Every day should be Mother’s Day.

In 2023, I wrote a gift guide tailored to single mothers like myself who don’t have anyone living in their house that’s allowed to reach for high shelves or have their own credit. The list included stuff like brunch I didn’t have to cook, or universal childcare that would make it easier for parents without partners — or for anyone, really.

Looking over it a year later, I would still love everything I asked for, but my eyes were drawn to the suggestion at the very bottom: “Pleases and thank-yous.” Even with a relatively polite child, I wrote that it would be nice on my special day to not have to remind him to show a little acknowledgment for stuff like bringing him a Pop-Tart and making a second bowl of oatmeal.

“But wait a minute,” I thought. “I don’t want to just be thanked one day out of the year! I want that on random Wednesdays and Thursdays and whenever a tart is popped.” And it started me down a rabbit hole of how hard parenting is across the calendar. We don’t do it for thanks or cards, but it would be difficult to operate in the roughest moments if you only ever got those little things on a certain Sunday in May.

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So this year’s “gift guide” is for stuff I don’t want to wait until Mother’s Day for, that doesn’t cost any money or require an Amazon delivery. They’re more thoughtful and useful because they make keeping a home and family easier, more efficient and less like I’m losing my mind.

Pleases and thank-yous, again: Like I wrote last year, it is a very simple human wish to want your hard work to be noticed. I don’t need a parade. I just want you to give me the same appreciation you’d give your teachers or the server who brings your fries. Honestly, I want more than what you give them. Is that always going to happen? Nah. Even polite children tend to be nicer to everyone else more than their parents, and I get that. But insisting on basic courtesy not only makes the parent/child relationship run smoother but it makes for a better human being who grows up expecting to extend and accept those courtesies. Even Elmo knows how to do it.

Just clean your room, dude: According to a 2014 Chicago Tribune story, 82% of parents surveyed did chores growing up, but only 28% expected the same of their own children. I am proudly a part of that 28%. I expect my kid to do some basic maintenance in our home because he lives here too and contributes to at least half the mess. I don’t make him clean grout or snake the drains — he’s only 10 — but he is responsible once a week for seeing to our 1.5 baths and whatever’s going on in his room (I don’t ask a lot of questions). That’s not a lot, and it would be great to not have to make a federal case of some very basic duties. You know where the Swiffer is. Get to Swiffering.

Put stuff where it’s supposed to be so I don’t trip over it and die: One of my mother’s pet peeves growing up was the obstacle course I haphazardly created in the living room with the shoes I’d just stepped out of and the bag I threw down. I’m not saying that the baseball bat, bike, soccer ball, bass guitar and amp that I now have to navigate every day just to get to the refrigerator are part of a jinx my mom placed on me for retribution. But if it is: Mommy, I get it. I find myself saying sweetly, “My love, is that where that guitar goes? Does that baseball glove live on the couch?” No, it does not.

What you want for Mother's Day: Not this. (Leslie Gray Streeter)

Ditto for your plate and juice glass: This goes back to the “please and thank you” thing. I think I’m a better person because I was raised to believe that I bore a responsibility to the people I loved, who loved me. Even the simplest tasks can make a big difference. Also, the earlier you think picking up after yourself is your job, the earlier that becomes ingrained so you are a better roommate and partner when you get older. Also, he doesn’t pay me enough to be his busboy. Wait … he doesn’t pay me at all.

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Do what you say you’re going to do: As my son gains more and more autonomy, it’s important to know I can trust him with that responsibility. He has a kid’s sports watch that will tell him what time he needs to head home from playing with friends and that he can text me from, but he has to remember to charge it. He knows what time he’s supposed to be at baseball practice, or how early before his online bass lesson he has to tune his instrument, plug in and log onto the Zoom. Because he’s no longer just risking letting me down, he’s learning to be a responsible music student, teammate and friend.

Every once in a while, do a little extra thing: Recently, the kid came back from the corner store with a bag of his usual favorites like chips and Gatorade. “Get me anything?” I said, not expecting him to have because I didn’t ask beforehand. “Bam!” he said, plunking a frosty Diet Coke in front of me. I could not stop beaming because he thought to bring me that bottle of calorie-free caffeine, purchased with his own money, just because it would make me happy.

That moment, on a regular Saturday, was worth a thousand Mother’s Day brunches or the biggest bouquet of roses you’ve ever seen. It was just a day that someone went out of their way for me. It felt like a holiday.

Leslie Gray Streeter is a columnist excited about telling Baltimore stories — about us and the things that we care about, that touch us, that tickle us and that make us tick, from parenting to pop culture to the perfect crab cake. She is especially psyched about discussions that we don't usually have. Open mind and a sense of humor required.

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