Maybe you’ve lost your mum or maybe she’s just too far away for you to be together. Whatever the reason, celebrating Mother’s Day when you don’t have Mum around can be difficult.
For the past decade, my own mum has been half a world away when the UK Mothering Sunday dawns in March and then again when the Aussie Mother’s Day rolls around in May (it falls on 8 May this year). We do cards and phone calls of course, but we’re both well aware that there’s a generation or two missing from our celebrations.
As the years roll by, it’s not simply distance that’s keeping us apart either. We’re at that pointy end of life where mother/daughter roles reverse and, amid the maelstrom of life with kids, comes the realisation that the sand in the timer seems to run through ever more quickly. With each passing year it feels like our mums deserve celebrating more than ever.
Which got me thinking. Mother’s Day is my special day too and I want to celebrate it with my brood while honouring Mum, now and in the years to come when she’s no longer on the other end of the phone. So, these are the new traditions my family has embraced. They include things we’ve made to make the day our own and ways to acknowledge Mum too, so that Mother’s Day will always be a time of celebration, not sadness.
1. Plant a MAG tub. I love plants with a passion as does Mum so we have a Mum and Grandma (MAG) tub which we’ve planted up with autumn-flowering bulbs to bloom in March and May. That way, we’ve got Mother’s Day in both hemispheres covered (plus our birthdays as conveniently they’re in the same months too). The MAG tub sits by the front door and adds a pop of colour to the front of the house. The kids got involved with the planting and it was satisfying — amidst all the muddy knees, upside down bulbs and compost everywhere (in their hair, in their ears) — to have felt the soil on our hands and watch to see the first green shoots appear. We did the same for Grandma when we last visited her in the UK, except hers was full of spring flowering bulbs because of the whole topsy-turvy different season thing. Either way, we’ve both got colourful MAG tubs now full of crocuses, daffodils and primroses. It puts a spring in my step every time I see them.
2. Make a family tree cushion. Mums don’t really need stuff. They have a lifetime of things but you can bet your life that if it’s something made by their children or grandchildren, there will always be a spot for it – however wonky it might be. I’m no Martha (I have the ideas but zero skills at putting them into practice) but I bought a buff-coloured cushion and drew a simple tree on it with fabric markers. Emphasis on the simple here, folks.To symbolise each grandchild, I sewed pearl buttons on the branches and then embroidered their names around the edge of the cushion in running stitch. It’s a little rustic looking but Mum loves it and it takes pride of place on the chair in her bedroom. If you fancy making a cushion from scratch, you can find instructions here.
3. Find a signature scent. Every time I pass through an airport, I head for the Duty Free to have a squirt of the perfume Mum used to wear when I was a kid. Magie Noire was what Mum wore when she went off to dinner parties in the 70s and, for me, it’s synonymous with her tucking me up in bed in her long evening dress and pearls (they really knew how to dinner party in those days). This Mother’s Day, I’m buying myself a bottle. It can sit in my dressing table drawer ready to conjure up a whole host of happy memories.
What’s the scent that instantly takes you back to your mum? It doesn’t have to be perfume. For my friend, Ana, it’s the smell of a particular type of furniture polish which her mum used to use. Whatever the scent is, make it part of your life.
4. Create a photo book. Mum has a whole boot full of unsorted photos going back to the 30s. There she is as a little girl before the Second World War on the beach with her dad (he’s in a flat cap, suit and braces) and there she is again in the 50s in a fabulous retro cossie. We’ve made copies of our favourites and created two scrapbooks – one for us and one for Mum to flick through too. The kids love, love, love looking at the old photos and hooting at the old fashions (‘but why was great-grandpa wearing a suit to the beach?’) and they trigger a whole host of family stories about long-gone people that connect the young ones to the past. You can have a photo book made professionally, of course, or do something different with snaps such as making these fun coasters.
5. Listen, cook, watch. What’s the soundtrack of your mum’s life? What did she boogie to around the house when you were little? What gets her toes tapping now? Whatever it is, put it on now. Play it, listen to it, really listen, and make it part of your kids’ background track that provides a link to their grandma.
For my mum, it’s a mix of Madame Butterfly, Roy Orbison and an Italian tenor called Beniamino Gigli. An eclectic mix, I grant you, but one which I’ll play this Mother’s Day. That’s the listen bit. The kids cook on Mother’s Day and it’s always fish pie, the same dish that Grandma always used to cook when we visited. Simple, nourishing food that fills your heart as much as your tum. Afterwards, we’ll put on a movie and cuddle up on the lounge. Our particular favourite is Bedknobs and Broomsticks – an oldie but a goodie that the kids remember Grandma laughing so hard at that she had tears rolling down her cheeks (it was the bit where the crocodile lost his teeth in the animal soccer match, for Bedknobs aficiondos). And there you have it – listen, cook, watch.
6. Create a ritual. When we visit Grandma, the kids have a morning ritual. They wake early and, without a word, crawl into Grandma’s big bed with their books, snuggle down and read in companionable silence for an hour. Yes, even the great, hulking teens. It’s a bit of a squash but they love it as much as Grandma does. That’s a simple ritual that we carry on at home on a Sunday morning when there’s nowhere we have to be and one which Mum remembers when she’s got the doona back to herself again. Simple rituals are everywhere. It could be having afternoon tea in a fine bone cup and saucer (because that’s how Mum always serves it) or having a family card game evening because that’s what we did on Sunday evenings as kids. Look and you’ll find a ritual to make your own.
7. Volunteer your time. As tweens, Mum bundled us off to London on the train to help out at the homeless hostel that she supported. She wanted us to understand just how good we had it and how easy it is for the most ‘normal’ person to take a few wrong turns and fall through the cracks. The journey home from these trips were always in silence. So much seen and heard, so much to think about. Now my older kids are at an age where they too can help out with this cause that’s so close to their Grandma’s heart. So they do. The youngest will join them when he’s older at the soup kitchen where they volunteer but for now, he helps me put together toiletry packs to hand out. It’s our way of continuing and honouring Grandma’s work while handing on to the next generation the values that matter most.
What Mother’s Day rituals bring you closer to your mum?
More ways to celebrate mums:
- 5 Fantastic Ways To Celebrate Mother’s Day
- 50 Easy Ways to Spread Joy & Honour All Mums
- 6 Hollywood Dads Gush About Their Wives As Mums