Enjoying a lovely, fruitful and rewarding Mother’s Day with the lady who begat you is the easiest thing in the world, as long as you heed one important rule: Forget your entire childhood! Mother’s Day — coming right at you this Sunday — is not the day to hang onto old grudges and regrets, even if your mother is rubbing them in your face by continuing to act as if you’re 3 years old. Today is your chance to prove you’re an adult and rise above it all, not letting any long-buried resentments destroy the day for you and, more importantly, for her (even if she’s subtly trying to be pesky about it).
After a certain age, you have to try and drop any bad feelings, come to terms with each other and find a place of mutual appreciation. Even if mom is being controlling, domineering and a teeny bit insulting, this is the day you must let her do so (in small doses, anyway). Don’t do this to enable her behavior, but simply to not turn the big day into a torture chamber, subsidized by you. Bite your tongue for 24 hours, and you’ll find waves of release coming your way. And you’ll discover that even the most ornery mothers tend to melt a bit on Mother’s Day, enjoying the attention and getting noticeably nicer, so that’s what you need to latch onto as you wrap the day in a bow and consider it a success.
My mother and I have always loved each other a lot and look forward to this day spent in celebration, but for those who are harboring any intergenerational ill will, it’s important to do an Idina Menzel and, “Let It Go” as you appreciate the good and have the most fun time possible. If you have siblings to share the responsibility with, more power to you (and you can always enjoy nudging each other at the table now and then, just to get through it. If you don’t, just nudge the air around you.)
As for the elements of your celebration:
GIFTS: A bouquet of ma’s favorite flowers is a must. They invariably make her light up and make it hard for there to be a whole lot of conflict in the air. And don’t buy them a week in advance because they’ll be cheaper. There will be nothing left but wilted buds and the smell of your own awful choices by the actual day. Get them in the morning and have them studded with baby’s breaths and put in nice wrapping paper. And that’s on top of the gift. Make sure to round up jewelry, perfume, a floral-printed blouse or all the above. Mothers love all those girly things that keep them feeling young and feminine — and if you mix in something practical (books, a gift certificate, a watch), even better. Even the Mother’s Day card is important, as I once learned. A few years ago, I bought one at a 99-cent store, where all they had left were cards in Spanish. I saw nothing wrong with that, but I think ma felt un poquito insulted. I know this because she would always proudly display my cards on the wall, but this time she didn’t. It’s not that she has anything against the Spanish language, it’s just that she obviously felt I hadn’t made the extra effort to get something appropriate (i.e., that she could read). So heed your mother’s quirks and get her whatever the fuck she wants.
FOOD: Similarly, go to the restaurant of her choice. Don’t say, “I know this really amazing place that I’m sure you’ll love.” She might not. She might even detest it. And there’s nothing worse than sitting around on a high-pressure holiday as ma squirmingly tries to find something on the menu she can deal with, and then valiantly attempts to hide the retching noises come ingestion time. Surely there are better ways to spend your hard-earned money. If the place is of her choosing, there’s no chance for a “Why did we go here?” type of argument. There’s no opportunity to relive some potentially uncomfortable encounters of the past, when battles of will may have been more common between you. And while you’re there, encourage her to order appetizers, entrees, beverages and everything else she ever wanted. She birthed you — or at least gave her egg to someone else to handle — so she’s earned the right. Dessert is the most crucial thing of all, and I find it’s a nice touch to make that a separate part of the day. We usually come back to my apartment for a cake I’ve bought, and again, I’ve learned to be extra cautious about it. I once put a frozen cake in the fridge, unaware that it would melt into nothingness, never to return. I frantically ran out and got another one, on which I had “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma” inscribed, but she decided she wished I’d put her name instead. So now I vet the cake in advance and practically supply sketches and backdrafts before procuring the thing. Believe me, it makes life easier.
YOUR BEHAVIOR: Easy. Be solicitous, polite and utterly delightful. Laugh at her jokes. Tend to her needs. Talk about her topics while interjecting enough stuff about yourself that she can be proud of before your return to the subject of her, her, her. Do everything imaginable to make the experience light and positive. Again, this is not just to make it a swell day for her, but to make it easy on yourself too. And forget about your childhood!
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist to TheBlot Magazine.