I’ve spent the past week mulling over what to share for this, the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson declaring today an official and publicly observed day to thank your mother. It was directly linked to the British phenomenon of Mothering Sunday, which can be traced back to the 16th century.
I could talk about my distaste for the commercial circus. I could tell you some stories about some amazing mothers in history (Anne Boleyn, Coretta Scott King, Ruth the Moabitess, the list could go on).
Or I could attempt to entertain you with a collection of stories of mothering misadventures, which, if nothing else, would make people feel much more smug about their parenting in light of my many and epic fails.
I’m not going to do any of that.
Instead, I’ll just share with you my gratitude for the five women in my life who have been, and remain, matriarchal figures, touchstones, role models, and gorgeous grandmother figures in our frantic family. And perhaps I’ll pepper it with some pithy quotes and sayings as I go.
We all have a mother. Many of us also have a mother in law. I have both of these, as well as three utterly amazing women who have taken me under their wing, providing me with a roof, a bed, food, advice, support and most importantly Love.
I’ve called my three extra mums to ask if I can share a picture and quick story about them. It was very nice having an excellent excuse to call and thank them for the decades of Love and support they’ve shown me and my growing family.
I was the first to have kids among the several pseudo siblings I have collected over the years. So our kids have the distinguished honour of being the “practice” grandkids for three extra sets of grandparents. They’ve also got an eclectic collection of cousins. Four fabulous boys, One gorgeous little girl in Canada, and one beautiful baby girl due here in NZ in August. I am unspeakably grateful for them all, as it is quite apparent that neither my nor Grumpy’s biological brothers are going to breed, so the extra siblings are our only chance at cousins for the children. And they adore their cousins, even if they don’t get to see them as much as they’d like.
The mothers in my life are all very different in many ways, but have a few things in common as well. Three of them are trained teachers. One is a nurse, and mother in law is a potter, an artist, and an accountant. They are all soft and squishy on the inside, despite a couple of them having rather tough exteriors. They all make me laugh, and they all have accepted and Loved me and my whole family as one of their own for decades now, and I return that fondness whole-heartedly.
My biological mother, who is our children’s glorious Granny, plays a huge part in raising and rearing our four fabulous offspring. She stopped in to bring the two older boys out shopping and consented to being immortalised and applauded in this blog for her efforts in raising me and our four fabulous passports to immortality.
My mother and I have an interesting relationship. We don’t have a great deal of superfluous stuff in common. I am a foodie and adore good wine, luxury travel, entertaining, and a whole bunch of other stuff that my introverted and inarguably anti-social mother finds tiresome or unappealing. (Though she does suffer through my many parties a sign of Love and solidarity.) She is basically to blame for my travel addiction, but she goes budget while I go bling.
My mom plays a huge part in the lives of the children. She organizes extramural activities, shops for their clothes, shoes and uniforms. Watches them while we gallivant overseas or around New Zealand. She really is the kids’ other mother. Her training as a teacher and her absolute Love for her growing gaggle of grandchildren means she is by far the most qualified person on earth to fill this role.
So, although we are in some ways very different creatures, my mother and I are also very similar. Particularly in some of the less than virtuous character traits we both exhibit. I can’t deny that we’re both quite stubborn and spoiled. In fact, most of the people in our family are quite used to us getting our way. It is only problematic when our wants are incompatible. When this happens, the most frequent outcome is that my mother ends up victorious. It is just kind of easier for everyone when this happens. I’d hazard a guess she’d deny this though.
We all adore her quirkiness and kindness though. We live more in each other’s pockets than most mother-daughter teams I know, and that’s bound to come with its share of run-ins. But all and all, we are a very tight team indeed. Thank you Mom for everything. Seriously. Thank you.
My other Canadian mom is based in Calgary.
She became my touchstone and safe-harbour-in-any-storm when I jetted back to Canada as a teenager. Grammy Karen has worked in the not-for-profit sector and in many different capacities. She has a heart of gold, and works tirelessly for others in countless ways. She’s recently become a Grandmother as her kind, gracious and gorgeous daughter Christy became a mother for the first time a few months before my fourth son was born. Karen has been a generous and patient role model to me, and a wonderful Grammy to all the children. She changes diapers, cuddles and calms them and they Love her and her husband Darcy with all their hearts.
And then there’s mother-in-law. I speak to her every day, and although she’s quite miserable on the surface, she’s soft as a marshmallow under her gruff exterior, and has even occasionally let me know how much she appreciates her loud and Loving daughter-in-law (me) for bringing more than a small dose of adventure, fun, family, laughter, travel, and children into her world. Saying thank you does not come easy to her, so I appreciate it a great deal.
She raised my husband and his older brother as a single mother through the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. She attended University in her 40’s and gained a qualification as a chartered accountant with excellent grades. As a nod to her and her gargantuan efforts, when my husband and I married we opted to take on her maiden name. (Otherwise this branch of the West name would have ended.) We Love the name, and it fits us all like a glove. And it reminds us often just how much we respect and admire the miserable old battleax that is my magnificent mother in law.
My other two mums hail from Thames, my kiwi home town where I landed as an exchange student in January 1995.
Nana Margie is somewhat nervous at times, and so full of Love and kindness and care that it fair spills out of her when you gaze upon her. She gives amazing cuddles, helps everyone who crosses her path, works tirelessly, and has a painfully difficult time saying NO to anyone. She didn’t ask or volunteer to take me in during my exchange student year – I was brought home as a last resort from school one day by her husband Ken.
Their kindness plays no small part in the kind of person I am today. I am keen (compelled?) to offer help to people, particularly strangers when the opportunity presents itself. We are all just the result of our experiences, and I am eternally grateful for the experiences and the many angels who have swooped in to rescue me when I needed them most.
My other Thames mum – known to friends and family as Sam – is the poster girl for calm and level-headed rationality. She doesn’t mince words or give platitudes, yet is always diplomatic and kind with her advice and observations. She’s a nurse and has therefore seen all sorts of high drama situations I have no doubt she has taken in stride. She gives amazing hugs. And she holds you exactly tight enough and for just a bit longer than most people do when she gives one of her soul-soothing hugs. She rides horses, picks olives, helps out tirelessly in the community and raised two very different but undeniably delightful people. Their house was where EVERYONE went to socialize and feel safe and loved.
They were the parents to an entire generation of Thames teenagers, and I can honestly say, their support saved my life. I do not believe I would have lasted long if I had been shipped back to Canada. This may sound dramatic, but it is absolutely true. Between the two Thames families who fought to keep me there, and countless other people who have either remained in touch, or slipped out of contact for one reason or another, I am eternally grateful and owe most of the positive attributes I possess as a grown-up to the Love and sacrifice that these five families had shown me.
So thank you all, and all the mothers, biological and otherwise. Thank you today and every day, for the stamp you leave on our hearts and the many ways that you change our lives for the better.