I have been writing a column for the second Sunday of May (Mother’s Day) for more than 15 years. Typically, it is one of the easier writing assignments because the date suggests the topic and I have been fortunate to have an abundance of material for which to write. Some of the columns have been about my mother, some about my mother-in-law, who I actually knew for a longer period of time, and for some my wife provided the basis. The day celebrates motherhood and the positive contributions of mothers to society.
I suspect grade school students still make hand-made Mother’s Day cards in class. We used to make them out of construction paper, with hand drawn artwork with crayons and a verse in awkward printing that often went outside the lines. I ran across my mother’s collection of the offerings years later and thought she surely must have hoped I found a subject in school where I had more aptitude than art. As if the public school offerings were not homely enough, there was also a helping of samples from our Sunday school class project each year.
I am not sure the artistic endeavors are any more advanced, but I saw on-line where today’s youngsters can provide their mothers with a personalized video on You Tube. That’s in addition to choices of musical greeting cards, gift cards, flowers from the grocery store and personalized text messages via a cellular telephone. If mere convenience is not enough, the Internet provides lists of gift offerings to help those who do not know what to say or buy for their mom. There are gift ideas geared to the stylish mom, working mom, gardening mom, proud mom, decorating mom, pampered mom, hostess mom, gadget mom, golfer mom, eco mom, and the list goes on and on.
Reading through the list I could not find any ideas designed for the “child mom.” One can hope the absence is not because the Mother’s Day marketers have not caught on to the potential of a new demographic, but that they have consciously chosen to ignore it.
This year’s Mother’s Day column finds me at a loss to comprehend, let alone explain, how some in our society can believe that a 13-year-old child is ready for motherhood. Yes, some girls at that age are biologically prepared to propagate, but because they can, does not mean that they should.
The series of stories that have originated from the YTZ (Yearn To Zion) Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, that have dominated the newspapers in recent weeks seem almost inconceivable in 21st century America. The polygamy practices of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) led to the removal of 137 children and 46 women from the ranch on April 5 by state troopers and members of Texas Child Protective Services.
But this is really not a story about motherhood. All of the poignant pictures on television and in the press of saddened mothers having to give up their children aside, this story, plain and simple is about child abuse. Of the children removed from the ranch many were underage teenage girls who were pregnant and some who had already given birth, some more than once. The fathers in most cases were men old enough to be the parent of the young mother, some may have been.
At the West Texas YTZ Ranch the prairie dress had become the equivalent of the Burka and the FLDS men the Taliban. The practices of the group are based on the theory that every maturing girl child should be forced into the bondage of men of all ages and with multiple wives for the sole purpose of producing more children.
Interestingly, of the 137 children removed from the ranch, only 40 were boys. It seems when the boys reach the age of puberty they are viewed as competition and are often expelled from the ranch on trumped up reasons and left to fend for them selves in the “outside” world. The ranch is not about raising and nurturing children away from modern society; it is about perpetuating the will and desire of the polygamist men.
The mainstream Mormon Church renounced polygamy more than a century ago. It remains to be seen how the actions of the state in forcing the issue with the renegade faction will play out in court. But it was the right thing for Texas to do, and something Utah should have done years ago.
Robert Brincefield is vice president and publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.