8 weeks ago my mother passed away. She suffered long and hard and finally cancer won as it does too frequently in too many families.
As she was nearing the end of her life, my father came to visit her. It was the first time in over 20 years that they had been in the same room as each other and that I had my “original” family – the three of us – together.
As they talked, like two old friends catching up, old wounds were set aside and they started to speak about me, who was still their baby even at 40.
My mother started to cry and said that I had achieved everything on my own, that she didn’t help me with anything in life.
The rest of the conversation doesn’t really matter. It is that singular sentence that has stayed with me and that I keep replaying in my mind.
The truth is that my parents gave me plenty. I can give you a list a mile long of the things that I didn’t have growing up – a Barbie doll, a new bike, new clothes, and tickets to concerts etc.
My parents and I came here as refugees and they worked tirelessly to put a roof over my head, put good food on the table and provided me with a great education. A lot more than some people have.
But the part that is bothering me about her comment is that it wasn’t actually the material things that I craved.
And even though the context in which she spoke was about money, I think that actually what she was talking about runs much deeper.
Working as hard as they did meant that I barely saw my parents. Don’t get me wrong, their intentions came from a good place and they did what they needed to do for the right reasons. I know now it is precisely because of them that I do have everything I have.
Upon reflection however, I think the one thing that was missing from all of our lives was time. Time spent together. Time enjoying each other.
And as I go through this excruciating mourning period, all that I want is my mother back.
All that I want is for her to have time with me, with her granddaughter and for herself. My memories of her, the ones I keep going back to, are the ones where we lay on the couch cuddled up together watching TV, laughing and being completely inappropriate, travelling and looking through our photographs.
When my daughter was born, I bought every kind of toy conceivable. We have so many “things” in our home but she barely touches any of them.
Now, after everything that has happened this year, I realise that not only was I trying to make up for the things I “didn’t have” but also I was trying to buy my way out of feeling guilty about work time versus baby time.
But the toys lie idle and all that she wants is our time.
She wants to sing, she wants us to sit inside her tent together (which is quite comical), she wants to jump on our knees or cuddle up to us; and my goodness does she like to talk. We can’t understand most of it but even that doesn’t matter as long as we are there experiencing, enjoying, laughing and making memories with her.
Live in the moment
The value of love is so much more than we can measure or pay for. It seems so simple but as we try and get through our crazy days, pay our bills and keep our heads above water, we can forget to stop and be in the moment with our babies – whatever their age! And that I think is where you find the real value of love – in that moment.
So, what I’ve learnt about being a mother so far:
- Time is the most valuable “thing” you can give your child;
- Be generous with your love and affection, even in the most frustrating of moments;
- Invest in things they will cherish for their lifetime – take the time to save the drawings they make for you, put their little treasures into a memory box that they can have forever;
- Teach them to be kind hearted and generous;
- Give them your pride – make sure they know that every success and failure is ok and you’re proud of what they learnt.
My mum’s dogged determination lives in me every day. Her strength, stubbornness and hopefully sense of humour remain with me. (And may I say the stubbornness and humour gene has also found its way into my daughter.)
The greatest lesson that she leaves behind is one of how short life is, and how important it is to spend time together.
Live in the moment. Take time to experience the now. Create memories your child will cherish in years to come and most importantly, live a life you won’t regret.
“Life teaches us to make good use of time, while time teaches us the value of life” (Unknown)