I am trying to think of when it was exactly that I came to truly appreciate my own mother. As a baby I didn’t. No one does. She was the centre of my universe, yes, but my priorities really didn’t extend beyond bodily functions and anticipating the next opportunity for a sleep or a crying fit. I doubt my unintelligible gurgles conveyed thanks.
As a little child I certainly didn’t appreciate her either. I needed her, that’s clear enough. I clung to her skirt as she made slow progress up the supermarket aisles, stopping every few steps to answer inane questions, remove what I’d helpfully thrown in the trolley (I seemingly believed it perfectly reasonable that I could live on biscuits alone) or soothe me when I was too hot,tired or hungry to possibly move another step.
When I was little older, I learned about Mother’s Day at school. Everyone in class made a card and decorated it, and themselves, in a mixture of glue, sparkles and paint . I probably thought I was a creative genius and that this work of art would not only be loved by my Mum, but also by countless generations of art lovers. I remember my Mum gushing with praise and joy when I gave her my works of art each year. But did I tell I loved her any other day? Or ever thank her for being my personal slave/cook/driver/psychiatrist? No, of course not. Or certainly not often. Not only was I child, but worse, a boy.
And, through my teenage years, things changed. Hormones drove me and my peers to treat our mothers to performances of petulance, anger, indifference, elation and despair. I do remember for the first time, feeling some sparks of appreciation, a realisation that someone had made huge sacrifices for me, but it wasn’t equitable. For every one thank you, or chore taken on without nagging, there were a thousand kind efforts made for me.
I’m an adult now. Thirty six years old. So of course I appreciate my mum for the wonderful and kind person she is (and I’d say that even if I wasn’t sure she’ll read this!). But how often do I really show it? During my first eighteen years alone she built up a frankly unassailable lead in the selfless stakes, so whatever I do, I’ll always be playing catch up.
It’s easy to be complacent when the love most of us are lucky enough to be shown by our parents is not earned. My mum would have loved and cared for me pretty much however I’d behaved, but that’s the deal for any parent. They don’t give in order to receive. But that doesn’t mean we kids shouldn’t give back. If you’re lucky enough to still be able to, appreciate your mum. Let Mother’s Day be a day of cards, flowers and lunch out somewhere.
Let her know how much she is appreciated and loved. Let it be a day devoted to her yes, but make sure it’s only the start too. I’m not a bad or neglectful son (I hope!), but I could do more. Phone more. Visit more. The vast majority of us could. And, as a man, I know that many of us aren’t the greatest talkers, but a little goes a long way, so do what you can.
As for when it was that I came to truly appreciate my own mother, I’m not sure I have yet. It’s far too easy to let things slide. You think, ‘it must have been weeks since I called X’ when actually it was months. Find time in your busy lives to connect. And, if you’re able to, I urge you to do what I’m going to do right now, and go call your mum.