A Lesson From My Mom
Growing up, my mother was never the kind of woman who praised her kids for the little things. She rarely told us how proud she was of our accomplishments. She didn’t shower us in the conventional praise that you often hear being shared between a mother and a child. I don’t believe she didn’t actually feel pride, joy, or love - I believe she didn’t overtly tell us because that’s how she was raised. She is Japanese and the culture dictates that you keep your head down and work hard. You are supposed to do what you need for the betterment of your family, without being boastful or egotistical. But what she didn’t always have the words to say, she showed; we felt her love through her actions. And because of this, my sister and I lived our childhoods rich in affection and full of happiness.
I have a vivid memory from my childhood that I often recall in the dead of night, as I lay in bed after being awoken by one of my own children. In this memory, I am about 4-years-old and I am suffering from chicken pox. I can transport myself back to this memory as if it were just yesterday. I can picture what my room looked like, how my bed was positioned, and feel the itch on my skin. I am incredibly uncomfortable as I cry out for my mom. She comes into my room, eases herself onto my bed, and lays with me. She gently rubs my hair and tells me in quiet tones, not to scratch. The feeling of her next to me and the sound of her voice keeps me calm long enough to be lulled back to sleep. Her love was always present when I needed it.
Almost five years ago, I gave birth to our first-born child. My mother made it a priority to be there for me through the birth and for the first week postpartum. The days following Maelle’s delivery were chaotic at best; a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Like most first-time moms, I struggled with wanting to do it all, not knowing how to do everything, and only asking for help when the rigours of motherhood were too much to bear. Like a vivid dream, I can picture myself back in our old house - I am in the nursery we painted just for Maelle with a second-hand crib and all of the baby essentials dotted around the room. I am sitting in the rocker, crying as my mom comforts me. Frustrated and tired, I pass Maelle to my mom who miraculously settles her into a state of calm. I can’t recall exactly what she said but, I can remember the feeling. Her words wrapped around me brought a sense of solace and peace in an otherwise confusing and tumultuous time. Her love was always present when I needed it.
Not too long ago, when Linden was about 18-months-old, we visited my parents in Vancouver. I was in the process of bathing Linden when I noticed that he had pooped in the bathtub. Of course, I whisked him out of the tub quickly as I tried to clean and bleach the affected area. As I’m cleaning the tub, Linden squats down and takes another poop on their bath mat. I start to panic - picking up the bath mat and trying to hose it down in the already contaminated tub. Meanwhile, Linden runs out the door and squats down, taking one final poop on their cream-colored carpet. In a state of hysteria, I call down to my mom who quickly runs upstairs, stunned at the situation unfolding before her eyes. With one final act of brilliance, Linden sits down on the floor leaving a toddler-sized butt-print of poop smudged into their carpet. Without hesitation my mom jumps in to lend a hand, laughing as she cleans him up and takes him to get ready for the night. I scrub the carpets relentlessly, using every carpet and upholstery cleaner my mom offers up. She gets into it with me - helping to deep clean the carpet as best as possible despite the mess being solely the result of my child. The next day, she hires a carpet cleaner to take care of the mess that we couldn’t remove. While we laugh and joke about it now, at the time it was stressful and downright disgusting. But my mom was there. Her love was always present when I needed it.
So, although my mother may not have been the kind of person to shout her love for her daughters from the rooftops or give out praise readily, she taught me the most important lessons when it comes to love. She taught me that love isn’t about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the ones you love through the highlights of life, cheering through the good times, and being boastful through success. She taught me that love, is in fact, the exact opposite. Love is about being present at the very worst of times. Love means showing up when you would rather be anywhere else. She showed me that love is finding true happiness in the happiness of another. Love is being there through sickness, through challenging times, and when life is, quite literally, shit. And just because she didn’t say it often, it doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it every day. Because her love was always present when I needed it.
So when times get tough on my own personal motherhood journey, I always think “what would my mom do?” I think about how she may not have always wanted to be in the trenches, but she jumped in head-first every single time. I want to do for my kids what she did for me. I want them to know that my love exists at the very worst times so that through the very best times they never question its existence. Because my love will be present whenever they need it.