As Mothers’ Day approaches, and I consider how increasingly serious my mum’s threats of physical violence get year on year when I dare to spend money on her, I have decided to write a blog. No one is a bigger fan of my writing than she is, and I’d like to hold her enthusiasm for as long as possible until she comes to terms with the conflicting reality of wanting to be a woman kept by her rich daughter when her daughter’s only skill is to string a sentence together.
My mum, the breadwinner at the time, was thrust into single parenthood when my dad died suddenly a couple of months before my fourth birthday. It’s not my intention for this to be a sob story, but to lose your partner of twenty years sounds incomprehensibly devastating enough to me without also having to be able to hold yourself together sufficiently to see your toddler daughter through it with minimum trauma. Of course, I’m sure most would have stepped up to the plate as there’s no choice in the matter when there’s a kid in the equation, but my mum stepped up to the plate with an arsenal of superhuman weaponry in tow and hasn’t moved since. Not so much a sob story as a story of my mum having the strength of a thousand suns. It’s something that hits me more the older I get – we still joke about it, and thankfully it has never been a case of ‘oh, better not mention that in case someone gets upset’ as I know can happen in some families, but the gravity of what she must have gone through is sobering to contemplate.
Since then (and before, I’m sure, but I was too busy learning to talk and watching Chuckle Brothers to take an existential view on my parents’ devotion to me) everything my mum has done has been for me. Everything. I am so aware of this and should probably show it more often. Maybe it’s an obligation since it was her choice to burden me with a life, sure, but many still wouldn’t have and I can’t think of many friends who have as good a relationship with their mum as I do. The two don’t come hand in hand, either – she could have put all her energy into ensuring I had the best life possible and we could still have ended up struggling to get on as personalities. Fortunately, I went down the becoming-friends-with-your-mum-in-adulthood route, and I’m sure she’d agree that when we fall out it tends to be a symptom of our similarities. Or maybe she wouldn’t, because she’s too stubborn to admit that I’m always right. Who knows…
There is so little I wouldn’t tell my mum, because it’s very important to her that I feel that comfort where she didn’t. She cuddled me in her bed at 2am as I sobbed my way through my first heartbreak, she was always just a phonecall away and eager to listen when it happened another couple of times, she accepted that her 14 year old emo was in it for the long haul and took me to see Fall Out Boy outside of Scotland for the first time, she uprooted everything and sold the house she’d lived in for decades so that we could move to South Queensferry and I could enjoy the social life that comes with high school, she quit her managerial job at a family centre to take up full time childminding in order to be at home for me after my primary caregiver kicked the bucket, she came on a three hour whale watching trip with me in Boston on a day of huge swells despite being prone to terrible sea sickness, she threw me a wonderfully fun 21st, she didn’t sulk too much when she became known as Jojo among all my friends and she didn’t pass down to me her side of the family’s height.
Really, you’ve never known selflessness if you don’t know my mum. It’s something I wish I’d inherited more of. Perhaps the main lesson I learned from her is how to be a mother in life – not (just) to a child, but how to take on the mother role in every situation you find yourself in. She absolutely does this, considering the needs of others and doing what she can to cater to them before she even stops to think about her own. I can see her getting better at putting herself first guilt-free, though, and I hope that’s something I pick up from her too. (Self development has no age limit, kids.)
Here are some other things I learned from her. Noticeably missing from this list is anything related to DIY, as despite her best efforts I will always be useless in that respect.
- There is strength in vulnerability. I hate to drop a bombshell here, but I’m a pretty sensitive person. My mum is too. I tend to be consumed by my feelings, not knowing how to feel anything in moderation and letting anxiety override any sense of control I think I may have. My mum is somewhat better at this than me. She is very much a get up and do, no matter what kind of person whereas I’m still working my way there. Despite this, she has never taught me to shut myself off from feeling things or become hardened by my experiences – she is very much a proponent of the idea that life is much better lived having felt everything than having felt nothing. And at the end of the day, knowing that you can pick yourself up even from feeling at your lowest is a pretty good back bone-builder when you’re having to do it all the damn time.
- Magic exists and it’s in how you see things. I’m a total romantic, but not specifically in the dating sense – I find magic in all sorts of places in a way which gives me an almost childlike appreciation for life some of the time, but it’s a trait I’ve inherited which I value a hell of a lot. I could name cities, people and songs which have really struck me as magic and when I’ve encountered them it really felt like they had been waiting there to be found by me all along. My mum made sure I always knew that I should never feel obliged to settle for ordinary in any aspect of life if I don’t otherwise want to.
- There is very little that can’t be fixed using tea tree oil. Well, maybe debt or war or something. Has anyone tried?
- That moral compass of ours is impossible to ignore for a reason. An extremely strong sense of right and wrong, justice and fairness is something my mum and I both share (and mine is probably even more severe). I’m not quick to anger but if I feel one of my values being broken, whether it be in my own relationships, those I’m observing or on a much bigger scale, I become a bit of an unstoppable, infuriated, righteous wank of a force. I treasure empathy but I treasure honesty even more and if you break my moral code the latter will very much become my priority over anyone’s feelings. My mum has taught me to enjoy it, though, rather than feeling frustrated with myself for feeling frustrated with others. Our moral cores are something we’ve developed over time, constantly measuring ourselves up against it. It might have made me fiery but it has never led me wrong.
- How to make the best scrambled eggs. Truly. So light.
- Everything is temporary. This is one lesson I didn’t take heed of until I had experienced being in a wow this is the worst anything could possibly be and nothing will ever improve ever again situation myself and gotten out of it, but knowing that everything could change in a second – for better or for worse – is the thought that gets me out of bed some days.
Your 20s is most definitely a time of finally figuring yourself out, but it also might just be a time to start listening to the things your mother was trying to teach you all along. Happy Mothers’ Day.