5 unapologetically sentimental ideas for Mother's Day, Father's Day or any day

You'll probably get as much out of these 'gifts' as they will.

You'll probably get as much out of these 'gifts' as they will

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

If you opened this article, you might not expect me to ask you this question, but come closer: Honestly, should Mother's Day and Father's Day even exist anymore? 

Aside from their capitalist cornerstones and even at their best, don't they underestimate us all by presuming we need to be reminded to show people we love some attention? (Yes, I feel the same about Valentine's Day.) At their worst, these societally enforced "holidays" are exclusionary and insensitive to anyone who has lost a parent, is estranged from one, has mothers but not fathers or vice versa, and they tend to be binary, gendered and sexist to the hilt. 

And yet, here I am with ideas for you with your parent figure in mind because even if you share my opinion, someone you love very much might not. They might have expectations around this day, in which case you may be saying, "And yet, I do not want to disappoint them."

In the interest of the worthy pursuit of making a cherished parental figure feel celebrated and loved, here are some ideas. They focus on the specialness of the person and your relationship and don't cost a thing other than the time and effort you put into them. And to state the obvious, if you're lucky enough to do any of these with or for someone on any day, they're worth it.

Interview them

You might have the kind of parent or parental figure who loves telling their stories — or they might be reserved. Either way, what you've heard from them so far is likely quite different from what you'd learn if you literally interviewed them.  

You might know their life's highlights, but not what their idea of perfect happiness is. And wouldn't you like to know? And wouldn't they like to be asked? 

If the idea of interviewing them feels strange to either of you, consider that it's not much different than having an epic phone call. They're telling you something fascinating, and you're hanging on to every word. If you're stuck for questions, there are articles and apps aplenty to help you. Journaling apps like Prompted Journal and Day One come with dozens of prompts you can borrow or customize, and Remember This is an audio app created with this type of exercise in mind, including a tool that turns recorded answers into a podcast-like result. On the other hand, doing it on paper means they don't have to have any tech, plus you get their handwritten notes, complete with folds, any margin doodles and tea stains from the day (priceless from a memento standpoint).

Play your songs

I once sent my mom a song from our past, which I hadn't heard in ages but that day had just stumbled upon. She texted back a long story about what the song meant to her, sharing a memory I've thought about ever since, and said she couldn't wait to play it for my aunt the next time she visited. Not really surprising since songs can do that to people. But given how meaningful it was, I don't know why I've never made my mom a playlist of "her songs," which I remember playing in our home when I was little, or the ones I remember her singing to me — there are a ton of those too.

If music was a part of your home, you might have an even longer list of themes to make playlists around and send to a parent this year. If you don't have that to pull from, there are other ways to frame a customized playlist anyway — like songs you think you'd put on if you were both sitting down to a lively lunch or taking a drive. 

Create the list with them in mind and to serve as a fun, touching token of your relationship. And consider syncing up and enjoying the playlist together while you cook, craft or do something else (see below). A virtual kitchen dance party is possible!

Make a date to do 'your thing,' even in these times

It's not a novel idea to go on a virtual date, but don't let that take it off the table for you. Just do your thing. Recreate your go-to date or your best time together or a virtual version of your wish-list date. Did you used to make a Sunday out of going for a bowl of ramen and then visiting the AGO? Send that very soup to their place and dine together via Zoom before doing a virtual art tour together. Was a highlight of your last visit a walk in the park and a puzzle back home when you got rained out? Visit forests virtually and chat while you do a puzzle online together. Plan to do an activity or craft or have an intimate book club meeting and send the same materials or book to them and yourself in advance. Then count down to having a nice time together online.

Commission selfies from one another

I can go to many of my friends' Instagram grids and see a dozen selfies and other pictures they're proud of — which is kind of great. (Having lost some people whom I can't say the same about, I don't think I'll ever tire of seeing selfies from my nearests). Meanwhile, I've noticed some of the photos I've marked as favourites in my personal camera roll are screen grabs from video calls with my mom during the pandemic, and that's what's behind this idea. 

Picture it (pun intended): you and your parent or parent figure setting out to take one to five images of yourselves, specifically for each other. In this time, when you may not be able to hand the phone to a waiter and say, "Can you take a picture of us?" this is your "picture of us," except maybe even better in some ways. In the exchange, you'll end up sharing your creative decisions or what each of you were thinking about — which will be revealing, funny, sweet, curious or all of the above and called to mind whenever you see those pictures again.

(Insert your idea here)

The only way any of the above will work is if you think about what makes your parent, and your relationship with them, special — in which case, there's probably an even better idea that only you can think up. Instead of a selfie exchange, you might opt to draw your dad if, for instance, he was always sketching. Imitate his style, tell him what you love about it and why. You might make and send your grandmother the recipe she taught you long ago ... with a note telling her you're ready for her feedback! The clues are there and they're the key to making the parental person you want to celebrate feel your love.

Yasmin Seneviratne is a producer at CBC Life and the creator of Le Sauce Magazine.

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