Celebrating Parents

So what do you give the dad who already has everything he wants? Or the mom who loves every gift, but never gets something perfect? Keep reading for some tried-and-true ideas--some sensible, some decorative, and all from the heart. Practical Presents My mother recently attended a bridal shower, where she eyed piles of shiny new kitchen gadgets and pristine towels. "Someone needs to throw me a shower!" she quipped. "I'd love stuff that's not all worn out from raising six kids!" Whether it's a new can opener or a new office chair, a practical gift can light up a parent's face. It may take a little interrogation or covert surveillance, but chances are good you can fill a need. New kitchen shears, an external hard drive, maybe a weed trimmer. Or what about offering to use the weed trimmer for them? Maybe their home or yard hasn't quite recovered from raising children, or perhaps they've moved to another home that needs some TLC. Whether you live nearby and can do the work yourself, or you arrange to hire local help, you can still help your parents around the house. "One year we painted my in-laws' bedroom," says Camille Johnson of Euclid, Ohio. "And once we got everyone to go in together to buy my mother-in-law a new dishwasher." And for Father's Day? A new kitchen faucet, installed. She laughs, "Well, they needed it!" If a home improvement project seems like the perfect gift, here are a few things to keep in mind: 1. What you think your parents need and what they think they need may differ. Try to get a feel for their priorities, and respect them. 2. Don't hurt feelings! Negative comments about the outdated paneling or the cluttered garage don't celebrate your parents. 3. Tackle projects you can finish properly and quickly. It's not a great gift to leave behind a mess or exposed electrical work. 4. Installation should come with any home improvement gift your parents can't (or shouldn't) install themselves. If you're not up to the task, find a willing, handy friend or home teacher, or hire someone to do the job. 5. Think about services your parents might appreciate, whether you do it yourself or hire it out. Chopping firewood. Cleaning gutters. Shampooing carpets. Cleaning draperies. Hauling away junk (as defined by your mother, not you) from the attic. Heritage Gifts When asked about great gift ideas, Latter-day Saints often mention family heritage projects. These make great Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts because they show respect to the heritage parents have passed along. Try these: 1. Heritage books. Lynn Rollins, a mother of four young children, doesn't consider herself a scrapbooker, but one of her best "parent gifts" was a family album for her father-in-law. Each of his five children and their family members contributed stories--some serious, some funny. Lynn's six-year old daughter Dominica contributed a picture of herself picking grapes with her grandfather. "I never know what to give parents for a gift," she says. "But after he opened that book, he did not put it down all day. It was one of the most rewarding gifts I've ever given." 2. Family trees. Michele Thompson of Salt Lake City, Utah, purchased the Family Tree Heirloom Shadowbox by Olive Branch Designs one year for her in-laws. A real curly willow branch is mounted in a dimensional frame, and hung with leaves that bear names of each child and grandchild. Though the Shadowbox is no longer available for purchase, designer Aimee Ferre has posted instructions at olivebranchdesign.com for making your own. 3. Current pictures. Celebrating family isn't just about looking to the past. Preserve the present and give it as a present! For example, one Mother's Day weekend, my brothers and I hired a photographer to come to our home. There's nothing my mom likes better than a family photo with everybody in it. 4. Genealogy--already done! Is your family tree unexplored? If you're not up to researching it yourself, buy your folks a genealogy gift certificate. Professional genealogists like those at Lineages, Inc. (visit lineages.com) can do the research for them. Make their Dreams Come True What do your parents love to do, or wish they could do, or neglect to buy for themselves? Some people have a hard time answering that question. Many parents have long put aside hobbies and personal dreams to raise their kids. Others shop for their own hobbies, especially ones that require special tools or accessories. "We have to be creative with my parents because they seem to have everything," says Camille Johnson. She and her siblings look for gifts that celebrate unique things about their mom and dad. "My dad is all about chocolate, golf, and cars. One year my sister Jenny gave him a gift certificate to golf at a bunch of different places. My brother filled a 5-gallon bucket with car-washing tools and chamois cloths because he loves to wash his car himself." And somebody usually gets him chocolate! My own brothers (and my husband) did it right one year. They knew my father had always wanted a wood shop in his barn. Finally he drew up the plans and started work, after the last of his 6 kids moved out. Then he had emergency heart surgery. Afterward he was in no condition to swing a hammer. But the boys channeled their near-grief into gratitude--and expressed their confidence that he would be around for a long time--by continuing his work on the shop. They prepped the floor and arranged for cement to be poured while my dad was still in the hospital. When he returned from the hospital, my dad went straight to the wood shop. He had to see that new floor for himself! Over the following months, the boys continued their efforts--framing, insulation, electrical work. My dad slowly regained his strength. We celebrated the next Father's Day with a final work party, and the new wood shop has already seen plenty of use! Whatever our parents' dreams or needs this Mother's Day or Father's Day, there's a perfect gift out there for them. A dose of thoughtfulness, some creative genius, hard work and sacrifice may be required to come up with that gift. But that's not so bad. After all, aren't those the things they put into raising us? In Memoriam: Honoring Parents Who Have Passed Away After losing a parent, Mother's Day and Father's Day can be bittersweet experiences. Gifts for other relatives--or yourself--that pay tribute to the lives of deceased parents help some Latter-day Saints focus on happy memories. "After my dad died, my sister-in-law took all of his old ties, cut them into hearts, and sewed them on pillows with the words, 'Love ties our family together' cross-stitched in the middle," says Sarah Parks. "She made one for my grandparents, my mother and all twelve of us siblings." Now the pillow, sitting on her living room shelf, constantly reminds her of her father. "Every time I look at the pillow, my eyes automatically go to my favorite tie, one with two tennis rackets that cross," she says. "I actually remember sitting next to him as a child and looking at that tie. It's like being reminded of what it was like to snuggle up next to him." This simple memento often brings to mind her dad's values. "He wore ties a lot because he served in the Church for so many years. The ties remind me of his service." She pauses. "It was so thoughtful that my sister-in-law gave us each back a part of our dad. I've had it for 10 years, and it's still a keepsake."
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