Andrew Birden Credit: Andrew Birden

We have Mother’s Day coming to us this Sunday, and I have to say that for the past 30-40 years, I always give the same thing to my own mother every year — a card.

It’s not that I don’t want to give her a gift. The question is what gift can match what she managed to do? For the women out there who carried their offspring for nine months, went through the efforts of childbirth, and endured the trials and tribulations of raising their children, the second Sunday in May is probably something like having a single day of rest each year to celebrate 364 days of tireless slavery.

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When I was a kid, it was the day we joined with Dad to try to cook dinner for Mom, which usually ended up with us opening all the windows in the house, hoping the charred remains of our special effort that we left smoking in the skillet wouldn’t stink up the house for more than a week. Then we’d head out to a restaurant.

Being a man, I recognize that my ability to find the essence of Mother’s Day is about as easy as kissing my own elbow. However, as one of 7.3 billion people who currently happen to have had a mother, I think I can express a certain universal appreciation for the things she has done, as well as feeling the universal guilt all offspring should carry for the suffering they have brought to their matriarch.

Like most folks, my mother was a loving tyrant who would help blow a toddler’s nose, offer advice whether her children wanted it or not, and knock a kid silly when he mouthed off to her. She wielded that velvet-lined iron fist with a rugged fairness that has to be part of the genetic treasure passed along by the thousands of generations of mothers who came before her. Otherwise it just wouldn’t make sense.

How is it that a mother always knows how to do the right thing? They somehow manage (often by themselves) to care for some of the whiniest, neediest, and smelliest creatures on the planet. They have the wisdom to know the value of telling the truth as well as telling lies (have you seen some of the drawings a mother will deem worthy of public display?). Not only that, but they have been known to fib for their children to protect them from Dad, force their children to tell the truth to complete strangers, and have had the good sense to believe some of the most cockamamie stories a kid will spin so he doesn’t get in trouble.

In fact, there’s a reason a mother inflates her own opinion of her offspring that has little to do with whether her sons and daughters actually have the potential to be doctors, great political leaders or giants of industry. A mother probably convinces herself of the great prospects hidden in her child so she doesn’t cut their lives short when they set fire to the bathroom, start a secret worm farm in the cupboard or discover the wonders of Internet shopping with the family credit card.

But then there is the other side of motherhood — the darker side where a mother has the ability to make a kid feel guilty. My mother could cause her sons to behave just because we would imagine the look of disappointment on her face. Heck, she could make me feel guilty for stuff I never did. A mom is the only person in anyone’s life who can make a kid feel guilty, because he or she didn’t do their homework, forgot to clean their bedroom or took the last cookie. It seems that the fate of all sons or daughters is to disappoint their mother…or maybe not.

Perhaps on Mother’s Day, we offspring of the most wonderful person in our universe can finally express our appreciation of Mom with a gift that might somehow match the times she has stood for us and make up for the times we have disappointed her. If life were truly fair, then for Mother’s Day this year I should transfer all my savings to Mom’s bank account, make her the recipient of my life insurance policy and dedicate all of my spare time to making her happy.

Unfortunately, I already did that for the mother of my own kids.

Sorry, Mom.