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.