Start planning now for Mother's Day, May 9. Whether you're a son or a father, this is one celebration you don't want to botch.

Pick what to shower your loved one with, be it flowers, a coupon for time alone, jewelry, a gift basket, brunch out, or breakfast in bed. Keep her interests in mind.

For the mother with a sense of humor, try: "Didn't I Feed You Yesterday: A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos" (Ballantine Books, 2010, $24) by Laura Bennett of Manhattan, who was pregnant with baby No. 6 when she competed as a novice fashion designer on season 3 of "Project Runway."

Bennett's advice includes: There is no such thing as being a perfect mother. Also, overprotective mothering can be damaging.

"Sheltering children from every evil in the world as if they were precious pets does them a disservice; decision-making is a skill, learned from the time they are small," she writes. Humor is the route to survival.

Another humorous book is "Balance is a Crock, Sleep is for the Weak: A Bitterly Funny and Indispensable Guide to Surviving Working Motherhood" (Avery, 2010, $16) by Amy Eschliman and Leigh Oshirak, marketing executives who are moms. The two write about going "from the board room to the play room," and telling "women how to climb the corporate ladder with a diaper bag."

Start Mother's Day off right with breakfast in bed on a tray with store-bought flowers or a handpicked bouquet. Let Mom sleep a little later.

Other ideas:

--Because of their around-the-clock job, mothers crave the gift of time, to read a book or just to take a shower without interruption, work on a scrapbook without tiny helpers or work in the garden alone.

--Create a coupon book with gift certificates from dad and freebies from your child, such a "will brush my teeth without complaining."

--Some preschool teachers ask their students to draw portraits of their mothers, then respond to a few questions, such as: "What is your mother's favorite activity?" and "How old is your mother?"

Moms may crave time for themselves. But Charlotte Reznick, Ph.D., a child educational psychologist, says there are immediate and long-term benefits to the time mothers spend with their kids.

Spending quality time with your child helps you understand "where he or she is at," Reznick says, and gives you an opportunity to have fun together, an important aspect of child development.

Reznick shares two activities to do with kids on Mother's Day:

--Make "Me" Portraits. With a marker, trace the outline of your bodies on an old sheet. Decorate your self-portraits with symbols, colors, words and pictures.

--Make a mini-movie. Using a smart phone, flip cam or video camera, write, star in and produce your own movie.

Mother's Day isn't lighthearted when mothers are forgotten and left to feel lonesome in nursing homes.

Also, be considerate of bereaved mothers: Mother's Day can be painful for mothers whose children have died. "I feel that we are often ignored in the celebration of Mother's Day and other significant holidays," one mother says.

Betsy Flagler is a journalist based in Davidson, N.C.