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Mother's Day Gifts--Cue the Guilt and Shame

alec vanderboom

I bought Mother's Day gifts for my Mom and my Mother in Law today.

Cue the feelings of abandonment and shame.

We were at the Mall recently at one of the new baby's first public airings, and I saw the pastel colored sign announcing Mother's Day. The ulcer feeling was in my stomach before I finished reading the words. "Didn't we just do this?" I said out loud to Jon.  Then I remembered, "that would be trying to find two appropriate Christmas gift five months ago..." Five months ago is still too soon.

I have the assignment of picking out a gift that Mother will approve--which is nothing. And especially nothing in my limited budget framework.

Because I'm tired from nursing a newborn, and hopefully all this Carmelite stuff on detachment from worldly approval is working a tiny bit on my deeply ingrained mother-wound scars, I chose pretty gifts for under $20 from a site that had free shipping. I didn't second guess myself for hours. I didn't call my husband at work begging for advice. I just found something cool and hit the "order" button.

Then, I felt crummy for the rest of the afternoon.

As a vacation (trust me, I'm not saying that sarcastically--it is a true gift), my husband let me make the emergency run to Wal-Mart without a colicky newborn strapped to my chest. As a reward for my yucky day, I let myself choose a $1.69 Cadbury chocolate bar from the Candy Aisle. ( I started eating Cadbury while an exchange student in London and I'm nuts about this stuff. My kids nicknamed it "The Queen's Chocolate" because in the back wrapper there is a fancy royal seal with the words "by the appointment of the Queen" her official chocolate manufacturer.)

It hit me with joy that my kids are not going to repeat this cycle of uncertainty and fear while selecting my Mother's Day gifts. My kids know what I like. I like Cadbury chocolate bars, and Lindt, and Hersey Symphony. I like books, and notepaper, and pens with crisp ink lines. I like mishapen cupcakes with homemade frosting that doesn't quite set. I like pages of Lego.Com print-outs and weird "As Seen On TV" kitchen inventions that are supposed to make my life easier.

I like a lot of things. And since my five kids are always with me when I shop, they know what I like.

I told my relief that "this cycle ends with me" to my husband tonight. Jon gave me a great compliant. He said with a big smile "You are easy to please!" Then he explained further that being "easy to please is a litmus test for holiness."

He talked about how that if your "hard to please" your attached to the worldly pleasures. You buy more and more things, and over time you get less and less pleasure from them. You need things to be more and more perfect, refined or rare. On the other hand, a person growing in holiness gradually becomes more and more simple in their pleasures. Everything makes you smile. Every gift is received with joy.

I'd thought about that concept as it applies to friends. Back in my not so wise college days, I demanded that my friends be a certain type. I liked snobby, artistic intellectuals. Now ten years into my Catholic journey, I find myself enjoying conversation with all kinds of people I never would have given a second look to in my twenties. I appreciate wisdom from very young children, and strangers that barely speak English, and people whose background and interests are a far contrast to my own.

"Easy to please" is a backhanded compliment from the NPR crowd. I'm embracing that mantra as something I'd like to embrace more in my life. Is the car working or not working, it's okay because I'm easy to please, Mr. Jesus. Is the baby colicky or sleeping peacefully? Are we making great progress in home-schooling or do I feel like we're all treading water together.

Good Mother Days and Bad Mother Days are losing their distance because I'm learning how to be "easy to please."

God bless all of us daughters of Eve. Lord, help us grow into our full beauty as adopted daughters of Mary.