Celebrating Mother’s Day at Various Ages: A How to Guide for Dads
by Beth Bruno of A VOICE BECOMING
I could hear clanging in the kitchen and knew what was coming. Awake now, I tossed and turned. I’m not good at relaxing. Finally, they opened the door. Juice and coffee sloshed on to the plate as they set it down on my lap. They smiled at me from the half circle they formed, waiting for me to try the toast.
4 sets of eyes watched as I alone ate breakfast in bed, keenly aware of the mess I’d find in the kitchen. Their precious gift to me served as the embodiment of motherhood: you never escape the work of mothering, even when facilitating their celebration of you.
Happy Mother’s Day!
As a mom, I acknowledge this can be a hard holiday for the family. Dad, I want to congratulate you on your awareness of a special day on the calendar, thinking ahead, and your desire to honor the mother of your children! Well done! I also want to affirm your thinking beyond a card and flowers.
At different stages of parenting, moms need very different “gifts.” May these suggestions help you and your kids plan for a special celebration that is life giving, rather than draining.
Little Years (5 and under): Save me!
They make gifts in preschool and at day care and are so proud to give them to mom. These are special keepsakes for sure, but what moms really want during this stage is a break! Giving her time to herself is probably the best gift you can give. After a simple, low mess breakfast and gift giving, send her to a café, to get a massage, or take the kids out for the day so she can be alone in her own home for a few uninterrupted hours.
Young Years (6-11): Spare me!
Breakfast in bed often falls in to this stage. Kids are talking (all the time!) and trying to be involved in everything, yet despite their best efforts, it ends up requiring more from mom than gives to mom. What she probably wants most during this stage is time together that is life giving. Try going out to brunch, to a museum, or grabbing special take out for a picnic-hike. She’s not so much starving for time alone as she is starving for a break from the routine of life that makes up her days. What’s a family activity that would be enjoyable for all (thereby making it enjoyable to her?)
Middle Years (12-15): See me!
After more than a decade of molding a life around her children, most moms are ready for their kids to become less self-absorbed and more other-centered. Thankfully, developmentally they now can! Dad, help your kids consider their mother: what does she enjoy (gifts, time, service)? What is a true treat? What sort of year has it been? Encourage your kids to buy her a gift or plan the day around who they know their mom to be. Encourage unique thoughtfulness that
communicates she is known. This may not be something they enjoy at all, but this is the meaning of being other-centered!
Teen Years (16-19): Share me!
Coming full circle, most moms miss their older teens and long for more time with them. Competing with jobs, school, sports, and friends, parents easily feel obsolete. If your family is normal, your teen has pushed you away to claim independence and this has caused hurt feelings and possibly arguments. Mother’s Day may fall right in the middle of a hard season of parenting, but it’s also an incredible opportunity to reconnect. Dad, talk to your teen about writing a heartfelt letter to mom, expressing things he has appreciated about her. Give them money to go out together, without you. Help your children transition from relying on you to coordinate Mother’s Day celebrations to doing so themselves.
Flowers, candles, massages, and sweet cards are secondary to the intentionality of loved ones. Remember that for the one who spends her days concerned, caring, and coordinating for the family, the greatest gift is to be shown concern, care, and coordination. May you and your children do this well and truly celebrate the mother in your lives.