First, resist the urge to take over from your children. There are plenty of days on the calendar designed for you to honor your wife: her birthday, your wedding anniversary, every other day on the calendar, etc.
Mother’s Day is a time to let go a little bit and let the kids take charge. Depending on their ages, your expectations should change, of course, but so will your wife’s. This is a great opportunity to teach your children to be demonstrative in their appreciation of everything their mother does for them. Let them shine!
Second, don’t let the events of the day be rushed or come across as an afterthought. No doubt, parents of small children are busy and juggling a lot of responsibilities, but showing love for Mom needs to take priority on her day. Again, this is a tremendous teaching moment for your children, as you rally them to drop their other concerns and focus on making Mom’s day memorable. Plan with them well in advance, and that will communicate the importance of the day.
Third, be sure to avoid activities or gifts that "keep on giving," meaning: things that create work for Mom later. Cooking her favorite dish from scratch with the help of the children sounds sweet and idyllic, but if it means leaving a mess in the kitchen or constantly running to your wife for help and advice to avoid disaster, then this defeats the purpose of giving her the day off.
A corollary to that rule is to know your limitations. Being overly ambitious may not be a prudent move. For example, expecting a 3-year-old and 5-year-old to help you clean up the house, make dinner and fold laundry all day long will probably result in multiple meltdowns throughout the day. Keep the plans manageable for them, and they will be proud of their success.
Next, avoid the temptation to celebrate Mother’s Day by doing things you want to do. This is sound advice for any person’s special day. If you go out to dinner, make sure it is her favorite place, not yours. You may dread having dinner at the restaurant that specializes in soup and salad, but if that is her favorite, so be it! If you get her a gift, make sure it is truly something for her, not something you want — or, even worse, something that implies work for her, like a small appliance.
Finally, and most important, don’t lose sight of the spiritual opportunity here. Above all else, lead the kids in praying for their mom and her needs. Teach them to express their gratitude to God for the gift that she is to them every day. Especially let them hear you express your gratitude for your wife in prayer, so that they might be strengthened by the love of your marriage.
The McDonalds are
coordinators of family life
and adult education
at St. Ignatius parish
in Mobile, Alabama.