May Madness and Mothers Gone Mad

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

5/11/2012 11:40:00 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

For mothers with children at home and in school, May can bring madness. It's a month that tends to be filled with end-of-the-school-year projects, performances, concerts, dress rehearsals, parties and more.

For instance, last night, after finishing his project at 10 p.m. (yes, way past his bedtime), our 10-year-old son let us know he had to take 25 "poultry items" to school today. (Big shout out and thanks to my husband Jimmy, who picked up 25 three-count Chick-fil-A minis on the way to school this morning).

Last week, it was the fourth-grade play. I'm still not sure how I got hooked into helping with costumes, given that I'm really not creative, but I was proud of myself for crafting and stitching a cravat of sorts for President James Madison. This was soon followed by a strings concert. Last night was dress rehearsal for ballet.

All these frantic year-end activities make me thankful for my mother, who drove me to ballet, band and choir. As mothers do, she still worries about me, asking me to call and check in when I travel, occasionally driving me crazy with reminders and recommendations.

The children's activities seem to multiply as the number of days until the end of school diminish. It's a frantic whirlwind of activity. This past week, several friends have commented that May is even busier than December. It's all a mother can do to hang on and hope that the month ends well. (Was I supposed to take the four dozen cookies in yesterday, today or tomorrow?)

To add Mother's Day on top of May madness is really, well, mad, several mothers told me last weekend.

However, it's easier to get one's arms around Mother's Day if you understand its origins.

It goes back more than two centuries to Ann Jarvis, a West Virginian mother of 12. After the Civil War, she created "Mother's Friendship Day," in an effort to "reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War." In a country that had lost more than 600,000 soldiers, where families had been uprooted, where communications were limited (no phones or even telegraphs), it was painstakingly difficult and time-consuming to reunite soldiers with their families.

To have your children go off to war must be an incredible burden for any parent to bear. To not know if they survived or where they might be must be heart wrenching.

Ann died on May 9, 1905. Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, helped start what we now call Mother's Day in an effort to honor her mother. It was first held as a church service in May 1907 in Philadelphia. Two years later, a larger church service was held in New York. Anna continued her work by writing politicians and pushing for an annual Mother's Day celebration.

In 1910, West Virginia recognized Mother's Day as an official holiday. Four years later, the U.S. Congress passed a law recognizing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. What had begun in 1865 was finally made official after 59 years of effort.

Originally begun as a day to reunite families, then as a way to honor a mother who had worked hard to connect families, Mother's Day lives on as a reminder of the importance not just of mothers, but also of families.

After all, that's what makes a mother a mother.

To all those mothers out there who, like me, find themselves engrossed in May madness, I have a suggestion: Take a minute, take a breath, and enjoy the zaniness and love around you. The timing is not a diabolical scheme to drive you over the edge; it's the celebration of a mother's life.

And as for possibly being just a bit crazy -- pay it no mind. I had always known that my mother was a little crazy. But it wasn't until after I had my own two children that I realized why. Her children drove her crazy at times, but she still loves us both, as good mothers do.