Hanging in one of my mom’s rooms in her house is a picture of me as a baby being held by my brothers. It’s the start of a tale, an introduction to her life devoted to not only her three own children, but all her grandchildren and countless other children from our neighbourhood.
As clichéd as it is, she has always been the roots of our family, keeping us growing along the right paths, while still allowing us to reach for the sunlight. And a few weeks ago, as we all sat together under the baking sun of the home at our annual family holiday, I saw her contentedly sit back in our shade and glory in her legacy.
For the first time and since becoming a mother myself, I know exactly what she was feeling on that day. And I also know, that is the feeling I want when my boys are grown. I know the path to that point is filled with learning, and who better to learn it form than my mum.
These are just a few of the lessons she has taught me over the last two years.
1. A little dedicated time goes a long way
Whenever we arrive home from a visit with my mom, my husband comments on some new thing the boys have learned while we were visiting her. From the moment we arrive to the moment we leave, my mom finds time to devote to all of us exclusively, and that includes me. Despite their desperate need for attention, my twins never seem to feel the need to fight for hers. Somehow she makes them both comfortable enough to know that they will each have their turn to bask in her undivided attention at some point during the visit. While I am still learning how to get this right, I try my hardest to provide each of my boys a moment where its all about the individual – a moment where they don’t have to share, where they can just be the only child.
2. A calm mom makes for calm kids
There are times when I can get a little tense and the kids will immediately start acting up. When my boys are with my mom, she is always calm, always speaks quietly – and they respond so well to it. They are exceptionally well behaved when we visit her, because while she is still firm about the rules, she does it in a way that would impress the Dali Lama. My new mantra at my own home is, “what would mom do?” whenever I start feeling the pressure. Granted – my mother is a saint when it comes to patience – years of practice maybe?
3. Delight in the smallest of things
It’s a lesson that my entire family have learned – both from my mom and my dad. Mom has always been something of a finer details kind of person. A perfect meal, a touch of make-up and a glass of wine after a long day are all ways to raise the spirits. But she finds the utmost joy in the newest words that my boys have learned, or how quickly they have learned to use their dinner utensils or even when they rush into her arms when we arrive to visit her. Most nights I bath and put the twins to bed – my coveted time with my busybody boys. It’s during this time that I take in all the new things the boys have learned through the day or simply bask in the joy of listening to them laugh or sing.
4. Let them loose
All first time parents want to wrap their kids in bubble wrap. Is that slide too high? Don’t eat the dirt, is the door closed? We rush around our kids trying to make sure that they always have a soft landing. But how will they ever learn their limits, and how will you learn yours if you don’t just let them and explore. At my mom’s, the boys wonder around the entire house – something we are now allowing at our own (having taken out all the safety gates – just to explore new things. Mom puts dangerous things away, but other stuff she teaches them not to touch. More surprisingly, they listen.
5. That I am a better mom than I give myself credit for
The most important lesson I think I have learned from my mom, and one that she reminds me of every time we visit, is that I am doing ok. That my boys are healthy and happy, and generally well behaved. She always give me a nod, or a comment about the things I am doing right. I think my self-esteem might have imploded entirely if it were not for her encouragement.