Mother’s Day: A New Perspective

I’ve written often about being torn between the Hallmark ideal of Mother’s Day and the “same day, same frustrations” reality of Mother’s Day. At length and too many times. So have friends.

But this year is different.

I have a healthy, adorable, smart, funny grandma who lives an hour away. I visited her today while the kids were in school. Being with her infused me with wise, cross-generational “aren’t we lucky, even though the first years with small children are challenging, they’re a blip in the grand stretch of your life” perspective. Being grateful to have her makes a pretty nice Mother’s Day.

I have a healthy, sassy, energetic, interesting mom who lives an hour away. I saw her last week and will see her again for Mother’s Day. That’s a pretty freaking big deal after having lived the first two years of my son’s life in an isolated pocket of Hell (Los Angeles). Being grateful to have her, too, makes an increasingly sweet Mother’s Day.

And I somehow stumbled onto the best idea ever for a Mother’s Day gift. Beginning a few years ago, I forced my husband to engage in this ritual with my kids:

Buy or find the prettiest, smoothest rocks you can get your hands on. If possible, send partner and kids to beach by themselves to collect rocks.
Take dictation from children in Sharpie on the rocks after asking them, “What do you love about Mommy?”
Keep writing their answers on rocks until they have no more interest.
Have children decorate a plain box (wood, cardboard, glass, whatever). As big or little as you want.
Put rocks in box and hand them over on Mother’s Day.


Throughout the year and whenever I want, I can reach in and read a reason, in my sons’ own words, why I’m the best mom they’ve ever had.

And I can’t wait to see what they write this year. Really. That “thanks for cake” rock is begging for a “thanks for 1,092 healthy meals a year” companion. We’ll see.

Mother’s Day. It’s not about sleeping in (as if), or breakfast in bed (ew, the cleanup), or peace and quiet (insert uncomfortable laughter at the realization that it’s never going to happen).

It’s about asking your kids (and partner if you have one) to make the present you want. And need.

And since they can’t build a Krasinski/Rudd/Fiennes/Gosling four-sided hologram, have them build you a box of love notes.

22 thoughts on “Mother’s Day: A New Perspective

    • It is so super awesome. Beware the year he just writes down anything they say, without guiding the conversation. I got a fistfull of “I like swimming” and “I like my new car seat” rocks one year. Wept later for how unloved I must be…

    • I wish I could give credit to Real Simple or Whole Living or whatever magazine I read it in. But alas, six years hence I have no stinking memory of whence it came.

  1. haha, I always ask for the sleeping in part, and believe it or not, it has happened a few times. And we have the exact taste in men. That is if you meant Ralph Fiennes and not Joseph….:-)

  2. That’s a really nice idea. I love that you’re able to reach in and grab one down the road and see what they love about you. Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. Brilliant. Is it too late to ask for this when they’re in college? ;)

    My sons were not with me this Mother’s Day. It isn’t the first time, and surely won’t be the last. Once they leave for college there are many, many “special days” you’d like them around for, and they aren’t. Then again, they have other ideas in high school, too.

    Oddly, Mother’s Day has always felt more like a forced expression of affection, at least to me, and what I’ve loved most over the years are the oddities of painted pottery or drawings and notes by their little hands. Kids find ways to tell us, show us, remind us of what we mean to them, and that helps get through some 6,600 days and nights (yes, do the math) of active parenting.

    This weekend, to my surprise, a small frosted vase with a gorgeous display of flowers arrived. Not over-the-top, but lovely, and with a tiny box of chocolates attached. The card read: Happy Mother’s Day, Love… and from both my boys.

    It’s something they’ve never done before. (Money is always an issue, they’re college kids after all.) I was deeply moved. I might have been as moved by rocks with writing; it is the fact of the thoughtfulness. Not “duty” – or so we hope. “Duty” was covered by quick phone calls from each (that turned into far longer conversations that say this isn’t duty at all); to be acknowledged in some fashion that feels meaningful. It helps.

    • With little guys, I like the forced acknowledgement. They act too often like I’m a beloved servant, and it’s nice to have other grownups tell them that they might want to notice that I’m a special kind of person in the world.

      That said, I don’t like flowers or chocolate because they’re forced. I like a handwritten something or a hand-drawn something or a thoughtful something. Because of the thought.

      And I’d take it on April 4 with a “I know I’m going to forget but today is when I thought of you.” Those are even better.

  4. As I suspected might be the case, I am deeply disappointed I did not suggest (insist) that we implement this brilliant idea. I might steal the idea for father’s day and slip one in that says HA! I WIN. I GAVE YOU THE BETTER PARENT’S DAY. THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE.

    • I’m always surprised how petty I get on Father’s Day with the implied “this is what real love looks like and this is what one should teach one’s children about gratitude for a parent, damnit.” Petty, petty, petty.

      And clearly not alone. ;-)

    • Your birthday, last day of school, Christmas, Hannukah are all great times to start. But sure, I guess dad can have his own box of adoration.


  5. This is THE BEST mother’s day/childhood ritual I have ever heard. I BOW BACK TO YOU m’lady!

    It’s wonderful you got to spend Mother’s Day with your grandma and mom. I would have loved to do that too instead of having to cater to their whims of “mom not doing anything today”. So I did two loads of laundry and dishes and vacuum today….

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