It’s that time of year when I get texts from my brother and father asking what in the world to get my mom and me for Mother’s Day, when I inevitably end up standing at a department store jewelry counter contemplating getting her another pair of silver hoops, and praying my homemade card will cut it if all the funny ones at Hallmark are already taken. This year, my mom and I headed off all that rush and madness and had a talk about what both of us really want. All we truly want is time together to celebrate — relatively quiet (save the giggles and, please God, save any bickering), calm time with each other in the midst of the demands of kids, grandkids, work, and men in our lives.
To tell the truth, as idyllic as it sounds to sneak off for a hike or even a leisurely lakefront walk with my mama, it can also turn into an eye-rolling, intense couple of hours. Of course, no one wants that. In the spirit of honoring (not hollering) the woman who brought you life or who made you a mother, here’s how to spend your special day in healthy, happy ways that may even crank off some calories.
1. A few good hours of gardening. If Mother’s Day weekend happens to bring wonderful weather to your neighborhood, why not plan to be outside with one of the ladies you love most? Offer to take care of the weeding or other lawn chores that your mom hasn’t gotten to yet this season, or bring her a big basket of flowers, herbs, or veggies to plant.
And let’s be honest — gardening can be a great activity if things get tense in your mother-daughter relationship, especially if you have room to breathe in the outdoor space, and if you can view the planting, lugging, and raking as therapeutic outlets for the other digs you may feel.
Calorie-burn bonus: Gardening can be more than just an enjoyable day outdoors, depending on the activity.Planting seedlings and trimming shrubs and 0perating a power mower for an hour each burn 306 calories and digging, spading, or filling compost burns 340 calories per hour and watering while walking or standing burns 102 calories per hour. (based on a 150-pound person).
2. A kayak tour of your town. Many cities offer private kayak lessons and tours down rivers and on lakes that will give you a great new perspective on the place you live as well as a substantial workout. Look for tours that fit your interests — a twilight tour, trips out to watch fireworks on the water, sunrise adventures — and will accommodate any special needs — sugar-free snacks for diabetics if food is offered, non-alcoholic drinks for those who do not imbibe if there is a happy hour following the kayaking, assistance for boaters with physical limitations, smaller paddles for kids, stable entry points for the elderly.
Reality check? Your time in the kayak is a perfect opportunity to bring up a tricky topic — that you’ve rekindled a romance with your ex, that the grandchild is failing gym, that you won’t be paying back that loan any time soon. The design of the kayak will allow you to air all your conversation without ever having to look at each other (think how much easier this could have made the birds and bees conversation you had all those years ago). Who knows? The serene setting might even soften the blow and pull you closer together.
Calorie-burn bonus: Kayaking burns 340 calories an hour (based on a 150-pound person) and your sore arms the next day will be the proof you’ve really worked your muscles while you’re on the water.
3. Steam-and-soak package at a local day-spa. Massages are a soothing and wonderful way to celebrate your special day, but they can be pricey, require some planning ahead, and be better for solo ventures. If you want to spend time together and still get the spa experience, ask your favorite day spa if they offer a package to just use the jacuzzi, steam room, and other facilities for a few hours. My favorite day spa offers a two-hour $20 package that is the perfect way to slough off the stress of my week and gives me some quiet but quality time with my mom or best friend. If you can’t find something similar, opt for a facial or mani-pedi that is a bit nice than the ones your used to as a treat that is less expensive than a massage but will still be relaxing time together.
Calories, schmalories. You’ll be detoxing that heinous work week, your daughter’s criticism of your cute new boyfriend, and the still-lingering aftertaste of your mother’s lemon chicken. That’s all worth it’s weight in well-being right there.
4. Drop-in yoga, Pilates, or stretching class. So you’re mother/daughter/stepdaughter/mother-in-law rolls her eyes every time you mention how blissed out you get on the mat. Show her what the good stuff is all about by taking her to a drop-in class at a studio you know is serene and affordable for whomever is footing the bill.
Keep in mind the physical limitations, skill level, and comfortable for everyone in attendance. If your mom is a breast cancer survivor, consider a class designed especially for women recovering from treatment. If your daughter’s been struggling with finals stress, doing an hour of stretching and meditation might give her some skills to take back to campus. And even if chanting feels awkward and silly, doing it together might give you the bonding you’ve been craving.
5. A cooking class — at a school or in your own kitchen. Sign yourselves up for a class to learn how to make sushi, Argentinian cuisine, or to sharpen up your knife skills. If that’s not possible for your schedule or budget, make a date in your own kitchen to teach each other how to make your favorite dishes. Prepare an extra recipe card and any tools or special ingredients as a gift to compliment the in-kitchen course and be sure to share stories about when you’ve made the dish and why it’s your favorite.
If eating better is on both of your minds, find a class or try a new recipe that puts a healthier twist on an old fave family dish. Or simply use the moment to refocus on the delight of spending time together in aprons and at the table, savoring the relationship and reasonable portions, rather than frantic, rushed, or drive-through meals you’re used to.
6. Kick it with some old-fashioned children’s games. Spend a funny, fabulous afternoon with your young child or child who is still young at heart playing classic, active games like hopscotch, t-ball, jacks, and on the playground.
Feel the angst from all those angsty childhood moment melt away — the ones from the days your parents insisted you become a croquet champion or learn the precise skills needed for four-square when you revisit the games with your family. You will have fun; I kid you not. And if you don’t, you can certainly say once and for all you’ve been right all these years about how horrid tetherball really is.
Calorie-burn bonus: Amazingly, you can burn a whopping 340 calories per hour while having fun with chalk and bouncy balls. Just be sure you know your body’s limits and you take lots of pictures of your retired mother or toddler daughter hanging upside down on the monkey bars.