Can’t buy me love

Philadelphia Inquirer

This mom is fed up with Mother’s Day. Forget gifts; make me part of your life.

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

The spending spree on M.D. — Mother’s Day — is ridiculous. Stop the insanity. Stop the credit card debt. Stop the desperation on all sides (moms who worry nobody loves them; children who fear Mom thinks they don’t love her enough).

This contrived observance humors women who crave gratitude. It benefits primarily its perpetrators: greeting-card manufacturers, florists and restaurants that give women red plastic roses to make up for mediocre food and poor service on one of the busiest dates of the year. It also funds daily newspapers, which carry ads for swimsuits, Swiss chocolates and sundecks.

According to About.com, in a section curiously called “Women’s History,” people in the United States buy more gifts for Mother’s Day than for any other day except Christmas. Hallmark says 96 percent of U.S. consumers participate in M.D., all desperate to deliver the very best. Surveying “consumer intentions and actions,” the National Retail Federation predicted that M.D. spending would hit $16 billion a few years ago. I cannot comprehend that amount. California has a $16 billion budget deficit. Cisco Systems Inc. invests $16 billion in manufacturing, investment and educational programs. OK. But $16 billion for toilet water?

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

The problem is that we somehow show love through purchases. Children and husbands buy perfumes and pizza for M.D. to assuage guilt or to appease demanding women. 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 long tresses before her prom, or emotionally, as in worrying about her driving lessons or fretting about his backpacking trek through Europe. Mothers always want to know about our children, even if vice is not always versa.

So celebrate Mother’s Day in this way: by making me part of your life. Tell Mommy about your grade in French, your first kiss, your big project. Phone from work, whispering that you landed a gigantic sale and will earn a handsome commission. Share your dreams and fears. Ask me to kiss your stubbed knee or wounded ego.

Entrust your children to my care, even if I let them stay up late. If you want to honor me, shoot me an e-mail. Drop in occasionally for a “connected hug,” as you used to call it.

To celebrate year round, come for dinner. I’ll cook. Or order a pizza. It’s your company I want, not your cuisine or 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, cell phones or diamond rings. Making me part of your daily life, essential or trivial, shows me you care.

You don’t need to spend a penny.

Call, please, and say that, Mother’s Day or not, your cell phone offers free calls on Sunday. I love you.