On Sunday morning, Bronwen Alsop’s 4-year-old son presented her with a Mother’s Day card he had made in his junior kindergarten class. But her 6-year-old daughter was empty-handed.
It’s not that one child cares more for their mom than the other, but that her daughter’s school was taking steps to acknowledge that not all families are the same by replacing the holiday with a new and more inclusive tradition.
While Liam, who attends McMurrich Junior Public School, painted and decorated a special card for his mother, his sister, Emma, who is in Grade 1 at Allenby Junior Public School, was told that Mother’s Day would no longer be recognized by having students make cards and gifts in class to mark the event.
Emma’s dad also shouldn’t expect any Father’s Day cards made in class this year, as the Toronto school intends to replace both events with “Grownups Who Love Us Day,” on May 27, to ensure children who do not fit the traditional family box feel included.
To many, such a move is seen as a welcome nod to inclusivity. To others, it could be viewed as political correctness gone too far. Either way, it is likely to cause some controversy.
“I think overall we are doing too much and overthinking every possible scenario to protect and shelter kids, rather than use this as an opportunity to educate our kids that every single family is different and how some kids can cope on difficult days,” Alsop said .
“It’s a good idea but why can’t we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and celebrate this extra day?”
The shift is part of a larger movement towards inclusivity with schools making an effort to broaden the scope of days honoring parents and caregivers, beyond commercialized and traditional celebrations, which could alienate children who do not come from traditional families or may have lost a parent.
In 2016, over one million children — 19.2 per cent of all children from infancy to age 14 — were living in a lone‑parent family, with or without grandparents or other relatives living in the home, according to StatisticsCanada.
Centennial Park elementary school in Abbotsford, BC, also replaced Mother’s Day with “Grownups Who Love Us Day” this year. The decision was criticized by some as an attack on the traditional family.
But the movement has gathered steam globally, including in Australia where dozens of schools held “Parents and Carers’ Day” to be more inclusive.
“The change is not only an acknowledgment that families are different… but that these days can also be tremendously difficult for some students, who may have had a parent pass away or, for a variety of reasons, have a parent that is no longer in their lives,” said a Toronto District School Board spokesperson on Allenby Junior Public School’s decision to replace Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
While Alsop said she is in favor of having a day to celebrate caregivers, she expressed concern that it may be confusing for children if schools in the city have varying policies, as in the case of her own children.
“If the TDSB were to unanimously decide to do it across the board then that’s perhaps another conversation,” Alsop said.
When asked whether the TDSB would be instituting a caregiver’s day, spokesperson Ryan Bird said it’s up to individual schools to do what works best for their community and that there is no current consideration of expanding this across the system.
Bird said Allenby school, located in the Lawrence Park area, has received messages of appreciation from parents for the change.
But the idea of replacing traditional celebrations has not been entirely welcomed elsewhere.
Glenville School in Connecticut last week issued an apology to parents after receiving backlash for announcing a decision to replace Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with “Important Grownups Day.”
And here in Canada, some families have taken to social media to voice their opposition to tampering with tradition.
“Kids were always given a choice who to make a Mother’s Day card for (mother, grandmother, stepmother, woman figure). Why should Mother’s Day be replaced or be made to share the spotlight? Choose another day for People Who Love Us Day… Mother’s Day is special,” one Twitter user wrote on a thread about the decision by Abbotsford’s Centennial Park elementary school to replace Mother’s Day.
Others have responded positively to the change, calling Mother’s Day a commercialized event.
“My mom hated Mother’s Day. She said it was a Hallmark holiday and not to be celebrated. [To be frank] imagine you were a little kid that didn’t have a mother?” another Twitter user wrote, responding to outrage over the Abbotsford school’s decision.
Anna Jarvis, who is considered the founder of Mother’s Day, created to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children, also wound up denouncing the commercialization of the holiday not long after it was launched in the United States in 1914.
Mother’s Day became an official holiday in Canada in 1915. A recent survey by the Retail Council of Canada found that approximately 75 per cent of Canadians make purchases to celebrate the event.
Also fears that replacing the tradition will be a missed opportunity for her daughter and son to learn about the different lives of their classmates.
“I don’t care much about getting anything elaborate. But I do want my daughter to come home with an understanding that not every person’s situation is the same as she has in her home de ella and that all different types of people, backgrounds and religions can be celebrated, ”Alsop said. “I just feel like there might be better solutions.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION