My 90+ year old friend is incensed about Mother’s Day.
“It’s just a day made up to sell cards,” she said. “I’m a mother every day! Don’t give me anything you wouldn’t give me on any old Tuesday!”
Now I usually listen to my elders. I figure anyone who has made it to 90 with all what she calls her “faculties” intact is someone who has done something right in life. This friend is wise. She is kind. She is a role model. But in this instance, I think she’s wrong! Not the part about being a mother every day. That’s certainly true – no matter how old our kids get. But I think she is mistaken about how important it is for her children to give her a special day. I think she deserves it. I think we all do. But even more important, these events (made up by the card companies or not) are opportunities to teach our kids how to show love and caring.
Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day, and parents’ birthdays and any time a gift or good wishes are customarily exchanged among friends and relations) shows kids how to be on the giving end of things. This is important. Kids who are practiced in giving easily and generously become adults who are good partners and parents. They don’t expect their spouse or their kids to pick up where their parents left off in the giving department. They understand that being a mature person means taking a turn at doing for others.
It’s true that some kids pick up the idea of being a giver on their own. They’ve taken in good role-modeling and have enjoyed the rewards of being thanked for their efforts. The adult children (and grandchildren) of my elderly friend do call her and send her a card on Mother’s Day, despite her protests, because she’s been there with loving support throughout their lives. But there are many children (both young and not so young) who need a little remedial education in how to celebrate others. Mother’s Day provides a “teaching moment” for the kids as well as a little time in the spotlight for us moms.
Tips for Making Mother’s Day Your Day
- Be a role model. Honor the mothers in your life who have been there for you. They don’t have to be your biological mother. They don’t even have to be mothers. Mother’s Day is an opportunity to appreciate any older women in our life who have given us love, affection, and wisdom. Let the kids see you make out cards. Let them help you bake them cookies or bring them flowers. Tell the kids why you are recognizing these wonderful women by making the day special for them.
- Some spouses rally the kids to make Mother’s Day an event. That’s terrific! But if yours doesn’t naturally find ways to conspire with the kids to make your day somehow special, ask for help in teaching the kids to be thoughtful. Privately ask your spouse to encourage the kids to make a card for you or to come up with a surprise to show you their love. Remind him that you’re not asking for diamonds. The opportunity to take an uninterrupted nap is heaven to many a mom and doesn’t cost a thing. The point is to encourage the kids to do something a little extra, maybe even a little inconvenient, just because it would please their mom. Remind your spouse that what goes around comes around. You’ll return the favor come Father’s Day.
- If you don’t have a partner, be your own best friend. It’s okay to politely ask your children to treat you to a little extra love. Think of something that your children can realistically do that pampers you just a little. (I’ve already put in my order for coffee in bed in the morning and for extra help making dinner.) Most kids do have a well-developed sense of fairness. You go to some effort to make their birthdays and holidays special. Explain that you’d like them to do the same for you on your day.
- Declare yourself “Queen for the Day”. Be silly. Wear a crown. Make a game of it. Ask your “subjects” to do things for you. If they ask you to fetch or find things, remind them that queens don’t do such tasks; their subjects do. Reassure them that their usual mom will be back tomorrow but for today you’re going to put your feet up and ask them to wait on you instead. It’s Mothers Day. It’s your day.
- Becoming a mother means making a family. Ask for real family time and declare a few hours of electronics-free living. Ask the family to connect with you and with each other by doing something fun together. Go for a walk. Play a game. Make dinner together. If the family is out of practice with conversation, have some fun questions handy that will get people talking. (Would you rather be a hammer or a nail? What kind of animal would you like to be?)
- Appreciate your role as a mother. Give your little ones a big hug. Text the teens. Tell them how glad you are they made you into a mother. Find a time during the day to share neat things about being a mom and to tell family stories about the other women in their lives who love them.
Mother’s Day is about more than cards. In my book, Tending the Family Heart, I talk about the importance of finding ways to maintain connections among family members in a time when there are plenty of stressors that can pull us apart. Yes, I agree with my wise friend: We are mothers every day. But the holiday does provide us with a reason to gather our families together and to show our children how to do love as well as feel it. Celebrating each other’s special days fosters the emotional warmth and closeness that nourishes us all.
Happy Mother’s Day.