It’s May, which means your inbox and social media feeds, like mine, are probably full of “helpful suggestions” for what to get your mom for Mothers’ Day. But before you buy that “priceless” bracelet or send that edible bouquet, you may want to ask yourself what mom really wants from you this year. Knowing I would be writing the post this week, I did just that; and I even solicited the help of three mothers in my life—my wife, my mother-in-law, and my own mother. Below are 5 “wants” you should consider as you try to find that perfect gift.
1. She wants to be remembered
Elder Gerald Lund once told a story of a mountain climber who fell from a high peak and was saved from certain death “when his spread-eagled [climbing partner] arrested the fall with the strength of his outstretched arms.” In expressing how he would honor his partner, the climber said, “How do you respond to a guy like that? Give him a used climbing rope for a Christmas present? No, you remember him. You always remember him.”[i] While Elder Lund applied this story to the Savior and the importance of remembering Him for His sacrifice on our behalf, I believe it can also be applied to dedicated mothers. Indeed, I know of no calling that more closely resembles Christlike love and sacrifice than that of motherhood. Mothers sacrifice their time, talents, interests, sleep, health, sanity, and sometimes even their lives in bearing, nurturing, and training their children. Just as the climber could not adequately express his devotion to his climbing partner with a used rope, neither can any material gift compensate a noble mother for all she does in the name of motherhood. Of course, chocolate and flowers never hurt, but if we truly want to honor mom, let us remember her by regularly expressing heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifices she has made for us.
2. She wants to see the fruits of her efforts
Along with verbally expressing our gratitude for mom’s sacrifices, we can thank her by explicitly showing her (and giving her due credit for) the fruits of her committed efforts. Consider some of the things that your mom has done for you throughout your life, even in the face of whines and complaints like, “Oh mom, do I have to?” She probably pestered you to do your homework on many occasions. Or maybe she pushed you to practice the piano or encouraged you with “That was great, honey” when your screeching on the violin left much to be desired. There’s no doubt she dragged you to church more than once or repeatedly spent all her energy rounding up rambunctious children to gather for family prayer or scripture study. Whatever she’s done for you, you can thank her in kind—by telling her how much you owe her for your academic accomplishments, playing her a violin solo dedicated to her encouragement, or bearing her your testimony and expressing gratitude for her righteous example. It’s a simple concept, but I promise your mom will appreciate those expressions of gratitude more than she ever could a bouquet of flowers.
3. She wants your patience and forgiveness
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent, it’s that parenting is as much a learning experience as it is a teaching experience. We’re all just doing the best we can and we’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. So perhaps mom loses her cool or raises her voice once in a while. Maybe she was constantly late picking you up from soccer practice or had to miss a few little league games or dance recitals. Or maybe she likes to embarrass you by telling and retelling that “hysterical” story of you as a toddler, climbing up and getting stuck on a bookshelf wearing nothing but a pair of your brothers’ mismatched shoes. (What can I say? I like climbing things). Whatever “mistakes” your mother has made, be patient with her. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated, “As the Lord is patient with us, let us be patient with [others]. Understand that they, like us, are imperfect. They, like us, make mistakes. They, like us, want others to give them the benefit of the doubt.”[ii] May we apply this principle to mom and let her know how much we love, honor, and admire her, regardless of the mistakes she thinks she’s made. After all, she’s probably more sensitive and aware of these mistakes than anyone else. And if your mom is like mine, her strengths far outweigh any little imperfections.
4. She wants to be recognized for her unique talents
It seems that our society is obsessed with comparisons. The common idiom, “keeping up with the Joneses” (or Kardashians for the younger generation), has taken on new meaning far beyond material possessions, to reflect one’s individual worth or value. Women in particular are constantly presented with the “picture perfect” celebrity ideal, extending to perfectly fit celebrity moms who the media portrays as having everything completely together (though I’ve been happy to see several of these celebrities recently stand up against these unrealistic portrayals). I believe that this trend in our society has created the tendency for mothers to measure their worth by comparing themselves to that ideal. As a result, it’s common for mothers to struggle with feelings of inadequacy. The antidote is to help mom recognize her value based on her own unique strengths. Perhaps your mom isn’t very crafty, but she always knows how to make you laugh. Or maybe she’s not the most athletic mom ever, but she makes the best cookies you’ve ever tasted. Whatever it may be, find and focus on the good in your mom. Don’t just tell her you love her, tell her what it is you love about her.
5. She wants her children to “walk in truth”
One of my mom’s most quoted scriptures reads, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”[iii] I personally experienced this principle, at least to some extent, as a missionary for the LDS church. After working as hard as I could, knocking doors, biking miles every day, and facing ridicule and abuse to find and teach people the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the greatest joy that came as a missionary was witnessing someone accept the gospel and begin to live by its precepts. Similarly, given the effort and many sacrifices a mother makes in raising a child, it is no wonder that one of her greatest joys is to see that her child has grown up to be a good, honest individual. Perhaps more important than anything else we can do to honor mom, then, is living the true principles she has taught us. As the poet Claudia Cranston wrote for her mother:
“I do not build a monument
of carved white marble for your sake,
That only those who pass may read,
and only those memorial make
My life must be the monument
I consecrate on your behalf;
My charity must carve your name,
My gentleness your epitaph…”[iv]
Overall, material things like flowers or jewelry can be nice gestures (and I’m sure they’re appreciated), but the best gifts you can give your mother are those that come from the heart—the expressions of gratitude and devotion for the countless sacrifices she has made and living your life to honor her. So mom, thank you for all that you have done for me; for the many sleepless nights you spent rocking me as a baby; for sacrificing your own interests so you could always be there when I got home from school; for encouraging me to be my best and to pursue my passions; for helping me through my trials, from a scraped knee to a broken heart; and for teaching me through your words and example to love and serve the Savior. I so appreciate the person you are. You have the biggest heart of anyone I know and I truly admire your exuberance for life and passion for learning. Perhaps more than anything, I admire you for the gift you have of loving and nurturing those in need. So much of what I have and what I am, I owe to you. I hope to always honor you with the way I live my life and how I treat others. I love you, mom.
Happy Mothers’ Day!
[i] In Eric G. Anderson, “The Vertical Wilderness,” Private Practice, Nov. 1979, 21. Taken from https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-teacher-manual/the-gospel-according-to-st-luke/lesson-19-luke-18-22?lang=eng
[ii] Dieter Uchtdorf. “Continue in Patience,” LDS General Conference April 2010. Retrieved May 4, 2015 from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/continue-in-patience?lang=eng
[iii] 3 John 1:4
[iv] Claudia Cranston, “To my mother,” In Public School Methods Vol. 5, p 515. Methods Company, 1921. Taken from http://hissacredpresence.blogspot.com/2013/05/to-my-mother-poem.html