The Best Mother’s Day Primary Songs

Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Family | 25 comments

Children SingingI was the ward primary chorister for a long time—a very, very long time. A great annual challenge I faced was selecting a song for the children to sing on Mother’s Day.

Father’s Day was less difficult.  You wouldn’t think that would be the case.  After all, there are only three songs in Children’s Songbook written specifically for fathers.  In contrast, there are six songs written just for mothers.

However, I like all three of these Father’s Day songs.  Daddy’s Homecoming and My Dad are cute tributes to how fun and likeable a Dad can be. Fathers emphasizes the spirituality of fatherhood and draws parallels between earthly fathers and Heavenly Father. (Skip the red herring verse in the middle about bishops when singing Fathers for Father’s Day.) I like that two of these songs use the modern, frequently used terms of “Dad” or “Daddy” to refer to fathers and that two of these songs (Fathers and My Dad) teach some gospel principles rather than just being odes to Dad.

In contrast, there is no primary song that uses the term, “Mom” or “Mommy.”  Unfortunately, several use variations of the term, “Mother Dearest.” (My Mother Dear, Mother Dear, Dearest Mother, I love you, The Dearest Names, I Often Go Walking). The authors of these old songs could not have predicted the negative connotations this phrase would develop in modern pop culture. Connotations aside, when I talked to other moms in my local congregation about these songs, many didn’t like “Mother Dear” lyrics simply because no one calls them that, especially not their own children.

Unfortunately, several Mother’s Day songs emphasize mother’s physical beauty (I Often Go Walking, My Mother Dear, Mother Dear).  Nothing wrong with being pretty, but physical beauty hardly seems like the most praiseworthy attribute a mother can possess. I like romantic songs about physical loveliness as much as the next person.  At church, however, it seems that we should encourage children to think about character, not appearances.  In fairness, a fun personality is not very important either, but songs praising Dad for being fun don’t bother me.  Perhaps pretty mother songs get to me because women are so frequently and unjustly judged by their looks and I do not wish to reinforce this behavior.

So, as a veteran Primary chorister, I offer up my recommendations for Mother’s Day songs:

From the Mother’s Day section of Children’s Songbook:

  • Mother, Tell Me the Story This song highlights mother’s opportunities to both comfort a child and teach the gospel.  Moreover, it is a lovely duet.  Of course, the duet aspect is also the downside to using this song.  It makes no sense unless an adult woman sings the Mother part of the duet.  When I did this song with my Primary, I sang the mother part myself, but if you do not like to sing solos, or if you’re male, you will need to recruit someone.
  • Grandmother This song demonstrates how grandmothers impact children’s lives by simply expressing affection.  The downside is obvious; this song is about Grandma, not Mom. Only use it in Sacrament meeting if you have multigenerational families in your ward and as part of a medley with another song about Mom. You wouldn’t want to jip Mom on her special day.  (Note: When Grandpa Comes is also adorable.)

The pickings are slim if you only look at the Mother’s Day section, but fortunately, there are nearly 300 other pages of material in the Children’s Songbook.

Songs about mothers from the rest of the Children’s Songbook:

  • Quickly I’ll Obey Skip verse 2 on Mother’s Day (or sing it for Father’s Day, skipping verse 1).  This song has a simple but fun ostinato.
  • When We’re Helping This song can be about anyone; keep the lyrics with “Mother” for Mother’s Day. Or better yet, substitute “Mommy.”
  •  Teacher, Do You Love Me? Substitute the word, “Mother” for “Teacher”; the footnotes say this substitution is appropriate (as is the word, “Father”).  Like Mother, Tell Me the Story, this song requires an adult female soloist to sing part of the song.

Songs about parents, appropriate for Mother’s Day, from the rest of the Children’s Songbook:

A different direction…

  • How Will They Know?  Would your ward consider not having the Primary children perform the Mother’s Day musical number? Although it is in Children’s Songbook, this beautiful song is intended to be sung by adults.

