Don’t buy me anything for Mother’s Day

    Anna Jarvis launched a crusade for a day to applaud mothers. For the rest of her life, she fought the commercialization of her own creation. I wish to turn the tide. To celebrate Mother’s Day, please include me in your life.

    Don’t buy me anything for Mother’s Day. Please.

    This contrived observance humors women who crave gratitude. At least, that’s how my mother saw it. She craved approval on her special day: gifts, breakfast in bed, proclamations of love. Since she mostly slept and shopped, and since Daddy and housekeepers prepared our meals, we never knew what Mom did to warrant such accolades.

    Mother’s Day — or MD — sends me back to the bad old days, when I doled out mandatory but hollow praise.

    I wish to turn the tide. For me, occasional smiles, text messages, photos and long conversations are enough. Guys: To celebrate Mother’s Day, please include me in your life. Tell me about your grade in math, your first kiss, your important project. Ask me to kiss your stubbed knee or wounded ego. Phone me from work, whispering that you landed a gigantic sale and will earn a substantial commission. Share your dreams and fears. Say Hey whenever you feel like it. Even if you call to say you can’t talk, I love hearing your voice.

    Entrust your children, my grands, to my care — even if I let them stay up late. If you want to please me, text me. Drop in occasionally for a “connected hug,” as you used to call it.

    My gripe is not that MD comes only once a year. It’s that someone else arbitrarily chooses The Day to worship the woman who bore you. 

    Just over a century ago, one Anna Jarvis launched a crusade for a day to applaud mothers. As soon as the holiday took hold, she commenced to fret: “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.”

    She opposed the sales of greeting cards as “a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write.” For the rest of her life, she fought the commercialization of her own creation.

    Ms. Jarvis, who never had children, lies interred next to her mother in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.

    Mother’s Day benefits primarily its perpetrators: greeting-card fabricators, florists and restaurants that hand women red plastic roses to make up for mediocre food and poor service on one of their busiest dates of the year. MD also funds daily newspapers and electronic media, which carry ads for pearls, purses and portable computers.

    Stop the insanity. Stop the credit card debt. Stop the desperation. The spending spree on MD is ridiculous. Statistics back me up.

    The National Retail Federation reports that the average person celebrating MD will spend $153 on gifts this year, $12 more than last year. Total spending will top $18.6 billion. Men will spend an average of $190 for all the moms in their lives, compared to women’s $117.

    Both NASA’s annual budget and Bernie Madoff’s criminal rip-offs amount to about $18 billion. That’s a lot of dinners out, smart phones and diamonds. Ridiculous.

    Why should my husband treat me as if I were his mother?

    Hallmark sells 17 categories of MD cards online, for the predictable moms and step-moms — plus the novel “like a mom,” “mom-to-be” and “any woman.” For an additional fee, when you send the very best, the company will address, stamp and mail your cards for you. Roll over, Ms. Jarvis.

    Mothers in the United States number more than 80 million. NPR said recently that the average expenditure per MD gift was a whopping $138.50, with men spending more than women. To appease the female parent, dutiful children buy 24 percent of all holiday plants and fresh flowers on the second Sunday in May. That’s a lot of baby’s breath.

    TV commercials flaunt the imperative of showing love through merchandise. Some mothers lie in wait for gifts they have pre-chosen, while others, expecting something, complain about everything.

    We mothers do our mothering 24/7, either physically, as in leveling the back of his first two-wheeler or caressing the train of her bridal veil, or emotionally, as in worrying about her driving lessons or fretting about his backpacking trek through Europe. Mothers crave news about our children, even if vice is not always versa.

    We thrill to their successes, kvelling in silence or in public. To kvell in Yiddish means to rejoice, to jubilate, to crow. Moms kvell.

    So, Guys: To appreciate me at any time, come for dinner. I’ll cook or order pizza. It’s your company I want, not your cash. Ask my opinion about the kitten you might adopt, the house you might buy, the job you might take. Invite me on shopping trips for dorm bedspreads, soccer balls or garden rakes. Making me part of your life shows me you care.

    You don’t need to spend a penny. On Sunday I will do my Sunday thing: Go to the gym, listen to “On the Media” on WHYY, and then, if it’s sunny, go for a walk in Fairmount Park.

    Call, please, and tell me you have canceled Mother’s Day. You have free Sunday calls on your cell. I love you.

    Contact Susan at her website, www.writerphiladelphia.com.

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