On this day, my 33rd birthday, I’ve decided to write about a subject that’s been on my mind all year. This time of the year brings a bittersweet reminder for me. A reminder of the person who has played a pivotal role in shaping me and how I can not take her for granted, for everyone’s days are numbered.
There was a very long period (too long) in my childhood and my youth, where I resented my mom. I wanted her to be someone else. I wanted her to be like the other mothers. In a very low and vulnerable moment in my childhood, I even told her this. Twenty years later (maybe more) I still cringe at my disrespect and complete misunderstanding of who this woman was and why she was this way. I wanted her to dress like other moms, walk like other moms, talk like other moms, behave like other moms, and I probably even wanted her to think like other moms. Basically, I wanted her to be someone who she was not. Under the spell of some negative adult influences, and later in the midst of my adolescent angst, I must have said and heard back countless awful words in this mother-daughter relationship which I assumed was doomed.
It was during the course of a brief yet traumatic phase in my teens where I slowly learned that my mom was probably going to be the only champion I would ever truly have in my life. That night when I cried with my head in her lap, when I felt afraid for my future and for my standing with other members of my family, I felt like my mother was here to stay forever. With no judgment, no punishment, no abandonment, she would be my rock. From a culture where girls are encouraged to carry themselves in a way that leads them to be stereotypically “desirable” wives, daughter-in-laws, and mothers, my mom unknowingly taught me the meaning of feminism. But of course that part only came to me a few years ago. If only I knew then what I know now.
When my kids became toddlers, I began to catch myself acting and sounding like my mom. You know that comedic dialogue we always hear on TV, “I sound like my mother!” That kind of thing… In essence, of course I act and sound like my mom at times. I am her daughter after all. She raised me. She endured my tantrums, my stubbornness, my bad attitude, and everything else I am currently enduring with my little ones. I’m pretty sure I can look forward to the next 15 years of this wonderfulness (she also did tell me that one day karma would come around!). But hey, I’m proud to say I turned out decent. At 33, I may have not reached all the goals I had envisioned for myself but everything I have received and earned in life is due to her unconditional love and prayers. Whether it was finding a lost bracelet, passing my driver’s exam, or marrying the love of my life, none of it would have been possible without her unwavering prayers and support.
So what does a great mother really look like? Is there a dress code? At one point my mom’s favourite thing to do was wear my big brother’s hand-me-downs. Is there a language code? For those of you that know her, wasn’t my mom’s language quite colourful? Haha! Is there a schedule she’s supposed to follow? My mother worked night shift for many years, sometimes I wouldn’t be able to see her before 10pm. Is there a wife-code? Does a mother’s relationship with her child’s father necessarily define her ability to raise her children? I’ve learned a phD’s worth of lessons from my parents’ marriage.
On my birthday today, I pay homage today to the lionesses, the ones with the silent ferocity to undertake whatever life and people throw at them. The ones who refuse to wear socks or drink milk, the ones who hoard bed sheets from the 1980s and enjoy shopping at the dollar store for bathroom mats. The ones who cook meals that are too spicy or too salty, but the aroma fills the house with the smell of childhood and makes our mouth water. The ones who give practical advice like, “Don’t drink milk after eating fish,” or simply, “Don’t ever break someone’s heart.” The ones who would go to the ends of the earth for their children, stand up against what’s wrong and support us in what’s right. Today I hold in my heart the mothers whose prayers blanket our lives with daily protection, whether they are with us, or whether their prayers are sent from Paradise.
Without mom, I’d be an insignificant fraction of who I am today.