Growing Grown-Ups

Today I received a startling video capturing the footage of a motorcycle accident where the rider was a friend of the family. It was graphic. Recorded by an in-vehicle camera, the terrible event clearly played out the offending vehicle colliding with the bike at an intersection, sending both bike and rider through the air. Thankfully, it was not gruesome, with the rider coming away with abrasions and a hell of a story, supplemented with a sensational video to satisfy any voyeuristic needs. He is in good spirits, recovering at home. Very considerately, he had included a still photo of himself smiling his thousand-watt grin sitting in a wheelchair.

I showed the video to our children, as this friend has played a meaningful part in their lives, as their young swim coach and ‘big brother’ who taught them the ukulele. It was important for them to realise the distressing impact that accidents have on the rider, riders’ families and friends. How dangerous it can be on the roads! These fleeting and uncontrollable moments can change our lives forever.

While we sat around the table after school, we discussed how he must feel. Words were thrown around the table – sadness, pain, in shock, anger at the driver who hit him, boredom at home during this period of convalescence, relief that he was not more seriously injured.

The children insisted on paying him a visit this evening. We turned to deliberate over the gifts we would bring. Our resident baker suggested whipping up a cake, for a sweet treat will surely be appropriate to celebrate his narrow escape. The emotional one, who envisaged he would feel dreadfully sad, volunteered to draw him a card to brighten his mood. And our shopper, capitalizing on a chance to spend, suggested we buy him a gift, a game or a book, so he would not go stir crazy being home bound.

There was an awful realization of the downtime, being a cost during his recovery. He would not able to coach or teach. In his line of work, he was only paid for the lessons he taught. They seemed acutely aware that the physical injuries he sustained meant he could not earn fees and the motorcycle, his primary mode of transport, was now in desperate need of repair. Their shoulders slumped as they felt overwhelmed and helpless with body language displaying “Man, just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse!” Looking to lift the mood, I asked “Is there anything we can do to help with that?”  Postures straightened. Eyes lit up. Light bulbs appeared over their heads. Conversation resumed. A voice piped up suggesting we could consider a monetary gift to assist in medical bills and bike repairs. I was careful to maintain a neutral facial expression. Interpreting my non-response as not getting with the program, a voice condescendingly added, “You know Mom, it’s like the concept of paying it forward and helping a friend in need (duh)!”

I was impressed. With a little nudge of poignant questions from me, they seemed to catch on very quickly. I was not even going to ask about today’s homework or fuss about instrument practice. Today’s important lessons were already underway without them.

We closed off our discussions agreeing on the delegation of duties – baking, card artistry and book shopping.

A lovely card was composed complete with a beautifully worded prayer, carefully placed stickers and an arrow pointing to the back page filled with ten riddles and jokes, carefully transposed from a joke book. The cardmaker’s magnanimous sign off included every member of our family. A delicious dark chocolate and walnut cake was baked, iced with caramel buttercream dotted with chocolate rocks to resemble a garden and accented with freshly picked flowers and basil leaves from our backyard. The decorating theme was inspired by the fact that he loved being outdoors and is now, sadly stuck at home. The book “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio was precisely gift-wrapped with a note explaining that it was specifically chosen, as it is a personal favourite and on our family’s bestseller list.

Tonight while our friend was touched beyond words, I feel immodestly proud of our children. In the words of Vicki Hoefle, we are well on track to “growing a grown-up”.

Enlightened by the old, Inspired by the young

The value of motherhood perceived through different hearts

This week we celebrated Chinese New Year. We welcomed the Year of the Fire Monkey honouring a variety of traditions, opening with our family reunion dinner on the eve of lunar new year, followed by visiting close relatives and friends to personally convey our good wishes for the year ahead. During these gatherings, I met and conversed with several elderly relatives. They related stories from years past, eagerly pulling out smartphones to add colour and visuals, during times when their words or memory failed them. Others bemoaned deteriorating health, warning me with a wagging finger to keep up with regular exercise. Together, we laughed heartily and nodded enthusiastically, as they reminisced and finished off each other’s sentences, eagerly interrupting and outdoing each other to present the most accurate version of their shared memories.  I came away from these few days with fascinating insights and sobering truths expounded from genuine hearts, forged by years of experience.

Through intimate conversations with matriarchs from our multi-generational families and the whisper of parting words in the midst of farewell hugs, there seemed to be a recurring theme. Perhaps as a mother of three growing children, these wise women felt the need to forewarn me and share the gift of their hindsight. This was their counsel – to retain personal time and resources, both financial and emotional, for me. I was reminded that younger generations are unlikely to care for their mothers and appreciate the magnitude of unconditional love. Today’s children lack the empathy to understand sacrifice and are largely self-centered. They interpreted my polite smile as skepticism and repeated their advice without grave negativity or dramatic emotion, but light heartedly, as plain fact.

These words however, landed on my ears and spirit with a thud. I end my days often emotionally drained from parenting and each morning I’m inspired to work just as hard because I believe at some point these little seeds will flourish. During those moments of intimation, I did not feel very encouraged to continue gardening.  A week on and I catch myself returning to the observations of these elders and wondering what I should do – how should I protect my nurturing spirit from this sad eventuality? Can this bleak outlook relating to my future relationship with our grown up children be all I can look forward to?

Today our youngest child had a school visit to an elderly community care centre. It is an annual outing for students to bring cheer and well wishes to those from the pioneer generation, who may have spent the festive season alone. The children were instructed to bring a gift of two mandarin oranges, which traditionally symbolizes “gold” and is intended to bring good luck and wealth to the recipient. They had also rehearsed a song to perform.  I recall when she arrived home after this excursion, she shared her feeling of awful sadness while at the centre, having noticed some of the elderly were unwell while others appeared to be very lonely. Despite their singing, she felt the mood was gloomy.  Tonight as I listened to my child pray before bedtime, I feel hopeful. In her prayers she reflected upon her day and asked for God to help us all make “care centres more fun” and to fill them with love. She continued, “ I pray that mama can live with me, and dada too, together, so they will not be sad.”

I feel hopeful (not because she has invited us to live with her, for that will be too presumptuous to count on) as I am reminded that our child is a loving soul, sensitive to those around her and she is capable of empathy. I feel hopeful, as I know she is not alone in her generation.