They’re your first teacher, your first fan, and if you’re lucky, your first best friend. They’re the most important women in our lives. Yes, we’re talking about your mother. The one day a year with their names on it—Mother’s Day—is coming around the corner right behind finals. Read up to make sure you know exactly what to say to this magnificent being this year.
You’ll be the favorite child in no time.
1. Tell her about that cute girl you just met
We aren’t teenagers anymore, and it isn’t okay to shut your parents out. Don’t be that 20-year-old still telling your mom she’s “SO embarrassing, ugh!” when she calls to talk about your week. Instead, actually give your mom the low down on your life. “I want to hear about their friends and other special people in their lives,” said Heather Gaspar, a mother of two daughters. If they’re important to you, they’re important to your mom. Plus, if you spill the beans on the daily then she just might stop bugging you with the boyfriend/girlfriend sneak attack.
2. If you’re happy and you know it… Tell your mother.
Your mom’s #1 concern: your happiness. Sure, she wants to know about your life, but she desperately wants to know you’re happy with it. “I want to hear my kids say, ‘I love my friends, I love my job, and I am so happy,’” said Maura Walsh, mother of one very positive girl. She raised you hoping that one day you’d grow out of your high school angst and be able to admit that life is actually pretty darn good. How can you be unhappy with your mom in your life, anyway?
3. Embrace your 3-year-old self (and your mom)
You don’t even have to say anything at all. “I will always take a hug from my kids,” said Shelley MacRae, mother of three—two being high school-aged boys (can you say trouble?). Now that you’re no longer a toddler, you’ve stopped pestering your mom every five minutes with hugs and kisses and whiney tugs on her pant legs. You’d think she’d be grateful but this withdrawal just makes the occasional hug much more important. A little hug can go a long way.
4. Tell her you need her
Moms are smart. They’ve lived a whole lot more than we have—and they’ve successfully raised a human being to adulthood. They have a lot of knowledge to share, so talk to them the next time you have a problem you need to hash out. “I want to know about the issues they want advice on—though I will take the venting, too,” said Gaspar. We all want to think our problems are unique, but chances are your mom has already struggled through most of what you’re facing. Let’s be honest—your mom may want to give you advice because she loves you and wants to help, but you’re the one getting all the benefits.
5. Let her know you don’t just hang out with her because you have to
Going away to school makes you appreciate the little things you and your mom do. Your nightly tradition of watching Jeopardy while snacking on popcorn (mixed with chocolate chips, of course) isn’t an obligation anymore. “I like to know that they love me and actually want to do things with me,” said Gaspar. Hanging out with your mom is actually cool now!
6. Hold off on some things
Every mom has dreams for their children, so they want to know when you hit those important milestones—landing your first job, signing your first lease…having a child? “In the future, I want to hear, ‘Mom, I’m pregnant!’” said Walsh. So maybe wait a bit to fulfill some of those dreams… but when you do something to make her proud, don’t stew in humble silence. Brag a little bit—your mom is the only person who won’t think, my God, this kid is the worst.
7. Reveal her as the superhero that she is
Remember that time your mom came to pick you up at 2 a.m. because you never got around to learning how to change a tire? Well, those obvious moments of momly-superhero-effort are not the only times she goes out of her way to help you. “I like to know that they appreciate how hard we work all year,” said MacRae. Being a mom is a lot more than the obvious things—it’s a full-time, 24/7 job. We’re talking all day, every day for their whole lives, and it’s not easy work. She had to put up with you during your scene stage, remember? Tell her you know how hard she works.
8. Make sure she knows she did good
Tell your mom that you not only know how hard she’s worked to shape you into a living, breathing, and somewhat functioning member of society, but that she also succeeded. “I want to hear about the things that they do now because of what they did and learned as kids,” said Gaspar. Like it or not, our parents influence who we become more than anyone else. If that family tradition of eating dinner together at exactly 6 every night changed your thinking, then tell her. Moms want to be able to brag, too, and knowing she made you a better person will help.
9. Tell her… whatever, as long as it’s true
Spoiler: Fabulous women that we are, these moms and I can’t tell you exactly what to say to your mother. It’s got to come from you because moms want you to say only what you really mean. “I like hearing something from the heart—so not me telling you all of these answers,” said MacRae. If she asks you to tell her you love her, then you should probably do that. But find something to say that really speaks to you, too—like, “I love you mom, even more than the Domino’s app.”
10. Say nothing?
If you succeed in your job as The Good Child, Mother’s Day itself isn’t that important, anyway. Appreciating your mother is more of an every day kind of thing; their job is never over, so why should ours have an expiration date? My own mother always says that she doesn’t care about Mother’s Day; what matters more is the little things we children do for her throughout the year. I don’t say this to show how great a daughter I am (but while I’m at it, hey mom! Am I your favorite yet?) but to show that Mother’s Day shouldn’t be your last-ditch-please-don’t-think-I’m-ungrateful effort to get on your mom’s good side. Moms are freakin’ great—and they deserve more than just one day per year.
Now you just have to go find a gift. Yes, now is the time to panic.