Opinion: A mother’s love, not sexual orientation, should be focus of Mother’s Day lesson

AP File Photo/Steve Senne / A mural that features Theodor Seuss Geisel, left, also known by his pen name of Dr. Seuss, covers part of a wall on May 4, 2017, near an entrance at The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, in Springfield, Mass.

If a Mother's Day lesson plan for students between the ages of 5 and 8 at a Hamilton County elementary school included instructional material that dealt with the sexual orientation of parents — unless that instructional material is only used as informative background by a teacher or librarian — the school district has deeper problems than what books are used in the lesson plan.

It's no surprise that children at any school have alternative families. If they don't have a mother and father at home, they might have only a mother or a father, or a grandparent, or a guardian of no relation, or two women or two men, or a foster parent or a caregiver at an orphanage.

However, children ages 5 to 8 don't need attention paid by a teacher or librarian as to why there are two men at home, no parent or only a grandparent. They need to know only that they are loved and that they are secure. Whatever else needs to be said about their parentage needs to be kept between caregiver and child, not as a secret but as an understanding that this is what our family is and that it may not be the same as everyone else's. And that it's OK if it's not.

With that in mind, it was curious that a librarian at Alpine Crest Elementary School recently chose one book about a girl with two fathers, "Stella Brings the Family," as part of a Mother's Day celebration for young students. The other book, "Mother Bruce," is about a male bear that a group of goslings believe is their mother.

What was missing in the selection of books? A book about what Mother's Day should celebrate — the deep and abiding love of mothers (and those who play the role), of course.

We're less interested in the hubbub that followed when a local conservative group, Moms for Liberty, objected to the nontraditional gender roles in the books; when the lesson was then put on hold by district administration while district policies are reviewed and adjusted; and why several members of Moms for Social Justice spoke at the Hamilton County Board of Education meeting Thursday night in support of reinstating the lesson.

Frankly, we're not so concerned with "Mother Bruce," as animals in books and other media have long served to impart lessons about life. Social media, for instance, is rife with posts about a dog mothering a kitten, a horse caring for a dog or a ferret believing a cat is his mother. Young children who are taught to love animals inherently understand that. But a human sexual orientation lesson masquerading as a Mother's Day lesson is something else.

So, being fans of mothers (and those who play the role) and reading, we'd like to offer several other books that might have been used instead of "Stella Brings the Family" or any other such books celebrating same-sex parents. We're glad such books are available and believe they should be read by the two moms or dads to their child in the home, especially if the child is curious why they don't have a nontraditional family.

› "The Runaway Bunny": The 1942 classic by Margaret Wise Brown finds a little bunny running away from his mother in an imaginary game of hide and seek. "If you run away," the mother says, "I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." Children are comforted by the steadfast mother, who would stop at nothing to find her child.

› "Are You My Mother?": With a theme similar to "Mother Bruce," the 1960 Dr. Seuss-edited book finds a baby bird that hatches while its mother is away looking for food trying out several animals and inanimate objects because it doesn't know what its mother looks like. Its message is the bond between a mother and her child.

› "Love You Forever": The 1986 book by Robert Munsch depicts a mother holding her newborn son and singing to him: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." She intones the same thing to him as they both age, enforcing the indelible lifelong bond between mother and child.

› Love Is A Family": Actress Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel") wrote this story of Lily, who loves her mother but is worried about what her classmates will think on Family Fun Night when she only brings her mother. The takeaway is that family is not defined by mother, father, and child, but by love.

› "Horton Hatches The Egg": The 1940 book by Dr. Seuss was ahead of its time in describing an elephant's devotion to the task of substitute parenthood when it is asked by a mother bird going on what turns out to be a permanent vacation to watch her egg. Despite numerous hardships, the elephant persists, saying, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent." When the egg hatches, it is an elephant-bird, its elephant features apparently present because of Horton's fidelity.

Of course, those are only five of hundreds of books that could have been used.

Going forward, we hope if district policies are in fact reviewed and adjusted, a Mother's Day lesson for young children will concern itself less with what various kind of nontraditional caregivers children might have but the love those caregivers offer.