Mum's the word

Mata Amritanandamayi, India’s “hugging saint mother”.

MALAYSIA - My mother doesn't come close to some of the well-known mothers of the world, like Mother Teresa and Mata Amritanandamayi, India's "hugging saint mother". But to me, she is the best.

Mum is always understanding and willing to lend an ear whenever anything goes wrong.

Years ago, I was in the hockey team in secondary school. She never understood why I even indulged in the sport since I always came home with injuries - swollen ankles, blue-black shin bones and bruised shoulders. She just couldn't comprehend why I had picked such a "manly" sport.

One night while putting a hot towel on my swollen ankle, she told me: "Don't do it to impress anybody, do it because you feel good doing it. Just because your father used to play hockey, it doesn't mean you have to."

I just gave her a sombre look. She continued: "… and giving it up will not be easy especially since you're good at it."

I grew up with a working mum whom I only saw at night. But during those few hours, she looked through my homework, listened to me read in English to make sure my pronunciation was accurate, and asked about school. Mum cooked simple dishes but was always supportive when I wanted to try something new. She was also a whiz at sewing, something I didn't quite pick up.

There were many things she didn't do, but her mothering style provided me with a great deal more. It gave me the independence I wanted - to think, experience and make my own decisions.

We had our strained moments, but we always used to be able to talk to each other about everything - well, almost everything. She even enjoys my dirty jokes. But when it comes to matters of the heart, I try to avoid mum as she can see right through me. And having her read you like a book is not good!

On certain days, after a long day at the office, all I want to do is to relax and unwind. But no, nothing doing as the kids will be fighting in the background, with voices raised. Sometimes, while marking an assignment, I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over again because of the commotion.

Mum always asks me where my children picked up this behaviour from, since I wasn't like that when I was their age.

Sometimes I wonder where I went wrong. But she says it's not what I did wrong, it's just that this generation of kids doesn't listen, doesn't feel, doesn't care.

On one of her visits, she told my children to behave and help around the house more often. I didn't mind the advice. Then she added:

"If you continue to be stubborn and fight all the time, your mother might just die young. Where would you be then? You see the TV dramas about kids losing their mothers and ending up in the orphanage because they have no one? You don't want to be like them, do you?"

Well, that's mother for you - a bit eccentric, but full of good intentions, no doubt.

These days when she comes a-visiting and the kids start their encore, I'll turn to her and just say: "It's okay Mum, as long as they don't kill each other, we're fine." She will give me this amazed look and laugh with me.

Recently, when I told her that I intend to study for my doctorate, she simply asked: "Are you sure about this?"

Having been through a couple of rough years lately, I understood her concerns, just as she understood mine. I held back my tears and told her that this was something I needed to do for myself.

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