The thought that counts

Mother's Day 2009Five years ago, my wife and I started a spur-of -the-moment tradition.

We decided that every year on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, instead of buying something, we would make gifts for each other.

She was about eight months pregnant with our oldest son Philo, pictured above. I made a drawing of her holding a baby that I imaged our unborn son might look like.

I was way off.

boysBut oddly enough, the baby I drew is a perfect match to our second son (left.)

I wanted to photograph all the gifts from Mother’s Day past, to share here On Fatherhood.

I asked my wife if she could dig them out, but they’re sort of all over the place. We moved in December, and are moving again in June. We’re not exactly settled. Digging through random boxes was not her idea of a fun Mother’s Day.

O.K., perfectly understandable. It’s her day.

But next year, I’m diggin’ them all out and turning the kitchen counter into a small photography studio.

I did find one of the gifts today in a basket near the coffee pot. Our oldest son, Philo, was two years old when we made it in 2007. I asked him on the down low what he wanted to make Mom that year. Without hesitation, as if he’d been planning for it, he said. “A pink turtle.”

O.K., great idea. It’s his gift.

He loved turtles, still does, and then at two years old, he probably thought, “Well, I love turtles, therefore everyone must love turtles.” It wasn’t until he was older that her learned different people like different things. Mom, for example, likes butterflies.

We kept it real simple that year: A Dremel, some scrap wood from the shed, Gorilla Glue, and two coats of pink paint.

Pink turtle 1, 2007Voila! Pink turtle.

She loved it – almost as much as Philo did.

We’ve tried to keep it simple most years, focusing more on sentimental meaning, and less on over-elaborate decorative glitz. No doilies and no glitter.

We save them for Valentines Day.

So, somewhere in the house is the rest of the Mother’s Day collection. In all, there has been:

• 2005 – Framed drawing of mother and child
• 2006 – Framed rainbow colored hand print on stretched canvas (OK, it was really some fabric from an old t-shirt, but you can’t tell under all the finger paint.)
• 2007 – Pink turtle wooden sculpture
• 2008 – Abstract collage of crayon and construction paper pieces

Today our boys, now four and one years old, gave Mom a dandy. Our youngest son, Hugh, is only one and a half. He’ll get his say next year. So again this year, it was Philo’s job to come up with the idea.

Mother's Day 2009, 2Rewind to about two weeks ago.

Dad, wispering: “Philo, what are we going to make Mom this year for Mother’s Day?”

Philo, replying instantly: “A pink butterfly.”

O.K., excellent. I think we still have some paint left.

We went with a new rendition of a timeless image.

The shape and lines of a child’s hand print hold great sentimental value.

This year was one part cardboard, one part construction paper, some crayons, paint, felt, pipe cleaners, glue – and a whole lot of rushing around at the last minute.

Pink butterfly, 2009Tada! Pink butterfly.

With two sets of hands, one smaller than the other, it worked out great.

Not too fancy, and not too shabby – simple, yet meaningful.

Honestly, it would be much easier and far more convenient to go the store each year, about a week before Mother’s Day, and have the kids pick something nice out.

But from what I’ve learned of marriage, parenting and life – meaningfulness and value are lost when ease and conveniences are sought.

As the boys get older, I hope our annual Mother’s Day projects translate into that lesson.

Looking back to the first year, when we started this tradition on a whim, I’m really happy we did.

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