Buying your wife a Mother's Day gift: How to avoid disaster

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A few years back, I decided that Mother's day was no longer a concern for me. My mother died a long time ago, I wasn't married, and I had no plans to become a baby daddy. Moreover, as I was staring down the barrel at 30, it didn't look like my situation was going to change anytime soon. I decided that Mother's day, like Washington's Birthday and the Feast of the Epiphany, was among the many holidays that I could more or less wipe off the calendar.

Needless to say, things have changed.

I now find myself the father of a two-year-old. Quite apart from the other little stresses associated with having a daughter in my life, I'm reliving the joy of buying Mother's day presents. When I was a kid, Mother's day was easy -- I'd pick up some bath salts, a kitchen tool, or some other innocuous item that my father told me to buy. I'd wrap it, pass it on to Mom and revel in her thanks. I'd get to feel like a big guy, my mom would get a little appreciation, and we'd both ignore the fact that the little present was hardly payback for the endless things that she did over the course of the year.


Now, however, I find myself in the tough position of trying to pick out the perfect gift for my wife, a task for which I'm amazingly unprepared. You see, as good as he was about Mother's day, my father never really taught me how to handle this problem. Every year, he'd give my mother a gift, but the exchange happened behind closed doors and I was never allowed to see the present in question. I always imagined that it was something boring, like socks and, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, I'm going to cling desperately to that belief.

On the one hand, my wife is really pretty cool about helping me pick out her gifts. This year, for instance, she's been hinting very broadly that she wants me to buy her a bottle of Cannabis Rose perfume, which, she's pointed out, is available at Sephora in a very nice gift set for under $50. As she imparted this information when we were talking about going out to see Iron Man, I assumed that she was trying to be subtle. When she pointed it out again while we were shopping for toilet paper, I decided that it was important, and that I'd better commit it to memory.

While I definitely see some perfume in my wife's future, I also like to pick out my own gifts. For me, the key to buying Mother's day gifts for my wife has been to listen closely when she lets things drop (if you employ this trick, your wife won't have to write "Cannabis Rose at Sephora for $45" on the blackboard). In fact, sometimes I even manage to surprise my wife with a gift that she really wanted but hadn't mentioned, leading to the magical phrase "How did you know?" I really love hearing those words.

Another key element that I've discovered is that a husband's Mother's day gifts probably shouldn't have anything to do with motherhood. Cooking paraphernalia, cleaning tools, aprons, housecoats, curlers, and the like may be handy, but they can also convey the message that the blushing gal who used to get your hormones a-raging, has now turned into Mom. While some women might revel in that transformation, my wife isn't one of them. Her first Mother's day gift, in fact, was a full-sized Mace Windu lightsaber.

Seriously, she loved it. My wife is kind of a sci-fi geek.

Mother's day doesn't have to be an opportunity to remind your wife that she's getting older and turning into a matron. In fact, with a little imagination, it can be a celebration of your relationship, the women that she was, and the woman that she still is. Find something that reminds you of your early dates. Schedule an activity that you can do together. Buy her a CD that will bring back memories. For God's sake, man, pick up some red roses, not white lilies!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He wants to buy his wife a shrunken head, but he hasn't found anyone who's willing to sell. In the meantime, he's probably going to pick up some Cannabis Rose. It's only $45 at Sephora.

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