It was always fun to pick out just the right gift for my mother on Mother’s Day when my brother and I were young. In retrospect, I’m not sure we always did that great a job, though. There was the year of the hand mixer, which I thought was a great gift because my mom did quite a bit of baking when I was a kid and our old hand-mixer broke. To my mind, it was both a thoughtful gift (because Mom liked to bake), and a useful gift (because how do you mix things without a mixer?). Then there was the year of the new dishes. My mom had been coveting new, plain white dishes for a while since our old dishes, a wedding gift when my parents were married, were becoming fewer in number as, one by one, they were broken, mostly in dish-washing accidents. Mom loves dishes; she did then, and she does now. So, I felt like this was definitely something she would appreciate, and certainly not be expecting.
Then, there was the year my brother and I hit it out of the ballpark. Our mother is an avid recreational gardener who is always happiest when she can be playing outside in the dirt. One year for mother’s day, my brother and I scrimped and saved our money to buy her a potting bench. We were so excited to give her the gift, and she was equally excited (I think?) to receive it. It was always so important to me that my mother know how much she was loved and appreciated because I knew we kids didn’t always communicate that very well through word or deed.
Now I am a mother myself. I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to think up ideas for how they can celebrate Mother’s Day with me. I’m not gonna lie. It’s not about the gifts themselves, it’s about the thoughtfulness that those gifts represent. I know it can’t have been particularly exciting for my mother to have opened that hand-mixer all these years ago (although, I will say that she is still using the very same hand-mixer nearly 25 years later), but I imagine that she was tickled by our excitement to give her the gift, and touched by the thoughtfulness and intentionality that inspired us to choose that gift over all of the other ones we could have chosen. At least, I hope she felt that way.
What Mother’s Day boils down to for me, is not so much that is an opportunity to receive a gift from your spouse and/or children, but it is an opportunity to see yourself through their eyes. I tend to be pretty hard on myself sometimes, only able to see my shortcomings both as a mother and a wife. I love my kids and husband so much, and hope that I am able to give them what they deserve as far as a mother and a wife are concerned, but more often than not, I worry that I’m not good enough for them. I wonder if I’ve made the right choices on behalf of our family. I feel guilty for taking time for myself, especially when I know I haven’t been around much because of my work obligations.
On Mother’s Day, I want to see myself the way my husband and kids see me. Whatever means of celebration they choose for that day are a window into how they see and understand my life and values. They help give me perspective on myself as a mother and as a wife. I see their love for me in the ways they interpret what would make me happy and make me feel special. I need that gift, the gift of perspective, more than I need any thing they could ever give me.
A Mother’s Day gift isn’t important because of what it is; it is important because of what it represents. And for me, it represents the intentional forging of a deep, loving family relationship in which every member is honored and celebrated for who they are, not who we wish they would be.
So for all of you celebrating Mother’s Day this year either because you are a mother or because you have a mother, happy, happy day to you. May you give and receive the best gift ever: the gift of being seen, understood, and loved anyway.