Unless you live in outer Uzbek, you are probably under a steady assault of Mother’s Day gift advertising. Despite this media onslaught, I’m not getting excited. With few exceptions, you can hardly find anything for moms today that hasn’t been pulled from a Dumpster and recycled, slapped with a “fair trade” label that cannot be removed under penalty of law, or made from “banana byproducts.”
I was amazed to see an ad for an umbrella for Mom with solar panels attached—as if we don’t have enough to schlep around. You call this a gift? Here’s a tip for those still shopping for that special mom in your life: I would not want to be on the receiving end of a dinner prepared by a woman who had just received a composting starter kit for Mother’s Day. Just sayin’.
Not only am I allergic to gifts with political agendas attached, but honestly, what gift could possibly come close to expressing thanks for the towering contributions of a dedicated mother? In the last year, various flavor-of-the-month moms have had their days in the sun, each with her own style of parenting, ranging from the almost militaristic “Tiger Moms” to the laissez-faire French moms who reportedly don’t even hand out snacks between meals. (Maybe this is why those kids have a tendency to burn cars in the streets of Paris from time to time. They’re hungry.) It’s hard to get the balance right, and the darned thing is, the balance may be different for each kid you have. No wonder this is tough work.
As for me, I’ve never cared as much about my kids’ academic and extracurricular achievements as much as I have cared about raising them to be solid, good people. Mensches, as we say in Yiddish. A mensch is someone of good and refined character. Someone who is kind and giving. Someone who is honest, and thinks of others before thinking of the self. Wouldn’t we all be better off if our kids saw that we valued menschiness more than masters’ degrees?
Mothers tend to have remarkable perspicacity. We know all kinds of things that you don’t think we know. Our radar whispers to us when our kids are dating someone we don’t approve of, frittering away hours on Facebook, and about to step out into the elements without a sweater, even if it’s a nippy 72 degrees. Which is why we know what you are thinking right now: Okay, I got her a Michael Kors iPad case last year. How can I top that this year? To this agonizing question, I have short-listed the best gifts for Mom that will prove you’re a real mensch. And as a bonus, none of these require the use of recycled banana peels.
1. Don’t post incriminating photos of yourself on Facebook or other social sharing network, even if you think they are cute. Remember, the Internet is forever, and so is a mother’s memory.
2. Resist the temptation to get another face piercing. The expression, “A face only a mother could love” has its limits.
3. Buy a sweater for yourself and promise mom that you will always wear it if you go out in any inclement weather lower than 72 degrees.
4. If you are single and over 30, marry another mensch. If you do this, you won’t have to worry about gifts for Mom for the next 20 years.
5. Call Mom and ask her advice, even if you don’t really want it. You will add years to her life. Besides, could it hurt to ask?
6. If you have kids (and if you don’t, why not?) ask her for her recipe for chicken soup. It did wonders for you, didn’t it?
See? You don’t even need to spend a lot of money to please your mother on Mother’s Day. And if you resent the idea that this is a made-up, commercially exploited holiday, just play along. After all, if not for your mom making sure you did your homework, you would have never won 1st prize in that 7th-grade science experiment.
What do you want for Mother’s Day…really?
Judy Gruen’s latest book is Till We Eat Again: A Second Helping. It’s funny, and laughter burns calories!
If you are new to this blog, catch up on other Mirth and Meaning entries you may have missed on judygruen.com. You’ll be glad you did.