Top 5 Mother’s Day gift ideas that may surprise your mom

As a son and a husband, I’ve learned that when it comes to Mother’s Day, treat it more like a birthday and all will go well.

My wife, Heidi, describes motherhood like this, “Moms do it all. We anticipate that the kids need new shoes. We’re awake at 3 a.m. when they have a fever. We come up with a creative way to get them to eat their vegetables again and again.”

But her favorite? “Nothing makes you prouder as a mom than watching your child help someone else,” she says.

So below are five Mother’s Day gift ideas — gifts that cover all the basics she gave to you. But most importantly, ones that show her you’ve learned her greatest lesson: empathy for others.

1. Reimburse her for all those sick days she powered through.

Moms are gentle steel. “Moms don’t get sick days. I’m here all week. Yep,” says Heidi. “There’s a rough side to motherhood, but it’s also empowering. I’ve had my kids barf on me. Arm wrestled an 8-month-old so I can suck out their nose so they can breathe for their nap. And I’ll tell you what makes it all worth it. Your 8-year-old brings you a rock that looks like a heart because he loves you. Those are good days.”

As for my own mom? She treated my (young) man cold like the true tragedy it was. She was a pro. I’d get my favorite breakfast of buttered strips of toast to dip in hot cocoa. Try it. It’s amazing. All the blankets and wrapped up on the couch with all the Super Nintendo screen time my eyeballs could handle. It’s good to have that one person in your life who spoils you.

But how can you ever repay a mom’s 5-star treatment? Give the gift of medicine to another in Mom’s name! She’ll think you’re extra smart (she always knew you were, but now there’s proof), because your donation will multiply five times to give other moms what they need to take care of their kids.

Give the gift of medicine.

2. Atone for all those times you wouldn’t eat your vegetables.

As a boy, I was not a bottomless-pit eater. I grazed. I picked. My grandma said I needed to eat or else I would blow away in the wind. I would ask my mom if my snack could please, please please count as dinner. But it wouldn’t get me out of eating whatever vegetables or meat were in front of me. I had to sit there until it was done. My mom, like yours, was trying to feed me the right kind of food.

If it were up to me, all I’d have eaten were single-serving French bread microwave pizzas and giant chocolate muffins from everyone’s favorite big box store.

Everyone has their “Mom made me eat this” story. But not everyone had the same solution.

Mine was the milk trick: all the milk I could drink. And I learned that three or so big glasses could do it. I would take a big swig and then swallow my food whole, python-style. Corn was easy. Steak was okay. Green beans took skill. My mom let me, because somehow, I never choked, and it meant I was getting the healthy food I needed. She’s kind like that. She let me solve the problem in my own way. She also taught me to put mayo on my broccoli, which I’ve learned grosses a lot of people out, but I don’t care. I think it’s delicious.

So this Mother’s Day, why not show her that you finally learned that eating healthy is the way to go by donating to improve child health and nutrition? Your gift will multiply three times to help provide things like nutrition education, malnutrition interventions, and more!

Give to child health and nutrition.

3. Give a shout-out to the mama bear in your life.

My mom never lifted a car off me in my childhood, but I only think that’s because she was never given the chance. My wife has never fought a mountain lion, but she has mentioned that all she’d need is a big stick. These women are always scanning, always thinking, always aware. Moms don’t have spidey-sense, Spider-Man has mom-sense. When something’s wrong, they know it.

But they also assuage fears in gentler ways. That reassurance that everything is okay as long as you’re with her. My 11-year-old son remembers a fierce windstorm two years ago. We live next to a greenbelt with tall trees that sway more than any of us are comfortable with. He was terrified one would fall on his room. I didn’t blame him. But it was Mom who came up with the solution: sleep in our room on the floor until the storm passes. Oh, and bring your little brother, too.

Now this story isn’t groundbreaking or even unique. But my son remembers it, and that’s what’s important. Every single day your mom was doing little things to keep you safe. And if the stories are all boring, that’s good! She kept you safe!

So in honor of the car-lifting, mountain lion-fighting woman in your life, why not protect even more children for her special day? Help give other kids the worry-free childhood she gave you by donating to child protection efforts. And right now, thanks to matching grants, your gift will get multiplied four times!

Give to child protection.

4. Because it’s time to actually get her something nice.

When you’re a kid and the Mother’s Day gift is homemade, then its value is directly inverse to how ugly it is. My middle child gave my wife a ladybug frame in preschool, but the real prize was the photo. He could not have had a more glowering face. It’s classic. It’s our favorite thing (well, mine maybe) she’s ever gotten. We will keep this photo forever. It’s on our bookshelf in our bedroom, and will never get packed away. We will show it to his first girlfriend. It will go in his wedding slideshow one day.

But that was when you were a kid. As an adult, you better get her something nice. And not only nice, but meaningful. For example, if it’s a gift card, you can’t just give it to her, you have to go with her to spend it on clothes or coffee or a meal. That card represents time with you.

Here’s an even better idea: Get her something she can wear and think of you, and think of how she raised you right … because these gifts literally helped other people! Take a look at the Grace Collection, designed by Patricia Heaton — a beautiful scarf, necklace, and bracelet — all handmade by artisans in India who are thriving through fair trade businesses. The pieces are beautiful, and your mom can brag about you anytime someone compliments her.

Shop the Grace Collection.

5. She never stopped looking out for you. So look out for another in her honor.

Moms never stop being moms. There is always a porch light on. A meal waiting. An unspoken worry. They never stop wanting to take care of you. When they’re sick. Or even near the end of life, a mom’s true nature shines through. “Everything moms do is for someone else in their life,” says my wife. “The last thirty minutes that my mom’s mom was alive, she wasn’t conscious, but she was doing something with her hands. It looked like she was measuring out food. She was baking. Cooking. She was taking care of people and doing what she loved to do.”

My dad, Joe, also has this sweet story about his mom after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “We gathered kids one weekend in Chattaroy to say goodbye when we knew she had but a few weeks left and was still able to speak and be reasonably comfortable,” he writes. “We had a great time together, all of us, no tears, just a lot of fun remembering and storytelling. As I headed out the door for the airport after saying my goodbyes, I heard her say to Dad, ‘Be sure to write Joey a check for his airfare.’ The last words I heard her say in person, and she was still being a mom, making sure I was okay. That was Mom. She died at home on April 19, 1996, at the age of 87. … The Lord was indeed her light and her salvation.”

For Mother’s Day, remember your mom and how she never stops caring for you and loving you — no matter what you need — with a donation to the where most needed fund. Give in her name to help another with whatever is most pressing, a gift that lets someone know that they are loved no matter what.

Give where it’s needed most.


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