Mother’s Day is a bit of a messy business in our home. I crave the simplicity of past years where all the children would be gathering around my Mum and my sisters and we would all celebrate the beauty of motherhood together. Now I look at other families who experience the simple joy of everyone being together and it hurts.
Like so many other families, my family is missing some of the key players. In 2015 it all changed for me and in October my mother died suddenly in her sleep from a heart attack. I found her tucked into bed and gone from this world. It was a tough year for me as I had finally left my marraige and was grappling with what it meant to be a single Mum. I felt so alone but knew that Mum was always a phone call away and until she died I had no understanding of just how much that anchored and steadied me.
When Mum left I felt bewildered. How do you do life without your Mum? I had already lost my father a teenager but it had always been my mother who was the matriarch of the family and we revolved around her. I felt set adrift. I had always been fiercely independent but all of the sudden all I wanted was my Mummy. It was rough.
This Mother’s Day was the first where my siblings and I have done our own thing. It was very different but as my 7 boys piled on me gifts, my little boys desperate to get in first with morning cuddles and special breakfast, my teenagers permitting me to kiss their foreheads, I realised for the first time that I am it. I am the anchor. I am the steady force and their safe place to land. So, in honour of my lovely Mum here are 5 things she taught me about how to be the anchor to your children.
- Character is everything.
My Mum was not to be trifled with when it came to protecting her children. I always knew that if there was an issue that Mum thought would damage our character she would come out guns blazing. Mum cared very little about doing what was popular and very much about doing what was right. While this could be pretty embarrassing as a teenager she taught me that above all else, character is all you really have.
2. An anchor is strong and unmoving when it needs to be.
Mum knew the meaning of ‘tough love’ and kept a far bigger perspective than the path of least resistance. If Mum said no we knew this would be final and no amount of whinging would change her mind. While this infuriated me as a child I now see the wisdom of firm boundaries and try to emulate this in my own parenting. Growing strong, responsible, resilient adults means that as children they need to know where the line is and the consequences of crossing it. While giving into our children’s demands makes our life easier in the short term, in the long term it produces adults with a sense of entitlement who are unable to step up to life’s inevitable challenges.
3. An anchor is only there when it needs to be.
Mum did not hover. As children and teenagers Mum expected that we would be responsible for our own homework and chores. And we were. And if we were not we would simply face the consequences. If we failed it was up to us to work harder. If we needed help it was our responsibility to ask. If we didn’t contribute to the home, we would miss the rewards given to our siblings. Our education was our responsibility and we were expected to learn because learning was exciting. We weren’t nagged. All of my siblings and I have gone on to university education and I suspect this has everything to do with Mum expecting us to be responsible and passionate about our own education.
4. Never let go of your inner child and protect the innocence of childhood.
Mum loved all things sweet and beautiful. From Beatrix Potter to Doris Day to Shirley Temple, Mum was always happiest with stories of beauty and sweetness and tried to keep our world full of these things. She constantly bought books for her grandchildren that were full of beautiful nursery rhymes and fables and her home was covered in soft toys and dollies. Mum showed me the value of allowing our children to explore their imagination and to keep their world innocent and naive for as long as possible. She was horrified by the horror and violence children were exposed to and constantly tried to fill our worlds with beautiful stories instead. I learned that as a mother it is my responsibility to decide what I want to introduce into my children’s world and that this will determine what they will focus on. As an adult I still find myself seeking out beauty and I’m sure this is as a result of my Mum directing my attention to these things as a child.
5. Say what you mean and mean what you say because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.
Dr. Suess knew what he was talking about and what made Mum such a steadying influence on us all was her commitment to being authentic and true to her values. You always knew where you stood with Mum and if something needed to be said. She would say it.
As I look at my boys and recognise my job now is to be their safe place to land, I can only hope that I can do it with the same strength of character and loving heart as my dear old Mumma.