Tell me if you’ve been here before.
You spend a great deal of time, energy, thought, and money to pick out the absolute perfect gift for your mother. Just a note here for husbands: this could equally apply to how you choose the gift for your wife. To keep this simple, however, we will just say “mom”.
You research ideas. Givers and receivers both give high marks, commenting extremely favorably, almost giddily, on an item. While the cost is more than you usually spend, your mom is definitely worth it.
You are so tickled with your choice that you cannot wait for her to unwrap it and swoon at its awesomeness.
Finally, Mother’s Day arrives. You give her the present, and, well, she seems appreciative. You just thought that she would be more excited. Perhaps she just needs to get it out of the box and use it to see what an inspired choice it was.
But that joy and exuberance never transpire, and you later discover your gift hanging out with the dust bunnies in a bedroom closet.
So what went wrong?
Perhaps you have overlooked important clues about choosing gifts that make her heart sing…
You may not know your mom’s love language
Are you familiar with the five love languages, as described by Dr. Gary Chapman in his books? I wrote about about them previously:
Have you ever met with a teacher, computer tech, doctor, lawyer, or other professional, and found your eyes glazing as they used words and phrases that were meaningless to you, but were the heart and soul, the language, of their profession?
It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
Did you know that every member of your family, including you, has your own special love language and that when you learn to speak it fluently, your relationships flourish?
Each and every one of us speaks primarily in one of languages, which resonates and fills our emotional love tank to overflowing when it is spoken back to us. These languages are known as Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.
While we each have a natural fluency in one of these areas, we don’t tend to be aware of which one, how they impact us, and especially where to look to determine which is our native tongue.
She may have hidden her language amongst thorns.
Oftentimes we get frustrated by things our moms say, especially complaints or requests we hear repeatedly.
Instead of paying attention and learning from this information, we may just make the same old conciliatory sounds—un huh—or just tune them out.
Wives, this goes for us as well. How often and regularly do we complain to our husbands about things that go undone, or a lack of effort or enthusiasm for something? And how often are we angry because we get a half-hearted, distracted response?
But it is in those very annoying words that the nuggets of treasure can be found, like beautiful roses that sit amidst their thorny branches. If you have difficulty seeing those annoyances as a blessing, remember the admonition from 1 Thessalonians to be thankful in all circumstances.
Learning your mom’s love language
First, let’s take a look at the list of the five languages again, with a description from Dr. Chapman’s website:
Words of Affirmation. Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
Quality Time. In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Receiving Gifts. Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service. Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
Physical Touch. This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
For a quick determination, think about what your mom asks for or complains about. Does she state that you never say how much you appreciate her? Rather than rolling your eyes again, think in terms of Words of Affirmation. When you ask what is on her list, does she invariably say that just spending time with you is enough? Then there is a good possibility that Quality Time is her language. Does she grumble that you never buy her anything? Receiving Gifts is worth a look. Does she complain that she never gets help around the house? You might want to look at Acts of Service as the primary way to show your love. Is she hurt when you shrug off her hugs, or when you call instead of paying her a visit? Very possibly Physical Touch is her dialect.
These are a few, very simple examples of what you can look for as you search for her love language. Another suggestion is to look at what or how she gives, because we often give what we desire most. For more detailed information, you can read Dr. Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, or visit his website.
Fitting the gift to the love language
She enjoys eating out at expensive restaurants, and you favor take-out. She adores fresh flowers and cards, while you see them as a huge waste of money. She loves attending cultural events, but you are more at home on a hiking trail. You have to remember: this isn’t about you and what you want. However, that doesn’t mean you must compromise your principals to give a meaningful gift. It just means choosing a gift that fits her love language, your budget and beliefs.
Take your best guess on her love language, compare that to your list of ideas, and see where the two intersect. Just in case you need some help, here are two terrific posts with wonderful gift suggestions. I have no doubt you can find an idea that suits you and your mom wonderfully.
The Gypsy Mama-100 Mother’s Day Gifts I’d Totally Give Myself
Power of Moms-Simple and Meaningful Mother’s Day Ideas
For example, if your mom speaks Quality Time, choose a gift that allows the two of you to spend uninterrupted time together, whether on a long and leisurely walk, or on a get-away weekend. For Words of Affirmation, write a short and sweet letter, or record a video of you and other family members telling her how much she means to you.
Just take the time to find a fit. Once you have learned her language and speak it regularly and fluently, you might be delightfully surprised by the response. And you definitely won’t find your gifts languishing in the back of the closet anymore.
Please share how are you matching your mom’s love language to her gift. If you have suggestions for others, please share as well!
Image credit- Jason A Samfield via Flickr