Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 18, Tuesday May 8 , 2007




The mother in the mirror

There is no denying that I love my father more than my mother. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I don't value what she went through all these years while bearing and rearing me. Ten years ago I would appreciate how she shared the responsibility of my well being with my father, but now that I am a mother myself I can very well feel both her emotional and physical involvement in the making of me, her daughter.

Mothers- if you are to be very critical about their share in the lives of their offspring, simply make their children (and it's not a joke) literally do what they do. They build our characters, our emotional beings, almost 80 percent of our personalities, our temperaments. Everything about us that we are so proud of is basically their copyrighted property.

Unfortunately this reality dawns upon us very late in our lives. For us girls, when our own offspring tread upon their pre-teens and teens, we realise that without even trying we are echoing our mothers' sermons and becoming shadows of them.

I can now throw some light on why mothers and daughters are constantly and subtly engaged in a tug of war. Why the constant nagging, the perpetual evaluation, the judging and our perennial yearning to try and meet their demands?

My first conflict with mom was at the age of seven regarding a certain dress I didn't want to wear or a hairstyle I hated to sport. This set a trend and till date I have never won a confrontation with her. Be it my math grade, boyfriends, phone calls, going out with cousins, choice of studies or career, she had an opinion on everything- always to my utmost horror. Actually until 18 I had no say. She was the law. However, now when I look back, I would not change a single decision she aided me in taking.

Recently my mother and I can actually hold a decent conversation for exactly thirty minutes. On the thirty-first, sparks start to fly and by the time an hour is up it's a full-fledged war. Call it the clash of the Titans, because now I have honed my confrontational skills to mirror hers. The very next hour we are friends again, zooming off to our favourite shopping haunts or discussing recipes or simply chatting over a sip of our favourite jasmine tea, therapeutic for both of us.

We have a symbiotic relationship; at least I want to believe that mom needs me emotionally too, because I can't do without her.

I need my mother for all my difficult emotional upheavals, I need her more now since my own daughter is approaching her teens and I am beginning to see red signals wherever I look.

However this was not always the case. I was adamant to be a lenient mother and was not at all strict. I thought children would learn to automatically abide by and respect family rules without coercion and constant reminders. I am having second thoughts on that now; especially when my daughter says no to everything and shuns all the trendy skirts for those awful jeans or those pretty hairpins for a rowdy candy floss tangle of a hairdo, or when she simply chooses to watch a re-run of a Liverpool versus Chelsea game over geography or science lessons. She is a free spirit and whether I like it or not I made her that way, whereas I still take my mom to buy a sari and she made me that way.

Mothers are the disciplinarians. They teach us etiquette, they groom us, they mould us, and it is their job to do so. That is why they constantly say the dreaded word 'no', or impose curfew hours, or ground us, and we have to do as they see right until we are old enough to decide for ourselves.

We must realise that with moms there is no place for a poor 'A'; nothing but the best is good enough. They hate to lose. As a result, daughters have to work themselves to the bone to be their prized trophies. In fact from a socio-analytical point of view mothers know exactly what daughters will have to face as they grow up to be women. Thus moms try to harden us to brace the future gracefully.

This instinct is ingrained in our genes and for that no matter how determined I was not to be like her, I realise that with every disagreement that I have with my daughter, I am now my mother. And that my daughter loves her father more than she loves me.

By Raffat Binte Rashid

Oh mother…

As a child, I equated school with a torture chamber. They had to drag me to kindergarten, my parents. Despite the three-year-old me bawling at the top of my lungs and clawing the school aayas and the guards enough to leave semi-criminal marks, I was admitted. So persistent were my shrieks, my cries for my mother, that the authority- driven to their edge- allowed a special arrangement. My mother could sit beside me in all the classes in the hope that it would shut me up. Ma could always calm me down. Somehow that did not work either- I would demand the unqualified (and unquestioned!) privilege of drinking bottles of Fanta or trips to the playground whenever my mood swung in that direction. That was my first time. They had to take me out of school, and try again during the next session. Four-years-old, and failure again. School and I just did not click. Finally, I entered school at five…

Ma was talking about it the other day over a cup of tea, while I was watching one of those 'Grounded for Life' reruns. I looked up from the cozy nest of cushions I always make when watching TV and smiled. For probably the thousandth time in my life, the wave of realisation swept over me- my mother and I- we make a good team. She has seen me through a lot and I have been beside her through a lot.

But somehow this time, the realisation was different. I ams planning to transfer my credits to UK for my final year. That means that I will have to leave everything behind- my friends, my room, my family, everything. But most of all I will miss my mother. That will be difficult.

Most days, I am outside the house for a good part of the day. Caught in the whirlwind of office work, classes, humongous heavy-duty Law textbooks and snappy grab-a-bite lunches with friends, life is on the wheels. But at the end of the day, it is Ma that I look forward to seeing. I will kick off my shoes and make my way to her room.

If I was to leave, who would make up for her absence? Who would bake me those trademark apple pies and make me those multi-layered (custard, jello, chocolate, whipped cream) truffles? Houses and warm clothes I could do without, but I was never good with compromising with food- particularly the delicacies.

Who would prod me to clean up my room when it ended up looking like a large-scale public dumpster- socks dangling from the ceiling fan, textbooks shoved under the bed and all? Who, after days of paying zero heed to the protests, would finally give up and walk in with the mission of bringing my bedroom back to its human form? Normally, if the situation comes to that, I come running to stop her. Finally senses kick in, and I offer to do the seemingly impossible task myself. A colleague of mine has this very disturbing reading habit- when the novel builds up its tempo and throws the characters in relational turmoils, she just leaves it where it is hoping that they will somehow resolve their issues and get back on track before resuming her read. No matter how idiosyncratic the technique, I do identify with it. And to note, it does not work. If I was to get a transfer, I would probably leave everything as it is in the hope that somehow things would rearrange themselves. The end result? I cannot imagine.

In any case, the funny thing is there is not much to write when I think of my mother. Mostly, I am just overwhelmed by how my life will be if I go abroad, especially without my mother being there. Notwithstanding the rough schedules, the uncanny volleying between office cubicles and college textbooks, Ma is like a lifebuoy no matter how clichéd it may seem. Right now, I just wish I had the same authoritative wail to my voice as I did in my kindergarten years…

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky


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