What to Give Your Parents When They Have Everything and Want Nothing

What to Give Your Parents When They Have Everything and Want Nothing
Photo: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

Mother’s Day is upon us, and Father’s Day is not far behind, which has many adult children everywhere scrambling to figure out what to get the man or woman who already has everything. At this point in their lives, our parents often want nothing and need nothing — because when they do want or need something, they simply go buy it. But we’ve got three gift ideas for your parents that won’t cost a fortune and will be more meaningful to them than any tangible present could ever be.

Events

Really, your parents just want to spend time with you. It doesn’t really matter where, and it doesn’t really matter when. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the amount of time parents spend with their children decreases as they get older, so it figures that your parents are going to be less keen on receiving a tie or jewellery, and more excited by the idea of a gift that’s a structured activity with you. Here are a few ideas:

  • A museum membership. If your parents ever took you to a museum as a kid, now’s the time to return the favour. A museum membership is a reusable and affordable gift, and a nice way to spend time together throughout the year.
  • Trip to the botanical gardens. Whether they’re an expert gardener or have never touched a hoe in their life, they’ll enjoy the fresh air and ambiance of a botanical garden, so long as they’re with you.
  • Tasting menu dinner. Tasting menus are a fun gift because they elevate a meal to an experience. It creates an environment rife for discussion as you try new foods and make the case for why your favourite dish was actually the best one.
  • Tickets to a minor league game. If your parents enjoy a good ballgame, you can take them — without going broke — by opting for a trip to see your local minor league team. The seats are closer to the action, and the hot dogs are actually affordable.
  • Dinner and a show. Treat them to a night out the way they probably often did in their youth with a bite to eat at their favourite restaurant, followed by whatever kind of “show” they like best, whether it’s a drive-in movie or a local theatre production.

A photo album

I’m of the mind that the best gift I can receive is something that I want to have, but would not have thought of, nor put the time in, to take care of myself. By that token, a great gift for either of your parents this Mother’s or Father’s Day season would be a good old-fashioned photo album. But instead of rehashing photos from the family group chat, try one of these ideas:

  • Year-by-year album. The best gift I’ve ever received is a photo album from my mum where every page included just one picture of her and me, starting the year I was born and going through to present day. Watching yourself grow and change on the page is a pretty trippy experience that gives you a lot of perspective for your relationship with your parents.
  • Revisit favourite family vacations. Whether it was the big trip to Disney that you took right before the pandemic, or pictures you’ve dug up of the annual beach vacations you used to take with your all your cousins, they’ll love to revisit pictures from vacations you enjoyed together.
  • Just them and the grandkids. If you’ve got kids, they’re probably more excited to see them than you these days (it’s normal). Go back and find some of your favourite pictures of them with the little ones, from the first time they held them, to blowing bubbles in the backyard, to celebrating their most recent birthday. (While you’re at it, have a copy made for the kids, too, so everyone can cherish the memories.)
  • Or keep it digital. A digital picture frame is probably something they haven’t splurged on because they don’t want the hassle of adding the pictures themselves. Plus, they’re not the ones capturing all those moments with the grandkids — you are. Buy them the frame, set it up for them, and send new images remotely whenever you get a shot you know they’ll like. They will be delighted every time a new image is added to the rotation.

More time to interact

There’s a chance that you’re not great at keeping in touch with your parents on a regular basis. If so, a simple gift they might appreciate is a structured plan for keeping in touch, such as:

  • A weekly phone call. You know what your parents want more than a tie or some jewellery? One day every week where they know they’ll hear from you. Tell them you’ve been wanting to connect with them more often and to expect a call from you next Sunday (and the Sunday after that).
  • A monthly lunch date. If you live near your parents and need the push to actually make it across town to see them in person more often, make a standing lunch day. The 15th of every month, or the third Friday (or whatever) can be your new dedicated lunch or happy hour date.
  • An on-going game of Words With Friends. Not every communication with your parents has to be so structured. Over the last few years, I’ve come to enjoy a nice, passive aspect of my relationship with my dad by always having a game of Words With Friends going with him. It’s a great, low-stakes way to maintain a frequency to our relationship, something to talk about when we get together, and also how I learned that “ba” is technically a word.

And remember: When in doubt, if they do have grandkids, something homemade from them is sure to be treasured above all else.

   

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