Don’t judge me for talking about gift giving on Mother’s Day. Pretty, please. As a divorced, single parent, I have always felt torn about how to handle Mother’s Day with my children, and I’m sure the sentiment extends to single dads who also have to teach their children on how to treat them on Father’s Day, too.
Holidays are an opportunity to teach character, gratitude, and praise, but my biggest fear is missing the mark and diving into indulgence, group mentality, and selfish sentiment. There’s the part of entitlement thinking I didn’t want to exhibit, but then there was the respect factor that I didn’t want to ignore.
When any holiday started to approach my anxiety would hit an all-time high. Did I wait for someone else (my mother, my children’s father, etc.) to prompt my children to make or buy me something? Should I ask? The first year after my divorce, I realized that no one really considered it necessary to tackle this topic. I didn’t want to ask either, since that fell into my opinion of being selfish. Admittedly, I’m not big on culturally designed holidays. I don’t think people should have based their lives on what the world says to do on any particular day.
Truth be told, it’s really tough to ask for anything. My children did not get an allowance, so they didn’t have money to spend. It felt weird to take my children to the store to pick out something I wanted. Where was the element of surprise? Isn’t that part of the fun? Not to mention how ingenuine it felt. I certainly didn’t want to be remembered as a parent who gifted gifts to self.
I was taught that being a mom boiled down to sacrifice and discipline, respect and good manners. Making my kids do something for me to honor me as their mother seemed dictator-ish. Shouldn’t they do this on their own. So, for the first two children, I didn’t do anything. Personally, I believe I made a mistake.
Not teaching had an impact on their mindset. The older two were respectful in all other areas of their lives, but when it came to the art of gift giving to me, their mom, and later a wife and a girlfriend, good behavior became the ‘good enough gift’. It hurt to think that this was the message I communicate. But, again, it was what I had taught them to do.
I decided to teach the younger two a different message and pushed myself to take them shopping to buy a gift for me on Mother’s Day (and all holidays in between). They had to stay in a budget. At first, they didn’t want to spend their own money, which was a sign that I made a right choice in making us all do this uncomfortable task. Now, two years into the practice, my children anticipate holidays and see themselves as gift givers.
A week before Mother’s Day, my daughter told me I had to take her to the store for some shopping. Her brother did the same. What a big difference in their behavior compared to the older two. Even though I still feel weird being the initiator of this practice, I do see the value in its practice. Moms and dads, alike, can make these cookie-cutter holiday moments memorable, even when single. Even better, it is a unique opportunity to teach children to honor themselves and others even when no one else is around to pick up the ball.