Mother’s Day gifts are so easy when you’re a kid. Whether it’s a macaroni necklace, a homemade card or a book full of “Use this to redeem (1) free hug” coupons, literally anything you give your mom is automatically cute because you’re a child.
It’s not until you get older that Mother’s Day gifts turn into a daunting task. For me, getting older meant understanding how much work my mom put into being a parent, and how much she and my dad sacrificed to raise me and my two siblings.
I’ve always been very close with my family, and my mom in particular. Although since my brother and I moved away from home years ago, and my sister started her first year of college this past year, it has become more and more rare that we’re all in the same place at the same time.
So knowing all of this, how could one annual gift repay my mom for the entire lifetime she’s given me?
I think I figured it out this year: tickets to a BTS concert with my sister and me.
OK, let’s backtrack a little bit. For starters, if you’ve never heard of the mega-superstar, global phenomenon, Korean pop group BTS, read this primer first, or you might get a little lost.
BTS has had mainstream success for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until a year ago when my younger sister Julie started talking about them that I knew who they were.
I thought my teen fandom years were behind me, but BTS proved me wrong. I was in pretty deep, but it also became a fun thing for me to bond with my sister over. We’ve had some overlapping interests in the past, but this was the first time we both really shared a love for something. When I saw Julie over the holidays, we’d crack jokes and watch BTS videos together.
When I saw that BTS was playing a concert at the Rose Bowl the weekend before Mother’s Day, I knew it was perfect: I could take a weekend trip home to Los Angeles to see the concert with my sister, and also have an early Mother’s Day celebration with my family.
I floated the idea by my dad who then asked, “Do you think you could get three tickets?” I was confused, who would the third ticket be for?
“Your mom,” my dad responded.
Unbeknown to me, while my sister and I were watching BTS videos together and cracking inside jokes, my mom was doing some research on her own. Last Christmas she had made small BTS-themed pins for my sister and me, when she stumbled across some interviews with the group on YouTube.
“I mean of course at first I was just trying to understand what your sister was so excited about,” my mom told me. “But the more I watched their music videos and interviews, I became intrigued about their marketing and how everything is put together. And when you, my older daughter, started liking BTS, I knew I had to figure out what made them so special.”
I was taken aback because as brilliant as my mom is, she is generally not very pop-culture savvy. She still has trouble remembering all the group members’ names — she repeatedly refers to Jungkook as “John Cook” — but has grown to appreciate the group, and not just because my sister and I like them.
So with the tip from my dad, my sister and I decided to take my mom to a BTS concert for Mother’s Day.
I flew down to L.A. a few days before the show. When I arrived at my parents’ house from the airport, my mom loudly declared “I KNOW WHO J-HOPE IS NOW!”
Over the course of the weekend, my sister and I showed my mom more BTS music videos and quizzed her on which member was which. In some ways it changed my appreciation for BTS; of course I liked their music, but now it was something that I could share with my family.
At the concert, I was surprised to see how diverse the crowd was. Boy-band fans are often unfairly written off as hysterical teen girls, but here I saw people of all ethnicities, genders and ages.
There’s something inherently communal about the BTS fandom experience. Frequently fandoms can devolve into gatekeepers, reserved for only “true fans,” but ARMY actively pushes against this notion, welcoming everyone to appreciate BTS with them. ARMY prides itself on being an inclusive group, encouraging members to respect each other and practice one of BTS’ mottos: “Love yourself.”
I could dedicate an entirely separate article to describe the concert, but for the sake of brevity, BTS is a performance powerhouse, with each moment curated down to the finest detail. I thought that maybe I could hold it together since I was with my mom, but once Jungkook started flying over the stage, we both lost our minds.
I never thought that screaming at the sight of a bunch of talented, beautiful Korean boys would be an experience that I would ever share with my mom, yet there we were.
Toward the end of the concert, my mom pulled me and my sister in for a hug. A woman who was there with her daughter sitting behind us tapped my mom on the shoulder and commented, “I love seeing all these mother-daughter moments here!”
After the show, my sister left with friends who were driving her back to school in Northern California, so just my mom and I walked back to our car together.
Knowing that I was leaving the next day, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness.
Even though I have the immense privilege of being able to visit my family pretty frequently, there is a sense of bittersweetness every time I go. When I leave home, sometimes I get the feeling like I’m putting my L.A. life on pause, and starting my Seattle life back up. I get the feeling that my mom senses this as well.
All my relatives live in California; I’m the only one who has moved out of state. Even though we live in a technological age where we can stay connected via FaceTime and text, it feels like every time I’m at home is a fleeting moment to be treasured.
And sometimes those treasured moments are BTS concerts. Taking my mom to see BTS probably isn’t enough to repay her for the life she’s given me, but it feels like we’ve found a new thing to share and enjoy together. There’s nothing quite like singing lyrics to a song, in a language you don’t understand, along with your mom, sister and 50,000 strangers.
At the end of the concert, as BTS was saying goodbye to their fans, Jungkook said that he would never forget this night. And even if it was for different reasons, I thought, me too.