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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted April 28, 2017 noon
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Artwork by Andy Chase Cundiff

A primer for empty nest mothers

What exactly is the protocol for a husband for his wife on Mother’s Day, especially if the children are grown and out of the house? Fair question.

For years, when the kids were small, it was pretty standard. All the responsibility fell on the man. He bought the card, maybe some flowers, perhaps even a small gift, if it can be bought in the same store as the card and flowers, and then took everyone out to eat on the big day like some kind of conquering hero.

Of course, she received the construction paper crap the kids made at school, which was a much bigger deal than the card, flowers and small gift, as it should be. But eventually everyone aged out of that practice.

Now it’s almost like this five-step duty I have with my adult sons, who live about 350 and 400 miles in opposite directions from their dear old mom.

Step 1: Around now, May 1, mention to them Mother’s Day is around the corner.

Step 2: Five days later, strongly urge them to at least put a card in the mail.

Step 3: Two days later, describe to them what a stamp is, why it is important, and where they can purchase one. Remind them how to address an envelope, which is as strange to millennials as Instagram is to baby boomers.

Step 4: The Wednesday before Mother’s Day, in this instance, May 10, tell them the card has to be in the mail today. No more messing around. A “Happy Mother’s Day” text does not cut it.

Step 5: Text them on Saturday as a reminder to call their mother the next day. When they respond with, “I WILL!!” respond back with, “I knew you would, just checking,” when in actuality, I have no idea if they will or not.

When cards arrive and calls are made, I privately let out a deep sigh of victory. When Sandy remarks that it looks like they’re really maturing, that they remembered their mother again, I murmur something about the light coming on.

But how far should the husband go in this empty nest situation, one that has been empty going on six years? And this should apply to any empty nest dilemma.

Do not play the “you’re-not-my-mother” card. She will trump you with the “I’m-the-mother-of-your-boys” card and you feel like the zero you should.

Mother’s Day is and always should be a big deal no matter how old the kids. They have always been held to higher standards than us slobs.

When a mother is running late because of a hundred things that morning, when she drops off her kids to school, their hair uncombed, shirt untucked, shoes untied, people think, “What a terrible mother. Does she not care about her kids?”

If a dad does the exact same thing, people think, “Look at the way he tries to keep that family afloat. I wish all men were that way.”

So moms always deserve recognition. Let’s not complicate this. At minimum, it’s a card and going out to eat. That’s on the lowest, but still acceptable rung on the Mother’s Day appreciation ladder. Beyond that, let your conscience be your guide.

Just know that $21.4 billion was spent on Mother’s Day last year, which was $7 billion more than were spent on dads, which ought to say something.

There’s two ways to look at that – no service provider for moms is going to starve if you’re cheap, but that total is also more than the wealth of H. Ross Perot, Jerry Jones, Drayton McLane, and the Bass brothers, with $6 billion still remaining. So it doesn’t kill anyone to spend $40 on the mother of their kids.

Getting the grown kids to acknowledge her day might be a challenge unto itself, but it doesn’t stop there.

by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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