So, maybe you are challenging my World Record for longest term as Primary chorister and you’ve already used all of these songs from Children’s Songbook on previous Mother’s Days. You might need to branch out.  Fortunately, Friend Magazine publishes new children’s songs that you may use in place of selections from Children’s Songbook.  Unfortunately, when I was desperately searching the Friend for Mother’s Day material, I found only two choices.  When Mother Bakes is a cute song, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the Mother’s Day musical number, since baking cakes is about as unnecessary to motherhood as being pretty. (Any songs out there about feeding kids carrot sticks?)  I do recommend the other Mother’s Day song from the Friend, with a caveat.

Song about mothers from Friend Magazine:

  • The Family is of God The rhyming sequence of this song is delightfully clever, with rhyming words placed right next to each other within lines, instead of at the end of lines.  This song is fun to sing and teaches many gospel principles.  The problem with this song is that it is based on the Proclamation on the Family, and like the Proclamation, talks about how fathers “preside,” which is insulting to many mothers. I don’t think it is nice to insult mothers, especially on Mother’s Day. Unlike the Proclamation, the song does not include any statements about how mothers and fathers are “equal partners” to counteract that frustrating “preside” statement.  Perhaps the author thought such contradictions would be too confusing for a children’s song?  For Mother’s Day, I would recommend singing verses 1 (about our Heavenly Family), 3 (about mothers) and 4 (about the children themselves).  This way, you avoid that problematic “preside” word, and no one will think anything of the omission of the verse about fathers because it is Mother’s Day, after all.  For general occasions, verses 1 and 4, skipping the verses about parents, works well too, but I do like including verse 3 for Mothers Day. In verse 3, mother teaches children to “love and serve in the family” and in verse 4, the children promise to do that very thing, which is quite lovely.

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25 Comments

  1. I don’t see how any of these songs emphasize physical beauty.
    (I Often Go Walking, My Mother Dear, Mother Dear)

    Please explain that to me

    • “I often go walking” and “My Mother Dear” compare mothers to flowers and other things which are valued primarily for looking pretty and smelling nice. The first verse of “Mother Dear” is about mom’s pretty smile and the second is about her pretty eyes.

    • Regarding to beautiful moms in a song .I don’t personally think of moms being physically beautiful .My mom who was not physically beautiful was beautifully spiritually and that’s what made her beautiful to me . All moms can be spiritually beautiful .
      So Our primary will be singing Mother dear I love you so with nursery kids holding mom pictures right in front life size head of there mom on a stick.
      I don’t understand why people have to automatically look for all the negatives in songs. I know when I was a small kid I thought my mom was beautiful even though she was much older than the other moms All kids when there little think there mom is beautiful weather skinny fat haggard or old.For heaven sakes she your mother.

  2. I like your analysis of these songs, April. Mother’s Day is so problematic for me that I quit attending church on that day several years ago, but I would attend in your ward just to hear the Primary children sing. I have heard the grandpa song sung for Father’s Day, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the grandma song. I’ll have to go look it up.

    • With the exception of the Grandpa song, which has a copyright that doesn’t permit it, I have linked to the audio of all the songs mentioned in the post. Just click on the underlined name of the song to hear it performed.

      • Thanks, April. That is a cute song, and as lanwenyi commented, it could easily be adapted as a mother song.

  3. A few years ago, the Primary Chorister in my Ward modified the Grandmother song to use the word “mom” instead. I can’t remember the other words she used to fill out the remaining syllables. I just remember how it seemed like the most appropriate Mother’s Day song I’d heard the Primary children sing.

  4. I’ve never thought of those mother songs as emphasizing a mother’s beauty but rather about how a child views their mother as beautiful simply because they love her. I do think that they put a lot of pressure on moms to always be smiling and cheerful, though. Is there any mother out there who hears the line about “your happy smiling face” without immediately thinking of all the times her face has been the opposite of happy and smiling (probably that very same morning)? But this may be a personal problem more than a song problem. My mother was as guilt-ridden as the next person and the only Mother’s Day song she could stomach was “I Often Go Walking.” Therefore, that song always reminds me of her.

