May 5, 2016

The One Mother’s Day Gift Every Mother Wants & Everyone Can Afford.

Flickr/Vanina W.

Mother’s Day—bah! What a pain!

The only really great present I’ve ever gotten on the Fabled Day of Mothers was the stuff my kids made me in kindergarten– -the glittery ceramic hand, the popsicle-stick picture frame, the Cheerio necklace—and they were forced to do those projects under punishment of death!

Oh, and these endlessly repeating Mother’s Day commercials! Teleflora, Edible arrangements, Pandora jewelry—all marketed under the pretense of love, but really—if I wanted an obligatory, meaningless gift, I’d get a corporate job, work at it for 20 years, retire and accept my personally engraved paperweight with feigned dignity before I chucked it in the garbage on my way out the door.

I’m not saying I don’t like getting gifts (well actually, I don’t. I find it terribly embarrassing for some reason), but Mother’s Day gifts are the worst. Perhaps the only thing worse is a Father’s Day gift, but since I’ve never received one, I don’t feel I have the authority to speak on it.

In essence, I think it’s terrific to have a day that honors the poor soul who expelled us from her loins—but as usual, the depth and potential beauty of it has been sucked away by corporate America with more relish than my dog sucks cheese out of his cheese bone (and that’s a lot of relish).

What to do, what to do? How to reclaim this day, and avoid the trite, empty gestures we are expected to offer?

I was mulling this over yesterday in between seeing clients (I am a beginning clinical counselor), and my supervisor and I were simultaneously talking about some vast improvement we had both observed in one of our toughest cases—a young child who is terminally ill and has been violently acting out.

She said—and I agreed—that the improvements were entirely due to this client having had the opportunity to “be heard.” It occurred to me that this is one very important thing that many of us never receive, and from which all of us could benefit.

Being heard, being seen, being empathically understood—some might argue that 99% of the reason talk therapy works is that it creates a place for people to experience just that. And who better to offer this gift than children to their mother’s on Mother’s Day?

But how exactly do we do it?

First, we find a time to sit down with our mom. Then we make her a cup of tea, or—if she is so inclined—pour her a couple fingers of scotch. (Come on—she needs a stiff drink after raising the likes of us.)

Finally, we ask questions, and listen to the answers.

Some ideas for questions include:

When was the happiest time in your life?

What are some things you’d still like to do?

What’s your favorite book/song/movie? Why?

Tell me about the day I was born.

What was the house that you grew up in like?

Who was your best friend when you were little?

How did you meet dad?

What is the scariest/craziest/most completely illegal thing you’ve ever done?

What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?

What was happening in the world when you were young?

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Your biggest regret?

The most important thing is to maintain our interest, and keep the focus where it’s meant to be—on our moms. It sounds simple—and it is—but it is also incredibly powerful. Our moms will walk away with the sense that they matter, that they are more than just moms to us—that they are real, fascinating people. (If you are not a mom, you may not realize how rarely we moms truly get to feel that.)

And we will walk away with a better sense of who this strange and mysterious iconic figure is—she who ushered in our maiden breath.

And everybody wins. Except Teleflora. Which is as it should be.


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Vanina W.

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