“For the most part, we really don’t need more things,” said most of the older mothers I’ve spoken with.Their space is limited in many cases, so unless gifts can be eaten or used up, or unless there is something specific that they need, they really don’t want “things.” OK, what would they like?
—Being with family. Being with all of her offspring is “the best Mother’s Day gift a mother could have,” says 88-year-old R-2, one of my advisers. This thought is echoed by so many. R-2 further explains: “What I’d like most, if it can be worked out, is to have a big dinner at my apartment with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren–all enjoying each other. My children are good cooks and they bring the food. We’ve done it before–but not all the time. But if they plan it early, it could work out. If it should work out, it would be a beautiful day.”
A variation on this theme is expressed by another aging mother. “What I’d really love doesn’t need to be on Mother’s Day, because my children–you know they’re all in their 40’s, working, and all spread out (geographically)–they’d have to plan to be together. But I’d love it if they could plan a get-together–all of them with their children (my grandchildren)–somewhere, some time in the summer when the kids aren’t in school…and I want everyone to get along, which means the kids behave well…. They could describe the plans on my Mother’s Day card, letting me know that’s my gift. It would be something I could look forward to.”
—A child’s time, is another treasured gift. There is more than one way to gift time:
First, as “alone time.” Mothers say they like having alone time with their child (or each child) apart from spouses. This has nothing to do with spouses in most cases; it’s simply precious alone time between mother and child.
Second, as dedicated time (see 3/23/10 post) carved out once every week or two–to help with errands, small fix-it jobs, possibly cleaning (for example the inside of her car) or taking down/putting up storm windows. The gift could be described in the Mother’s Day card, in the form of an IOU. For example, IOU 2 hours every other Thursday night to help with errands or small fix-it jobs. (An specially smart offer if it keeps aging parents off ladders.)
“Pledge me hours,” is the Mother’s Day gift Viola Vaughn wants. An individual whose personal gifts seem to come from giving to others–Dr. Vaughn, Founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance and 10,000 girls in Kaolack, Senegal, West Africa, was honored today as a Distinguished Alumni by Teachers College, Columbia University. (She founded WHEPSA in 2001 to develop new strategies for offering health and educational service to girls in rural Senegal.) An American grandmother, who emigrated to Senegal in 2000, she values the volunteer hours pledged and given to her projects. For example her niece, a teacher in the US, is taking next year off to honor her aunt’s wishes and teach in Senegal. The gift of time, can be given in a variety of ways–always welcome.
—Gifts that give mothers something to look forward to: for example tickets to something in the future….entertainment, a trip. While tickets usually cost money, spring flower shows are usually free of charge in many towns and cities and offer an inexpensive option for mothers who like flowers. Finally as mentioned above, planned-ahead family get-togethers are something to look forward to as well as being at the top of many mother’s Mother’s Day wish lists.
—Something a parent has asked for–Sometimes an aging parent asks for something, only to have it forgotten or put off. For example, a mother who recovered from a broken hip noted that for several years she had asked her son-in-law to put a railing up on the porch of the home he and her daughter live in. And she has asked again this year. This intelligent, independent mother is in her late 80’s and doesn’t want to take chances with falling—again. “He could let me know that he’s putting up the railing as my Mother’s Day gift with just a little note on my Mother’s Day card,” she said. “In fact, if they don’t put up the railing, I don’t think I’m going there for Mother’s Day.” I guess there’s a moral here–if an older parents asks for something………….
As we try to help parents age well, the variety of gifts that parents welcome takes many forms.