This article originally appeared in the Bay Area Parent 5/08.
What could be better than flowers and a brunch in your honor on Mother’s Day?
Children and spouses have been doing it for many decades. Sending the flowers, calling long distance (the biggest day for phone calls of the year) and booking over-priced brunches to celebrate mom or spouse for all she does. And yet, somehow it always rings a bit hollow, like we’re pre-programmed to do one or all three things on cue. We’re like Pavlovian dogs hearing the “incoming message” bell to prod our actions. In an over-stressed, over-scheduled world, Mother’s Day has become a “to-do list” holiday. We order the flowers, pick up mom, eat, thank, kiss, drive home, and check it off the list.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m lucky enough to share my house and kids with a woman who speaks her mind. She’s never content with the status quo. She lets me know that a $9.99 bouquet of Roses from the Safeway doesn’t actually say much more than, “Yes, I was at the grocery store and thought of you while in the produce section.” It’s not that she’s ungrateful for little thoughts like that; she doesn’t even treat mom’s day that seriously, but like most women, she knows when she’s being put on.
So, like many modern families, we spend more prep time for Hallmark holidays thinking about what the honoree really would enjoy rather than what we are told we should do. In some cases, this is a brunch in a fancy hotel at the top of California Street where we can fritter away our children’s education fund in an over-eating frenzy accompanied to the sound of a harp. My mom likes that, but she doesn’t get to San Francisco that often.
For my wife though, who loves the outdoors, almost anything we can do that involves hills, muddy shoes, and the complaints of small children asking “how much further?” is fine for her. No extra expense, no flowers, just a bit of dedicated time sharing the outdoors with the family. We’ll head to Crissy Field and fly kites, or into the Marin Headlands to walk along the cliffs, or into Golden Gate Park to walk the Labyrinth. There are hundreds of places to go that will entertain the kids while satisfying her need to get some time outdoors.
We’re not afraid to break out of the conventions of the traditional Mother’s Day. On the plus side, that means that not getting a reservation doesn’t mean I don’t treasure her as a mom or partner. Not buying flowers doesn’t mean I forgot the simplest of symbols. I can literally wait until right up to Mother’s Day morning when we are setting the tray of burnt toast and orange juice in front of her in bed to give her what she wants most, a little time with the family doing something she particularly loves.
My advice on Mom’s day: forget the card and the lines at restaurants. Do everything from scratch this year. Have the kids make their own cards and make breakfast at home, followed by something mom likes to do, whether it’s a museum, flower show, ball game, or afternoon at home in front of an old movie.
And that goes for Dad’s day as well. But remember, mom, if you’re thinking of golf, you need to know one thing: Mother’s Day is the best day in the year to get any tee time you want, but just try to schedule a golf outing on Father’s Day.