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The Best Mother’s Day Gift of All? Getting What I Ask For

If it weren’t for the preschool teachers who spent weeks helping my kids make adorable projects, Mother’s Day would have been just another day in my house. My kids are now 18, 21, and 23 and their Mother’s Day efforts, which usually consist of a homemade card, are usually clever, dopey, and always simple. Like me.

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I’m pretty certain that our family’s propensity to minimize celebrations comes straight from my gene pool. I’m so low-key, I basically suck any joy out of the holiday hoopla.

I am not a big shopper. I’m not very fashionable, and I don’t really accessorize (I never even got my ears pierced).  My one splurge is books, and I don’t want anyone choosing my reading material, thank you very much.

I also hate the pressure of procuring gifts for other people. What if they already have it? What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t need it? When I need to buy a gift, I text my friend who works at a gift shop and have her pick it out for me. Sometimes, she even delivers the goods, already wrapped, to my house. I would not want to be responsible for putting others in this predicament.

And maybe the biggest reason why I’m not big on gift-giving or receiving is that I’m so lucky. While I was never showered with gifts as a child, I never wanted for anything and if I needed something, my parents didn’t wait until a big occasion to get it. We’ve taken the same approach with our kids. When special occasions roll around, it’s impossible to identify what they’ve been dying for because they either already have it or because whatever they wanted is not even on their radar any more.

Each year, my husband asks me what I want for Mother’s Day, and I always say that I don’t want anything.

And really, it’s true. There’s rarely anything that I’m hankering for. One year, we realized that we needed a new vacuum and he took it upon himself to go buy one. Yep, it turned into my Mother’s Day gift. Not a terrible gift, but not very exciting, either. Perhaps the best part of that gift is that he uses it more than I do.

So here we are, days away from Mother’s Day and, despite my understated (maybe killjoy) approach to holidays, Mother’s Day has often been a little disappointing for me. Maybe it’s hypocritical, but I guess I was sort of hoping my family would have a meeting and say, “Wow! Mom does so much for us. We really should get her something even though she doesn’t want anything.”

First of all, there would never be a family meeting without me, because I’m the one who calls them. Second, even though they don’t listen to anything else I say, apparently they heard me loud and clear when I said I don’t like gifts.

Last year, I was commiserating with a friend about my weird feeling of disappointment about Mother’s Day and she shared her strategy with me.

A week before the holiday, she makes a list of what she wants from her family and leaves it in plain sight. Well. That sounded like such a great idea, I had to try it.

I wrote down my modest wish list: a new swimsuit, with the size, color, and store where it could be purchased, and an “All In” T-shirt, because the Cavs made it to the finals. Nothing over the top, just one thing I needed and one thing I wanted, but would probably never have bought for myself.

Maybe it seems weird that I called the shots on Mother’s Day. But here’s the thing: everyone won. My family shopped purposefully and efficiently, and they felt confident that what they were getting me would be a hit. I got to choose what I wanted, and I didn’t have to leave the house to get it. Dare I say, I almost felt pampered. Best of all, there was still time for everyone to make me a homemade card.

For this Mother’s Day, I’m asking for two hours of yard work. We’ve had so much rain that I haven’t had the chance to do it myself and I’m feeling the pressure. Even though my oldest son reminded me that my middle son will probably be a liability rather than an asset, weeding, digging, and cleaning are on the docket for this weekend, and we’re all looking forward to it.

Jody Podl

Jody Podl is a teacher at Shaker Heights High School.