Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mum's the word

My mother passed away when I was 18. I write this as a matter-of-fact, without any self-pity because the truth is that we never shared a close relationship. She was an authoritarian figure, who believed her word was law, whether or not she made sense. And there I was, this questioning teenager who wanted to know the reason and rationale behind each action. It was a clash in worldviews that could not be reconciled.

Her parenting style was typical of parents that generation. You obeyed or you got scolded (or caned). They showed their love by providing food on the table, a shelter and other necessities. Providing emotional support was not in their handbook. Neither was consultation. My mother would sometimes throw away my toys when I wasn't home, and I wasn't allowed to complain. Her love felt conditional, like it depended on me doing well in school. I guess that's how they were brought up themselves and they didn't know any other alternatives.

I'm not saying the fault was all hers. As my sister sometimes reminds me, I was a broody, grumpy teenager. I wasn't exactly a ray of sunshine to live with either. But I remember that each time I felt my parents did something completely unreasonable, I would tell myself, "if I ever become a parent, I would never do that to my kids!"

Of course now that we're parents ourselves, we often laugh at our childish promises. Some of my friends tell me they have completely turned into their mothers. "Do you think money grows on trees?" "Cry? I'll give you something to cry about!" or more likely in Singlish: "Hah? You got WHAT in maths? Want to die issit?!"

But one part of me never forgot the promise I made to myself that I would try to be the kind of parent I wished I had (the operative word being "try"). I was fortunate to have role models in the form of my late piano teacher and an aunt. From them, I understood the importance of unconditional love and care, and strove to do the same for my kids. There have been many instances of failure, of course. I've lost count of the number of times I've yelled "Just do what I say!" when challenged by my kids instead of offering a reason. When I'm frazzled, tired or lazy, it's easier to snap, "Go away!" than answer their questions.

Still, I know my bond with my kids is way stronger than the one I ever had with my parents. And when Mother's Day comes around, I'm reminded of how blessed I am in this respect. To be able to chat with my daughter like we're best friends, despite her strong will and stubborn streak, and even write books with her without us trying to kill each other. To have the sweetest teenage son who shares his thoughts with me as readily as he shares his hugs.

I've spoken to many mums and I'm aware that some feel very distant from their kids. Yet, despite our human failings and imperfections, we can build beautiful relationships, if the intent and the commitment is there. Don't give up. That's the encouragement I hope to share with all mothers out there who might be wishing they had better relationships with their kids. It might take some time, it may seem impossible now, but I truly believe anything is possible. Few things in life are stronger than a mother's love and will.

So this Mothers' Day, I wish you the blessings of a child that's close to you. Love fiercely, continuously and unconditionally, so that your children may share your heart and shine brightly for others. Happy Mothers' Day!


Anonymous said...

Dear Monica
What an absolutely uplifting piece!

Wah lau eh, what else can I say?
Happy Mama Day to you!


monlim said...

Hahaha, Grace, you make me laugh! Thanks for ever being so supportive and Happy Mother's Day to you too!

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