(Editor’s note: This column was first published in 2013.)

Mother’s Day is billed (probably by Hallmark) as a time for us to send cards and give gifts to show our appreciation for all that our moms have done for us.

In preschools across the country, children shape and glue and paint sweet Mother’s Day presents that only a mother could love. Hip teens buy gift cards to Mom’s favorite coffee joint or bookstore.

Those mothers who are no longer with us get their share of gratitude too. I think a lot about my late mother around this time of year. Now that I’m an experienced mother (for 30-plus years now), I get why she was such a great mom.

As kids, my siblings and I would shower her with gifts and cards and flowers, and she was always so delighted to receive these tokens of our love. She would ooooh and ahhhhh over the silliest handmade macaroni necklaces and zany handprint aprons and still-sticky magazine photo collages.

We would be all proud of ourselves for giving the best gift she had ever received, because she made each of us feel that our gift was indeed the best.

Beyond Mother’s Day, my mother made each of her six children feel that we were her favorite – even though there was an unwritten rule that moms can’t have favorites. But somehow, Mom managed to sidestep the rule.

I was special because I was the first baby of her union with my father. She had two children by a previous marriage and Dad already had a daughter.

For a time, I was both the oldest and the youngest. And I was the only one born with naturally curly blonde hair. Surely these things made me her favorite.

But she had other favorites too.

The eldest was her beautiful stepdaughter, so responsible and kind, with whom she formed an instant and lasting bond, not as “steps” to one another, but as mother and daughter.

Next was her firstborn, her biological daughter, the spunky, fun-loving, thrill-seeking one who joined the Marine Corps at age 18.

Then came her first son, the handsome athlete with a rich singing voice, the take-charge guy who Mom hoped would be a preacher. He became a big-city mortgage banker instead.

After me came her baby son, who was a bit shy and reserved, but adorable, loving and had a big heart.

Finally, there was the baby of the family, the sweet, golden daughter who always stayed close to home – the one who would end up taking care of our parents when the rest of us couldn’t be there.

All Mom’s children were favorites.

How could she pull that off? How can anyone?

I think the first step is to recognize what my mom knew long ago: a mother’s children are her greatest gifts.

Mothers are given these precious, helpless little souls to nurture, teach and love. As they grow into the people they will become, mothers continue to nurture and guide them, encouraging all along the way.

A mom will find those unique attributes of each child and let that one know why and how he or she is special. She will emphasize the positive characteristics, encourage the uniqueness of each child, celebrate each talent. She will discourage bad choices but still love unceasingly a child who makes a mistake.

Moms, your best Mother’s Day gift is standing right in front of you, holding a carefully wrapped, beribboned and over-taped package. The best gift of all is that child, beaming with pride, confident in being your favorite.

Happy Mother’s Day.