“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” - Maya Angelou
Who is a mother? While you ponder that, let me share two stories with you.
Tawiah goes to sea
She met a stranger with a storybook on her way from work. Her little girl would love to read that book, she thought. She approached the stranger and asked if she could borrow the book. The stranger didn’t mind, but, they didn’t know each other. How would she get the book back? She followed the stranger to her house, the place to return the book. Then the stranger accompanied her to see where she lived, in case she failed to return the book. She escorts the stranger all the way back to the stranger’s house, before finally coming home to take care of the evening meals and other chores, after a long day of teaching. That is how I came to read Tawiah goes to sea at the age of 7. My mother borrowed the book from a total stranger, just for my reading pleasure.
A dreadful letter
Unlike the first story, this second story is an incident with a bitter-sweet stamp taste. As is common with most teenagers, I disagreed with my mother on many things. On the flip side, as is common with almost all mothers, her love for me never wavered, or waned. As a sixth form student, I felt quite capable of being my own woman. Away in boarding school, my mother offered to accommodate one of her friends who hard temporarily fallen on hard times. The arrangement meant I would lose my room. I was livid. I wrote her a very terrible letter (yes, a letter; those were the days before cell phones and instant messaging). After posting the letter, I began to regret it. I wished I could recall it. I learnt later that my mother cried when she read the letter. I tried to apologise somehow, but I knew nothing could erase the awful words.
Eight years after the incident, my mother passed on. Sorting through her things, I found letters, Christmas and birthday cards dating as far back as when I was a girl. I was looking for that particular letter. I searched everywhere; I did not find the letter! My dear mother decided not only to forgive me for the ill-advised epistle, but to ‘delete’ it altogether. Sitting on her bed, surrounded by her memory, I cried my heart out; I cried for the mother who so loved me; the mother who chose to keep all the beautiful memories, and none of the dreadful ones. That was my mother.
Celebrate the woman in Mum
Have you ever looked at your mother as a woman, not just ‘mum’, or caregiver but a real woman with a woman’s needs, passions, dreams, and pains?
Coming into full maturity with real responsibilities opened my eyes to the woman my mother was; a woman who kept on loving and giving even when her heart was breaking; a woman who stood strong and tall when the man who promised to love her became a nightmare, our nightmare. We rarely think of mum as someone who suffers heartbreak. While we cry about our aches and hurts, she nurses hers quietly.
I know now that my mother experienced every emotion I am experiencing as a woman. I see now what I failed to see then - a woman who carried her beauty and scars with grace.
‘Mother’ is a woman; over and above being a mother, she is a woman. She is first a woman before she becomes a mother. Consider the basic cravings you have as a woman or human being and remember mum has those too. Treat her as a mother by all means; but remember the woman she is and treat her as such, often.
Most precious gift
Mothers’ day is not about buying gifts for mum. It is about appreciating the woman she was, is, and will continue to be. If your mother is alive, I urge you to begin to talk to her as a woman. Let her teach you how she made it through the cold nights, the emotional storms, the disappointments, the heartbreaks. Encourage her to share her heart with you, with the assurance you will listen with love and not judge her. Open up to her about your hopes and fears. She knew you as a child, and maybe a young adult. Give her the opportunity to know you as a man or woman. It will please her more than silver and gold.
Celebrate your mother-in-law for the years of being strong outside when she was cracking and splintering within, just so she could raise your spouse as best as she could. If you think she is ‘impossible’ (maybe she really is), remember she too is a woman who had to make sacrifices for her children. Find a way to appreciate her without pandering to her ‘impossibilities’. Find room in your heart for her; decode her impossibilities, you may be surprised what you find. She may simply be wearing an emotional mask she has worn for so long that she has forgotten how to take it off, or never figured out how to take it off when the time came.
To Our Mothers
It is not enough to tell your daughters (especially) what is good or bad. Explain the whys and hows. Many rebellions are solely due to misunderstanding. Share with your daughters the secrets of emotional strength you have gathered over the years.
Tell them your story, when they are entering manhood or womanhood. Help them to see you as a woman, not just ‘mum’.
Sons and Daughters
Mother is a mother and a woman; appreciate both sides of her person. Respect and take care of both. The woman may fall in love with a man you do not approve of; it is not your place to judge her. Just love her as she has done through your many ‘misbehaviours’.
Make time for your mother. Just as you make time to meet with the girls or boys to catch-up, do same with mum. Don’t breeze in and out with the children. Don’t treat her like a convenient baby sitter or an ancient tree without emotions. Make time, with and without the children.
If your relationship with your mother is not in the best of shapes, consider that there may be a million pains she had to deal with which fortunately affected your relationship. Forgive her. Forgive yourself.
As a young career woman, I was focused on building a career to make us both proud. In the process, I neglected what mattered most. I started full-time work in May 2002. My mother died in September 2003. I remember when I would come home late from work and find her waiting for me. I felt she was being overprotective and kept asking her to lay-off. I would greet her, ask her how she was doing, and head for my room. I know now that what I should have done was to put my bag down, sit beside her, take her hand and thank her for waiting for me. I should have asked her to tell me all about her day; and given her glimpses into mine (remember how we told them everything that happened in school when we were toddlers? They still want to hear all about your life, within reasonable limits of course). I should have made time over the weekends to share a meal with her (I worked most weekends, unfortunately, including the day she died, but that is a story for another day). I regret not giving back to this wonderful woman a quarter of everything she gave me. I missed the opportunity because I somehow assumed there would be time for that; I thought there was more time ahead. Boy! Was I wrong!
If your mother is still alive, kick back, and enjoy one of God’s most amazing gifts to humanity – mothers. Celebrate your mother today, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is not promised.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all women. Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological function.
“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes