Vail Daily column: Mighty mothers
May 10, 2014
This time of year, there is a very special holiday. You guessed it, it's Mother's Day. Origins of Mother's Day are somewhat contested, although it is sometimes linked to ancient celebrations of maternal goddesses in ancient Greece and Rome. Mother's Day in America, though, is a much more modern enterprise, spearheaded by Julia Ward Howe in 1870 with her famous Mother's Day Proclamation that was initially a call to mothers for a national day of peace.
But motherhood is not limited to the human realm, and the celebration takes place in the spring, which coincides with birthing season of most of Colorado's animals. By this time, birds have settled into their nests to incubate their eggs. Mother bears have emerged from their dens with ravenous appetites to produce enough milk to feed the voracious appetites of their cubs. Other mothers, such as rabbits and squirrels, have a lot on their plates as they have to accommodate a multitude of little ones competing for attention and resources. All of these mommas are just following their instincts, providing for their young in the best way they know how.
Families grow During Spring
It is no coincidence that most animals are born in the spring. The weather is generally mild and food is plenty. Baby animals will have all summer and fall to prepare for the inevitable harsh Colorado winter. Motherhood varies tremendously in the wild, though, and each species has its own tips and tricks for ensuring that their progeny reach maturity. Some animals, like bears, devote a tremendous amount of energy toward the rearing of two to three cubs, staying with them for close to 18 months. Mother bears are active mothers, and are the only animals known to spank their cubs as part of their efforts to raise decent, well-behaved adult bears. Other animals, though, such as most fish and reptiles, simply lay their eggs and let the chips fall where they may. The strategy here is to leave a lot of young with the hope that at least some will escape the jaws of predators and the other dangers of the wild.
Just like animal moms, human moms are working very hard in the spring time. This is the time for that last little push to get grades up before school is out for summer. Spring also brings the start of sports practices, family camping trips, and of course, mud season, which mom usually gets to clean up. And don't forget about the moms saying good-bye to their college bound high school grads, making sure their little college student has all the comforts of home and that they think of mom wherever they look around their new dorm home.
Take Time Out For Mom
This Mother's Day, take some time out of your day to show the wonderful women in your life just how special they are. This doesn't mean you need to resort to the commercialism of the holiday; you can show mom how you feel in lots of ways. Send flowers, or even better, make a homemade card. It doesn't even have to be a work of art, just one that they know you made. Give thanks to Mom because, after all, you could have been born a bear and have Mom push you out of the house at only 18 months. Or if you were born a frog, you would have been on your own from the moment she carefully laid you on the ground as an unhatched egg. Human mothers are on call for 18 years and more. So this Mother's Day, take a look around and thank all of the mighty mothers that make living in this happy valley so amazing.
Drew Foulis is a former naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center who values his mighty mother more than anything in the world. I love you, Anna-Marie.