Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. It’s a commemoration that happens all over the world on different dates, although the vast majority of those happen in May, covering the entire month.
In my home country of Mexico, the date is fixed on May 10. In my adopted country of the U.S., it’s always the second Sunday in May — which means that sometimes it’s the same day in both places, like it was in 2015 and will be in 2020.
But there’s a more important lesson in the day than the when and why and, again, we can turn to dogs to learn it.
When a mother dog is with her litter, all of the other dogs leave her alone or soon learn to, because trying to violate that space would lead to at least a strong warning to stay away and everything else including up to death in case the warning was not heeded. A mother dog will fight and kill for her puppies because she instinctively understands their importance.
But something interesting happens. Once the mother has done her job by making sure her puppies are fed and cared for long enough to become independent, are taught the rules of the pack along the way, and can make it on their own, she sends them off into the world and stops protecting them from the rest of the dogs.
She doesn’t do this out of some cold-heartedness, though. She does it because she trusts the pack to take care of itself once her job is finished. There are two skills necessary to create this trust. Dogs have them, but we need to relearn if we’ve forgotten them. One is respect. The other is letting things go.
For the most part, dogs will respect another pack’s territory, so they don’t get into things like wars between different “tribes.” The only exceptions happen when there is a sudden and severe shortage of something vital to life, either prey or water, that drives more than one group into the same space. Even then, it’s not impossible for one big pack to form and work together.
Ultimately, dogs don’t see things like breed. They see dog. And they’re much more inclined to cooperate with each other than to fight. But even if they do fight, their second skill helps them tremendously. Dogs let go. They don’t hold grudges. Two dogs that have a violent fight today can still be friends tomorrow.
Both of these skills together create that necessary trust within the pack — and they are vital for humans to learn as well, if we’re going to regain the trust in our entire pack and in our common humanity while we still can.
On Mother’s Day, we honor our moms with things like cards or flowers, breakfast in bed, fancy dinners, or other rewards. But what we should remember to honor is what motherhood represents. Our mothers, all of them, created us. We were formed inside of another human being who then bore us and, quite often, fed us from her own body and helped us learn how the world works. Yes, our fathers had something to do with that but, like dogs, our fathers weren’t necessary for our births once conception had happened.
Without our mothers, there would be no us. Every mother is a symbol of life and of hope — the hope that someday we will learn to follow the clues that Nature has given us and which dogs live out so effortlessly.
It doesn’t matter what you or your mother look like, or where you live because we all live in the same place and we all got here the same way. And, ultimately, we all have the same mother — we’re standing on her.
If your mother is still alive, give her your love. If she’s not, remember her with your thanks. Either way, honor her by learning what the dogs know: respect and letting go leads to trust.
Stay calm, and happy Mother’s Day!