Column: No school-made gifts for mom this year. Dads, get to work.
PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — At first, the Facebook meme made me laugh: “What are dads going to do when they realize their kids aren’t bringing home any Mother’s Day gifts from school?”
Then it hit me: What AM I going to do?!
Most years, my wife and I keep gifts basic. Flowers and a Sunday together with family is usually just right. The (sometimes) cute presents the kids make at school provide a fun moment of "awwwww," followed by a year of figuring out where to put them so they're both seen and out of the way.
This Mother's Day, of course, is different.
Not only has Abbye been a patient and caring mother to our 8- and 5-year-old sons over these last seven weeks of quarantine, she's also been their part-time teacher, play date, gym partner and best friend. And she's done it all while working full-time from the dining room table, juggling Zoom calls with her second-grade class and keeping our own second grader from smashing his computer during calls.
So just because there are no handmade presents from art class this year doesn't mean we can go into Mother's Day empty-handed. We dads have to figure it out.
Let's get to work.
STEP ONE: Take a breath. It's not that hard…
STEP TWO: What are you talking about? What do I know about arts and crafts? The last time I tried to make something with popsicle sticks, half of them cracked and the other half were glued to my fingers.
Dads, we need a plan.
STEP THREE: Make it easy on yourself, and go to those in charge: Ask the kids what to make.
Depending on how old they are, you may need to guide this conversation. Otherwise, you could get what I got talking with 5-year-old Oren.
Me: "Oren, what do you want to make mommy for Mother's Day?"
Oren: "Let's make her a car. A car out of food."
Me: "How about a card out of food?"
Oren: "No, it has to be a car. But wait. Can I tell you what we're making the wheels out of? Not eggs because if we made it out of eggs they would crack. We're making it out of apples!"
Me: "Can we please make her a card out of food?"
Oren: "No!! It has to be my choice. We're making a car. Or a plane."
This is a good time for a couple of reminders:
1. Sometimes you have to overrule your 5-year-old. We're making a card.
2. It's Mother's Day, so let her sleep as long as she wants. THEN the kids can start making things out of food.
STEP FOUR: Remember to get all of your kids involved. Jacob, 8, has been working on his cooking skills, so he'll handle some of that.
And he also has a more high-tech idea. While each day for Jacob has come with a burst of anger at all he is missing, he also has been steadily acquiring some tech skills.
Instead of wasting money buying a card, Jacob plans to make his own online. He pulled together pictures and background images, and will get to spend some time thinking about everything his mom has done for him during the pandemic.
STEP FIVE: Still need help figuring this out? Let's bring in an expert.
Susan Schwake, an art teacher who works with children and adults in Rollinsford, New Hampshire, says it's best to keep things simple.
"If you just let them create, they'll probably create something wonderful," she said this week, in between running art classes over Zoom. "You have to allow them the space to do that."
She suggests that dads step back and make sure kids have the materials they need to let their ideas come alive. "Don't micromanage it," she says.
Paint and crayons will get the job done, and Schwake also offers a simple recipe for making clay on the stove (baking soda, corn starch and water) for things like hand-printed discs, for younger kids.
"These kind of things are simple, but I think that they are the things that we treasure most," says the mother of two adult children.
You can find similar DIY recipes and ideas on YouTube and other online sites.
Good luck, dads, and know that by the time you’re done, you’ll be ready for the next job: gifts for grandmom.