This Sunday, Mother’s Day will be celebrated in many countries around the world, including China. My husband is currently away on business and won’t be here, as he extended his trip to meet friends and play golf in a paradisiacal location. Sure, it would be nice to have him here for a family meal, but the point is, neither of us thinks it’s a big enough deal to fly back to Shanghai and celebrate. I’m not sure if these are guilty excuses (golf in paradise trumps Mother’s Day, even for me), but he also had a point that I’m not his mother and that it’s more about the kids making cards and treats for me. Neither of us is into the whole commercialization of things, but that’s not to say we don’t celebrate. Typically I’d receive flowers and breakfast in bed, potentially followed up with a family dinner out. Given he’s not around though, I decided to cave into a little indulgent commercialization. Since our kids are too young to go shopping on their own, I saw something I liked and decided it should be my Mother’s Day present. I figured it’s a win-win; I know I love it, and the kids are as excited as I am to find out what’s in the package!
Plus, I’m not going to be alone. My mother is here for the week, so we will celebrate together which is nice, especially for the kids who are excited to have their grandparents visiting. Yesterday they ran around our compound introducing their friends, some who also have their grandparents here. We live in an international environment, and it’s always interesting to meet your friends’ families as everyone has different dynamics; whether influenced by culture or relationships. It can make you reflect on your own situation. Although Mother’s Day isn’t a big deal for our immediate family, it’s nice to see how others treat it. For me, it is a time to enjoy my kids, reflect on what kind of a Mom I want to be and see if I am fulfilling my ambitions. I already know the answer, but frankly, I don’t know if I can live up to it.
What is the answer? It presented itself to me unexpectedly four years ago while I was attending a funeral. I wasn’t looking for it, but the moment it happened, I knew. The mother of a close friend of my husband passed away, and as he was traveling and couldn’t attend the service, he asked me to represent him. I was nervous about going because I didn’t know the family very well, but the experience became a life-defining moment for me.
What his friend said in honor of her mom blew me away, and I knew instantly that this was the kind of relationship I wanted with my (then, only) daughter. As she went up to the podium to deliver her eulogy, she was sobbing and unable to speak. A few of her friends stood with her in support. She paused, then gathered herself enough to plead to the sky “what do I do when you’re not around because when something like this happens to me, you are who I immediately run to?” Floods of tears started everywhere, and I too began sobbing (and I’m not a crier). The raw honesty, hurt, sadness and openness she displayed in front of hundreds of people at the funeral that day, was typical of the genuine and open relationship she had with her mother. Those who knew the family were aware of this bond. I had met her mother and heard her talk about their relationship, so I also knew it to be true. At that moment, I knew that this is what I wanted for my daughter. Not just ‘being a mom’ or attending to their basic needs - I wanted for them, this legacy - a real, authentic and trusting relationship. I called my husband after the funeral, telling him about it, and he too was moved.
A few weeks later we went to visit our friend and I explained how her eulogy had affected me. I said I also wanted that closeness with my daughter and asked her thoughts on how she had developed this with her mother? She said that she told her mother everything (even after marriage, extremely personal things) because her mother never judged her and she was her best friend, even as a teenager. Her mother always listened to her, encouraged her and supported her.
I listened, a little in awe, because although they may seem like small things, to do this all day, every day for each child is aspirational. I’m certainly not there yet, but I feel blessed to have witnessed something so magically and inspiringly personal that I can aim to achieve myself.
That’s what Mother’s Day is for me - to assess if I’m the kind of mom I want to be, especially in moments where I’m at my wit's end and losing my patience. And, maybe it’s also a little bit about opening that package waiting for me in my older daughter’s bedroom!
[Images via pexels.com]
For more Dragon Mama, click here.