In case you haven’t checked your calendar recently, Mother’s Day is today: Sunday, May 12th. What are your plans? Are you sending flowers or a card, chatting with your mom on the phone, or congratulating yourself on doing your duty as a child? Assuming you live close enough, will you stop by for a quick visit? If so, you’re in good company. Thousands of other Americans will be doing the same thing. (In fact, Mother’s Day marks the pinnacle of holiday flower bouquet sales—yes, even topping Valentine’s Day!)
But this year, Todd Patkin urges you to go a step beyond the canned card and obligatory visit.
“No, of course there’s nothing wrong with flowers, greeting cards, calls, or visits because they all let your mother know that you put thought and energy into making her feel special,” comments Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In. “But if you take a moment to consider the extent to which your mother shaped and impacted your life, you’ll probably realize that you could show your appreciation in a much more meaningful way—and that your mom deserves the extra effort.”
All too often, Patkin says, it’s our closest relationships—the ones into which we should be putting the most sincere and consistent work—that we allow to run on autopilot. Mother’s Day is the perfect time to reassess the place your own mother holds in your life, and hopefully, to consciously strengthen your bond.
“If, like me, you are blessed to still have your mom, don’t take her for granted,” he urges. “The fact is, the future isn’t guaranteed to us—we can count on only the present moment.”
Here, Patkin shares four things that will help you to accompany your mother’s bouquet of flowers with something she’ll remember and cherish long after the blooms have faded:
Think about what your mother might want to hear. Here’s one of life’s “funny” truths: We rarely verbalize the things we feel most deeply. That certainly applies to many mother-child relationships! Especially if you’re a parent yourself, think about the things you’d like to hear most from your own kids, now and in the future. Perhaps they might include: I have always known that I’m loved. You have given me the tools I need to build a fulfilling life. I know that you always did your best to be a good parent. And so on! NOTE to EDITOR: See attached tipsheet for a list of ten things adult children might want to tell their mothers.
“Being a parent is hard work—by far the toughest job there is, in my opinion,” Patkin says. “And parents tend to get little to no appreciation from their kids when they’re in the midst of raising them. Now is a wonderful time to tell your mother all of the things you didn’t know to express when you were a kid. You might even consider writing them down in her greeting card!”
Share good memories. When you ask people which items they’d most want to save from a house fire, family pictures often top the list. And for good reason: They’re vivid, irreplaceable reminders of our individual histories that often spark cherished memories and deeply felt emotions. This Mother’s Day, pull out some old picture albums and flip through them with your mom (and with your dad too, if he’s still around).
“As you look at family pictures—the good, the bad, and the ugly—you can relive good times, tell funny stories, and explain how your mother’s influence earlier in your life has shaped who you are today,” Patkin comments. “You might even compare yourself as a child to your own kids; not just when it comes to physical resemblance, but in terms of personality and behavior, too. Explain how your mother’s parenting impacted how you have decided to raise your own family (keep it positive!). What a blessing it would be for her to hear that you consider the way she raised you to be an invaluable gift.”
Ask your mother what she wants. It’s not universally true, of course, but mothers often act as the glue that holds families together. Moms dry tears, they mediate when quarrels happen, they make sure that homework is done and that baths are taken, they motivate, encourage, advise, and so much more. In other words, they make a habit of putting others’ desires, needs, and comfort ahead of their own. Make sure that doesn’t happen this Mother’s Day by talking to your mom ahead of time about what she’d like to do.
“Maybe your suspicions are correct, and your mom wants to spend her afternoon at home with the whole family,” Patkin acknowledges. “But it’s also possible that she’d rather go on a family bike ride at the park, that she’d love to be pampered with a spa massage, or that she’s been craving a meal at her favorite restaurant. The same thing goes for gifts—ask her if there’s anything in particular she’d like before you order the traditional bouquet of flowers. Talking about the ideal Mother’s Day ahead of time is a win-win: Your mother will enjoy herself from start to finish, and you’ll feel satisfied knowing that you made it as special as possible.”
Consider extending forgiveness. Of course, not all adult children have smooth relationships with their mothers. What if you fall into that category and the two of you aren’t very close? If you’re on speaking terms, Patkin encourages you to take a step toward mending any rifts that may exist. No, you might not want to spend Mother’s Day rehashing old arguments or disagreements, but you cantell your mom that you’d like to work on these problems in the future because you love her and value your relationship.
“And what if you don’t plan on talking to your mom on May 12th, or on any other day, for that matter?” Patkin asks. “Sadly, I know that this is the case for too many people. I simply encourage you to try to improve the relationship you have with your mother in your heart. Try to forgive her in your own mind, for your own well-being. Do your best to take a step forward and understand what your estranged mother might have been dealing with in her life when she treated you in a negative way—what might have caused her to behave the way she did. You don’t have to condone that behavior or act as though it didn’t impact you; however, allowing resentment and anger to fester will only continue to hurt you in the long run.”
“At the end of the day, think about what you want to feel on Mother’s Day and determine how you can achieve that desired outcome,” Patkin advises. “You may find yourself rejoicing in having the world’s greatest mother, or you may be at peace knowing that a potentially volatile situation is being handled in a way that honors your physical health and mental well-being. Remember, celebrating your mother is important—but the most important thing of all is being authentic and showing love to yourself first.”
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In, Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People, and The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness(coming 2014), grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.