I t was easier when you were a kid: You could give your mom a petrified toad for Mother's Day and she'd make a fuss and kiss you and tell you that it was just what she'd always wanted. You could draw a picture of her that looked like Medusa and she'd frame it and hang it in the living room.
But you're a big kid now and you're supposed to have some sense of what sort of gift an adult woman would like from her supposedly mature child. Besides, you can't draw any better than you could in grade school. What to give?
HE: A fine meal is always a good bet, particularly if you cook it all yourself. However, you must make sure that your mom agrees not to turn one single finger in the kitchen or the dining room. She'll get to feeling maternal and want to make sure the food is doing all right. She'll want to stir things. Later, she'll want to help you clean up. Don't let her. Make her swear not to. Bring in a notary. This will pay off, because eventually she'll realize that all she has to do is relax, chat and eat a leisurely meal, something she may not have done in decades.
SHE: I have grown children, but I still encourage them to use their talents to create something for Mother's Day that costs only their time. Over the years, I have received drawings, paintings, poems, letters, stories and a meal or two. They are still the kinds of gifts I enjoy most.
HE: It might be a bit narcissistic to do this with anyone else in mind, but remember we're talking about mom: a photo or a painting of yourself. Moms are fanatics for chronicling the growth of their kids in pictures and just because you happen to be grown doesn't mean that the desire for photographic evidence isn't still there. You're still her little kid.
Better still, if you have siblings, get a group portrait done of all the kids. Dress nice, smile pretty.
SHE: Years ago, a neighbor taught me that Mother's Day was just as much for children as it is for mothers. In those days, I had little ones scurrying around, making constant demands on my time, and my idea of a great Mother's Day was to get a sitter and go out for a leisurely, no-spills brunch.
By her example (she always took her kids on a Mother's Day excursion) this neighbor taught me to celebrate my own motherhood on that special day. I think it's lovely when mothers give their children gifts on Mother's Day too. Remember, there is no Children's Day (not counting Christmas).
HE: Settle a question of protocol: How is the gift-giving responsibility meted out when you have a whole family full of mothers? Mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, daughters who are also mothers, aunts who are mothers, mothers-to-be--do you give gifts to your mother or to every mother in sight?
I ask because I never had this problem; the only moms in my family who were accessible were my own mother and my grandmother.
SHE: In my experience, Mother's Day cards are appropriate for all mothers of your acquaintance. By the way, it's really nice for dad to give his wife a Mother's Day card too.
Gifts are usually reserved for children to give their moms. If you plan to spend the day with a roomful of moms, a long-stem rose for each with a card would be special. But a thoughtful card is plenty.
When my mother was alive, my challenge was always finding a way to salute her in a special way but also be with my own family. I instituted a mom-and-me brunch, complete with corsage and gift. The rest of the day was reserved for my family, with my mother included, of course.
HE: That sort of consolidation is a great idea if you can pull it off geographically. I don't envy married couples, though, who are sometimes expected to shuttle between both mothers' houses during the course of what has the potential to become a very gas-guzzling day. The answer, I think, is to agree on a neutral location and say, "Y'all come." Or, if the couple is particularly brave, they can open their own doors to both families. My brother and sister-in-law have done just that with good success.
SHE: It can get real tricky, all right, when, say, a mother has two grown children who are also parents. In those cases, a free-for-all family affair works beautifully with special time in each household for the mother who resides there.
No matter how you celebrate it, the most important thing to remember on Mother's Day is the gift our mothers gave us--life! Thanks, Mom.