents, two moms, two dads, single parents—that there will likely be a beautiful exception to the rule of one mom and one dad. The common thread, however, is love and that is worth celebrating every day.
On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day it is important to appreciate the moms and dads in our lives and the lives of our children, but it’s also important to give children the space and confidence to feel the love and pride they have for their parents and parent figures when their definition of family doesn’t match the one on the calendar.