Guest Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Moms Saving the World

By Skip Hellewell

Sunday is Mother’s Day, an event that annually challenges our ability to adequately express appreciation for the gift of life and a lifetime of caring. It’s a day when adults bring flowers, and children make primitive cards with scrawled expressions of love. The flowers are appreciated but will fade and disappear in the next garbage. The children’s simple cards will be tossed too, though not until years and years later when the mother has passed and someone is cleaning out her lingerie drawer and finds the cards carefully tucked away in the back corner. The sweetest moments come when the adult discovering the hidden treasure was once the child who created the art.

How important is a mother? The only ones who truly understand are those who lost a mother in their youth. This happened in my family with the death of an aunt from cancer, whose husband predeceased her in an accident. Their three young children came tumbling into our home, and our mother struggled to care for them in addition to her own. Mom was heroic in her efforts, but those of us who were there can testify that no one can really replace a mother.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the best tribute to mothers recently, though it was so well hidden in the report and so little commented on by the media that no one noticed. It’s hard to say when this story started, but you could pick 1960, the year the FDA approved “the pill” for contraception. A sexual revolution broke out in that era that discarded traditional moral restraints. Some were delighted—but wiser souls warned of consequences. During the 60s, 70’s and 80s, those pesky consequences appeared. Some were hard to see, such as the loss of innocence. Others couldn’t be ignored, like rising rates of STDs and teen pregnancies.

By 1991, the CDC was so concerned it started a study called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The survey, done every two years, asks children a number of questions about risky behavior, including eight that deal with the sexual activity of high school students, beginning with “Have you ever had sex?” As most would imagine from what they’ve seen and heard in the media, the sexual revolution has continued, with teens year-by-year ever more sexually active. The truth, it turns out, is quite the opposite.

On the question, “Have you ever had sex,” in 1991, 54% said “yes.” By 2011 that had declined to 47%, and in the report just released for 2021, only 30%. Who knew that seventy percent of high school kids today lived such a high moral standard? There were other questions about sexual activity, but the Beautiful Wife thought it better not to dwell on them. But the positive trend of our youth’s self-restraint in sexual expression is confirmed over and over. It happened quietly, but a “Moral Revolution” appears to have been underway since at least 1991.

So, here’s the big question: Who gets the credit? Not Hollywood, sexual morality isn’t their thing. Not the media, no real campaign there. Not the Internet, which has made pornography more available than ever. Not the schools where ‘sex ed’ classes tip-toe around traditional morality. The only force you can name is our moms. As one church leader stated, mothers “are society’s guardians of morality . . . if the world loses the moral rectitude of its women, the world will never recover.” 

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere; in addition to making dinner, you’re quietly saving the world. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ’50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].

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