Some mothers make us wish we were conceived in a petri dish and gestated in an artificial womb. Others are a steadfast source of comfort and unconditional love. Most mothers are somewhere in between: providing understanding and sound advice in one breath while in the next moment inadvertently letting some misthought morsel slip between immediately repentant lips as outraged children turn silent or--provided they've had enough therapy--calmly impart insight and sanity.
But there are mothers who would have done the world (not to mention their offspring) a favor had they consented to undergo immediate sterilization the first time they menstruated, women who embody the worst characteristics attributable to humans and who bear as much resemblance to some archetypal nurturing mother as Andrea Yates does to the Virgin Mary.
Other than an egg ready and waiting for action, and a sperm doing its best imitation of Mark Spitz, there are no prerequisites for motherhood.
No special abilities or skill set, no planning, not even desire: Accidental mothers are as common as burst condoms, maybe more so.
But mothers by choice have no monopoly on good mothering: It is possible to give birth to a "surprise" child and win a Mother of the Year Award. At the same time, a planned and eagerly anticipated pregnancy does not necessarily result in a doting or capable mother.
Then there are women who, when it comes to this mothering business, are a breed apart. Take celebrity moms; these bimbos often use adopted children from Third World nations as fashion accessories. I can just imagine the conversation on Rodeo Drive as some twit shows off Sophia, her little Slavic package: "Well, I was going to adopt an African child, but then I realized a baby with a paler skin tone would set off my tan."
As obnoxious as Hollywood mothers may be, even they don't hold a candle to those women who use their children as instruments of their sanctimonious views, mothers who spend their lives singing the praises of the Lord in one breath and instilling intolerance in the next. Cheryl Harper is that kind of mother.
Harper was named as co-plaintiff, along with her husband and son, Tyler Chase Harper, in a suit arising out of a high school administration's efforts to turn ignorance into dialogue and conflict into co-existence. But the Harpers didn't see it that way.
Located northeast of San Diego, Poway's population hovers around 50,000, and Poway High School is home to more than 3,000 students. Some of those students are openly gay, a fact that caused the Harpers the obligatory quota of Christian angst. But when the high school--already suffering from a history of conflict over issues of sexual orientation--allowed its Gay-Straight Alliance to demonstrate the hardships gay students endure by holding a Day of Silence, the Harpers' wrath turned public and dangerous.
While protesting students wore duct tape over their mouths to symbolize their silencing, Tyler Harper chose to wear a T-shirt to school bearing the handwritten message, "Be ashamed, our school embraced what God has condemned" on the front, and "Homosexuality is shameful" on the back: sentiments not exactly in keeping with the message of that fellow from Nazareth.
On the basis of the inflammatory T-shirt, Harper was pulled from class. He and his parents eventually brought suit against the school and a host of defendants on several federal causes of action including free speech, free exercise of religion and establishment of religion. And in the best tradition of paranoia-tinged religious zealotry, the Harpers' original complaint alleges the "true purpose" of the day was to "endorse, promote and encourage homosexual activity." (Google "Harper vs. Poway court opinion" to read the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion ruling against the Harpers.)
Poor Tyler. Instead of getting to spend Mother's Day showering his mom with appreciation for providing the wisdom required to mold him into a young man brimming with compassion; motivated by care and concern for the rainbow of God's creations; working for peace and justice and informing his actions with tolerance and humility, he'll be able to celebrate the day in an entirely different way. He can thank his mother for turning him into a fearful, hateful, narrow-minded, life-bashing bigot who sees drooling gays (and their unwitting accomplices) hiding in every alley ready to pounce on his pure Christian body and corrupt his pristine soul. How sad.
Fortunately, not every family will be hunkered down Sunday like the Harpers and their ilk. Some of us will celebrate what we know is the basis of motherhood: pleasure. The earthy, life-affirming joy of sex and birthing and holding a warm infant for the first time and bringing its small lips to full breasts and watching this child grow into a loving, laughing, warm and compassionate member of the human family who celebrates each day for the wonder that it is.
Happy Mother's Day.