Staff Sgt. Emma Hicks hugs her daughter, Zoe, after returning three weeks early from her deployment to southwest Asia. (Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Air Force)
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Chief Yeoman Tafaoga “Tafa” Collins remembers when her four children decorated her Coast Guard office for Mother’s Day. “When I went in Monday, I was very, very surprised,” she said.
Another time, her children composed a song for her, and recorded it on a CD. Her oldest daughter, Juanita, 17 — recently honored as Operation Homefront’s 2014 Coast Guard Military Child of the Year — played piano and sang with brother Joshua, 16, and sisters, Jazmin-Moli, 14, and Juliah, 12.
Military children can be quite resourceful, so we talked to mothers in the military community about the gifts they remember from their kids. Regardless of your age, you may pick up tips for meaningful gift ideas for your own mother or to help your young children provide gifts for Mom.
The moms’ favorites, by far, are those made by their kids. “After more than a dozen [permanent change-of-station] moves, I must confess that I still have every hand-drawn card and letter each of my five children has given me. Same goes for all those hand-print poems,” Marine wife Jessica Perdew says. Among those five children is Operation Homefront’s 2013 Marine Corps Military Child of the Year Abigail Perdew, who is finishing her first year at the Naval Academy.
If you’re a grown kid — and you’re able to do so — one of the easiest things you can do is simply to call your mom to chat, Perdew advises.
Compile a list of reasons your mom is the best. “I’m always surprised at the things my kids notice,” Perdew says. You can help children who can’t yet write turn this into a fun art project. Army wife Jessica Mason said her heart melted when her son gave her a heart colored on a blank piece of canvas in preschool a year ago.
The teachers asked the children what they wanted to say about their mothers, and Mason’s picture said, “She likes to watch Cinderella with me.”
Write a letter — by hand — to your mother telling her how much you appreciate her, and why. Many troops’ mothers said they have saved every letter their service member has written to them. They read them over and over again with tears and pride.
Mary Scott said now that her six children are grown, they still send her notes and cards. Four of the six are in the military, another is an Air Force veteran, and another is in the process of becoming a Catholic priest, and then, an Army chaplain.
Those treasured gifts will conjure up memories for years. “You always remember where you were when you got it,” she says.
Bringing Mom breakfast in bed is always appreciated. Scott recalls being upstairs “listening to the clanking and spilling” when her children were young. “It was always accompanied by a flower. And they’d all jump on the bed.” Perdew suggests making dinner — and then cleaning up.
Make a date with your mom to do whatever she wants to do, Perdew suggests. That might be a night at the opera, or a baseball game, or a long walk, a workout or a bike ride together. The point is, it’s up to Mom. If you can’t be there on Mother’s Day, set a date.
Plant something that she can enjoy for years to come. One of Perdew’s favorite gifts was a family effort on a Mother’s Day when her husband, Jason, was deployed. Her mother, who was visiting, “had each of my kids choose a rose bush, and we planted them on Mother’s Day. I couldn’t believe how much they grew in the two years we were there. Now someone at [Camp] Pendleton has lots of beautiful roses. When we went back last summer we even drove by the old house to check on ‘our’ bushes,” she says.
Don’t limit your thoughtfulness to Mother’s Day. Do something nice for your mother every day leading up to Mother’s Day — perhaps calling, writing a note, making dinner. Consider committing “random acts of kindness” periodically through the month.
Celebrate her memory. You may have lost your mother, and that can make Mother’s Day particularly difficult. So do something special — perhaps you and family members could go to brunch in memory of your mothers or just have fun in each other’s company. Because your mothers would want you to.