    When my MIL was Primary chorister, she refused to teach children any of “the guilt songs” (i.e. the songs about happy smiling faces that mothers don’t have often enough) and had them sing songs like “Quickly I’ll Obey” and other songs about helping Mother–because that was the message she wanted to get through to the kids: If You Love Mother, Help Mother.

    “Teacher, Do You Love Me?” is a beautiful song. I can’t even think about it without crying, so singing it in public would be out of the question, for me. ;)

    Unlike the Proclamation, the song does not include any statements about how mothers and fathers are “equal partners” to counteract that frustrating “preside” statement. Perhaps the author thought such contradictions would be too confusing for a children’s song?

    If only they were as concerned about not confusing the adults.

  5. First of all, kudos on introducing the word “ostinato” in a blog post. Always nice to see other music geeks.

    I’d never found the songs extolling the “prettyness” of mothers to be a problem, as it seems to me that every child should think their mother is pretty, not because we want to heap guilt on the for their perceptions of not being so. My dear mother had even tried to use this to get her children to do things asked without complaining. E.g. our response should be, “Yes, mother dear I love you so your happy smiling face”. It’s a mouthful, but it is now fun to use as a phone greeting now that we’ve grown.

    And now I am -so- looking for an arrangement of “How Will They Know” for our Choir to sing. Being choir leader has its perks, including sending subtle messages in Sacrament Meeting.

  6. Personally I love “I Often Go Walking” and would be very sad if it were not sung on Mother’s Day (if I actually went to church on Mother’s Day, which I typically do not). Perhaps it’s because my own mother loves gardening and I have long associated flowers of all kinds with her and my love for her. Her passion has inspired my own passion for growing things and beautiful flowers everywhere I find them. I also believe that both of my parents helped me understand the beauty of the world around me and that is one of the most powerful legacies they have given me. When I’m depressed or angry or struggling with just about anything, i tend to turn to the world to find something beautiful to bring me peace. And it works. Almost always it comes in the form of flowers and trees and growing things. I can’t imagine a tribute more fitting to my mother than that lovely little song. In fact, one year for her birthday or mother’s day, I made her a card that essentially expressed this very sentiment–that for me the world is beautiful because she taught me to see it as such.

    I understand the point about flowers being pretty, and flowers reminding me of mother, therefore the message must be that mothers must be pretty, but I don’t see it that way at all. I see only a message about children learning to see the good and the beautiful around them because they have been loved and fostered by their mother (and I count myself lucky that this very same song could be sung to my father and mean every bit as much; not that fathers don’t generally nurture their children–just that my own father, as much as my mother, nurtured me in this same way, by helping me see and appreciate and find peace in the beauty of the world, wherever it’s found).

  7. This has bothered me too. The father songs are upbeat and the mother songs are, well, largo-ish. Daddy teaches about honesty and mother looks nice. Bah!

    And the comments that children should think their mom is pretty- well, I guess that makes me a terrible child. Now when I see my mom, she is actually very youthful looking and attractive, but as a kid, I DID NOT want to grow up looking like her. She had 80s hair and big 80s glasses and wore old people clothes (to a 7 year old). When people told me, “You look just like your mother,” I cringed inside. And I totally felt guilty for it then. I knew someday I’d have kids and they’d think I was old and ugly just like I thought of my parents. That probably makes me a terrible kid, but that’s how my 7 year old self felt. And I’m sure my kids will feel that I’m old and out of touch with the world, too. Because that’s how it works. So related to songs- I never actually felt like I was singing to my own mom, just some picture of a generic mother. Because the words didn’t really describe how I saw my mom.

    And now I’ve totally lost my Daughter of the Year award, huh?

    And to be honest, as a mom, I’d rather be known for being fun and teaching my children about values than that they thought I was pretty.

    I wonder if there are any good non-church songs for Mother’s Day.. Hmm.

  8. I love the songs about mothers on this site. How may I receive a copy of th music with lyrics for our kids to sing in church for mother’s day program.
    Thank you .

  9. Hi, I actually don’t understand this statement: “In contrast, there is no primary song that uses the term, “Mom” or “Mommy.” Unfortunately, several use variations of the term, “Mother Dearest.” (My Mother Dear, Mother Dear, Dearest Mother, I love you, The Dearest Names…). The authors of these old songs could not have predicted the negative connotations this phrase would develop in modern pop culture.” About the word Mother? It’s a very endearing word in our entire family. What am I missing?

    • Sorry about the confusion. Of course, “Mother” does not have negative connotations. I would prefer to see a children’s song use the word “Mom” instead of “Mother” simply because it is a more frequently used term by children talking about their own mothers.

      However, “Mother Dearest” (with the word “dearest” attached to it) has negative connotations. A popular book from the 1970′s about an abusive mother, with the title, Mommie Dearest,was made into a popular movie in the 1980′s. Since that time, numerous popular media have used the terms, “Mommie Dearest” or “Mother Dearest” as epithets to describe particularly unfit mothers. See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=mommy%20dearest for the connotative meaning.

    • Late to comment here (as usual)– but…. I am not a fan of “Mom”. At all. It is a term only used in North America, and whilst most British countries use “Mum”– it just adds to the stigma that this is an American church, rather than the church of Christ. Even the “Mommy Dearest” connotation is American. I prefer being reminded that this is a church of Christ, not a church of Americanisms.

      Along those lines, I also suspect that the term “mother” is more readily translated than the term “Mom” into any number of languages that are spoken by members of the church.

      So- quite frankly, I prefer Mother’s Day to not be recognised by the church because Mother’s day is not international on that date (or in all countries), and because not all women are mothers. But as it will be continued to be celebrated in the Mormon (American?) church, and we seem obligated to follow this tradition internationally, I am all for sticking for the better-international term, “mother”.

      • Do other countries really “celebrate” Mother’s Day in church, even if they don’t have it? That seems odd; I would think they would just do a regular service and lessons. Is it in the manuals or something?

      • Yes, Naomi. We do.

  10. Thanks so much for the clarification. I did not know any of that. I’m so behind the times I guess.

  11. Totally late for this conversation obviously, but as a Primary chorister I’m trying to decide what to do for Mothers Day this year. It’s my 4th year as chorister and every year I balk at the song offerings too. Last year I had them sing “Grandmothers” along with another one–maybe “Mother I Love You?”–and it was so great! The kids loved it too! “Grandmothers,” that is. I wonder about changing the words “…had a mom who was just like you” instead of “…had a grandmother just like you.” Anyway they are definitely going to sing it again this year! I was also thinking of having them sing the first verse of the Primary song “Home.” I also LOVE the idea of singing a brief medley of “Quickly I’ll Obey” and “When We’re Helping.”

    I have been entertaining the thought of asking the bishop if we could do “I’m So Glad When Mommy Comes Home.” After all, the words “mother, grandpa, and grandma” are suggested in the songbook itself as substitutes for “Daddy.” Can’t decide if that would be a distracting overt statement to make (like, one that would bother people) or whether it would be a nice tribute to how much little kids love their moms and miss them when they’re away.

    Re: “I Often Go Walking,” I always kind of liked that song and simultaneously was creeped out by it. I just read in a DNews article:

    “Phyllis Luch (1937-1995), who was the major illustrator for the “Children’s Songbook,” penned the words for “I Often Go Walking.” She wrote: “My mother was mentally ill. … Nearly the only time she was at peace was in the fields and meadows . … She knew the names of wildflowers, which as a child I thought was amazing.””

    Interesting, right? I myself have struggled with depression and anxiety (not that this woman’s mom had depression, could have been anything) and I know lots of moms who do or have. Maybe that’s why I both love it and want to stay far away from it.

    • Eliza, thank you! That extra information completely changes my perspective of that song.

    • I just stumbled across this blog and was feeling more and more saddened with each new comment that I read; it was disheartening to think that no one seemed to know the [incredibly poignant and endearing] context to “I often go walking”.

      This is a perfect example of why context is so important!

      Sister Luch lovingly describes how she seeks out those things that remind her of her mother being at peace. She loved her mother for being her mother.
      Given the context, I think this song is an exquisite representation of familial love – we all make mistakes, we all have shortcomings/faults or ‘issues’ but we love each other.

