A sign in front of the United Methodist Church in Minot, Maine, reminds passersby of the upcoming Mother's Day holiday while giving a nod to the pandemic, Thursday, May 7, 2020. Credit: Andree Kehn | AP

Each May, Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the women who birthed us, stood by us from toddlerhood through teenage years and continue to counsel and love us.

This year, of course, is different. Many mothers have been sheltering at home with their families for weeks. Some have taken on the additional role of teacher as learning has moved to kitchen tables, living rooms and backyards. Some don personal protective equipment to care for patients sick with COVID-19 or older Americans living in care facilities. Some mothers have gotten sick and had to separate from their families to recover from coronavirus. Some have died.

This year, Mother’s Day is a holiday to mark with appropriate fuss and affection, even if it requires some creativity. Homemade cards may replace the store-bought variety. A cooked-at-home brunch will substitute for a trip to a restaurant.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in dozens of countries around the world. The modern American version was proposed in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist, social activist and author of the poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The holiday was copyrighted by Anna Jarvis, a West Virginia woman who wanted to honor the memory of her late mother. In 1907, two years after her mother’s death, she embarked on a campaign to make it a holiday, and in 1914 it was nationally recognized.

As soon as the 1920s, though, Ms. Jarvis was complaining about the holiday being commercialized. She once railed against those who honored the holiday by sending only a printed greeting card, saying, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”

This year, second graders in Frenchville went far beyond the humdrum version of the holiday to consider why their mothers should be the mother of the year. Their responses are heartwarming, practical, humorous and good reminders of why we’re celebrating mothers on Sunday.

“First, she makes the best omelets,” Sophia Michaud wrote. “Second of all, she is very kind to me. When she has the time, she takes me biking. She’s pretty flexible too. Like, I wouldn’t think many moms would let a lizard from South Carolina be your pet. One more thing, she really likes to play chess, and she’s good at it.”

“She washes my clothes when they are dirty. She cooks the best spaghetti,” Hunter Guerrette shared. “She helps me with my homework. My Mom takes care of me when I am sick. My Mom plays games with us and took me to see Toy Story.”

“One reason is she works very hard. She also has amazing cooking talents,” Drew Marquis wrote. “She is always very kind not only to people, but animals. She always takes care of me and my brother and our dogs and dad. Last, but not least, she is full of love!”

A mother’s charge is daunting. She often is the primary caregiver of children. She must dispense discipline, and yet, she also must provide ongoing nurture and instill a sense of security and unconditional love.

Mothers are like airline pilots. When their children achieve liftoff into responsible adulthood, they don’t win gushing accolades, for that is what is expected of them.

So it is entirely fitting to reflect on the vital role our mothers played, and play, in our lives, and to thank them — for the good food, the homework help, the pet lizards and all the love.