Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have histories that go back over 100 years — and they’re well-established and well-recognized holidays throughout North America. But times and attitudes and sensitivities change, and now some schools are ditching both days in an effort to make everyone feel more included.
Schools are nixing the traditional gender-based days and combining them into a day that comes in-between and that celebrates all guardians — holidays called something like "Important Grown-Ups Day" or "Grown-Ups Who Love Us Day."
It makes sense: families are less traditionally structured these days, with more single parents, more queer parents, and more guardians like foster parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In fact, according to Pew Research, less than half of kids are part of a “traditional” family now, with 15 percent living with a step-parent or remarried parent, 34 percent living with a single parent, and 5 percent living with a non-parent.
How do these kids feel on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day? Especially when the whole class works on crafts or cards? It’s safe to say many don’t feel included and some feel even worse.
But when actually eliminating Mother’s and Father’s Day, the response can be extremely critical from more conservative families who want to at least uphold the myth that most families have a mom and a dad.
In Toronto, a Allenby Junior Public School cut the days and replaced them with "Grown-Ups Who Love Us Day,” which falls on May 27, between the two more traditional holidays.
“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 in a statement.
But some parents see it as political correctness gone too far — and a move that takes them out of the spotlight a bit.
“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,” one parent told the Toronto Star. “It’s a good idea but why can’t we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and celebrate this extra day?”
In the United States, trying the change has met with even less success — the Glenville School in Greenwich, Connecticut, tried to switch their second grade students to "Important Grown-Ups Day," and there was such an uproar that they apologized and took back the announcement.
“It has come to our attention that our attempt to be more inclusive of our diverse community of families may have come across as being disrespectful to some,” the principal wrote in a school-wide email. “We apologize for any negative feelings that yesterday’s [message] may have brought up. Moving forward, we will go back to celebrating ‘Mother’s or other important person day’ and ‘Father’s or other important person day.’”
In Australia, they’ve already made a more widespread change, and many school celebrate “Parents and Carers’ Day” instead of making it about specific and gendered parenting roles — and it seems to have been met with less pushback.
Change can be hard, and so can letting go of tradition. But when families are changing, shouldn’t the holidays change too?