      What do our children remember/love about us?
      Making the perfect sandwich? (guess again)
      Always having the laundry done? (not even close) An uncanny ability to never get frazzled? (wrong again)
      Spending every waking moment hovering over us? (nope)
      A selfless attitude rivaling Mother Theresa? (wrong again)
      Getting up again each day to try again even when we think we miserably ‘failed’ the day before? (YES)
      Giving hugs? (YES)
      Quiet moments between life’s storms when we tell them we love them (YES)

      Do I remember some ‘less-than-perfect’ moments of my mother? Perhaps but most details are quite hazy (I also know that I have MANY ‘less-than-perfect’ days/weeks). What I DO vividly remember are occasions of her wrapping her arms around me, sometimes with both of us saying we were sorry and knowing that she loved me.

      I am glad to see that you reference this and I sincerely hope that all the ladies who’ve posted comments above learn about this. For what it is worth, I’d recommend reading “Our Children’s Songs” or one of various books that detail some of the background/history of the songs. I know that I have gained a much deeper appreciation for some of the primary songs from it.

      ….

      April, I apologize for the length of the comments but not the sentiment :)

  12. This is a GREAT MOTHER’S DAY sing-along SONG for ages 3-6

  13. Mother’s Day is a day set aside to honor our mother’s. Unfortunately, Mother’s tend to put a lot of pressure on others on this day. They want their children to behave well, want to be recognized in a certain way, want dad to help make special gifts or make a special day, etc. As mom’s we just want a special day to be recognized and celebrated, which I get. However, in doing so there are sometimes unrealistic expectations put on everyone else and there is disappointment and tears at the end of the day. When I read this post I thought…I don’t think it is the songs that are the issue. It is the women who are having these issues. As women we need to strengthen ourselves through Christ and live in such a way that we do not have to feel guilty when our children sing any of these songs and have confidence and strength within ourselves that we are daughters of God and it DOES NOT matter what we look like. I love the song “Mother Dear I Love You So” and have never thought it only focused on looks in a negative way. My mother was not particularly attractive and she loved hearing this song. Children LOVE when their mommies smile at them and it does bring peace and joy to their hearts.
    I just had a hard time reading this post because there is WAY too much concern for offending people with songs that are about love and joyfulness. Could their be newer songs that would reach deeper? Definitely, however, I don’t think that makes these songs any less valuable. Also, I grew up calling my parents Mother and Father and they are endearing words to me. I still say mom and dad, but Mother and Father tug on my heart strings. My daughter calls me mommy, which I love, but I am not offended or disappointed when she sings a song that says Mother.
    Also, it has come to people being offended at church because Mother’s Day is so controversial or whatever? I LOVE seeing the little primary children sing to their Mommy’s (Mother’s). I just love them singing period…I don’t really care what they sing about. I would hope that mom’s don’t get offended because a song talks about her smile or eyes instead of ________ fill in the blank. I think it would be great to put newer songs in the Children’s Songbook, however, I do not think we need to pick apart the songs that are currently in there. They were written by the spirit I am sure and with the right mindset will be received with the spirit.
    And if a mother is insulted that the Proclamation to the Family says that fathers are to preside…she needs to read the scriptures and pray about it. Just because the man is suppose to preside doesn’t make her inferior. There are different roles and they need to be respected.

    On a less confrontational note.

    I am glad you shared “How will they know”. I am suggesting to our chorister to have the congregation sing this song. and “The Family of God”.

  14. Our ward and stake music leaders are very liberal musically. I found a beautiful mother’s day song online and got permission to teach it to our children and sing it on Mother’s Day this last Sunday. It is called “Love Like No Other” by John Stebbe. I emailed him and he sent me a copy. The congregation loved the song, and the children loved singing it. Sometimes we have to look outside all the published things we have on hand and pioneer some new music choices, afterall, most our hymns are from other early religions. I have looked up many of the authors of the children’s songs, and they are not all LDS originals either. I looked over the Mother’s Day songs in the Primary children’s book, and they just seemed cheesy and unrealistic of mothers and how kids feel about their mothers. Take a look at the song I mentioned. :) It’s not too early to plan for next year.

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