My mom asked me one day, “What word would you use to describe me?”
I think I was in my room occupied with homework. I shrugged and said offhandedly, “I don’t know.”
She persisted. “Wouldn’t it be 'kind' or 'loving?'”
I stopped what I was doing and looked up. “Uh … no."
“But I am kind and loving,” she said. I believe my sister and I agreed that her level of opinionatedness and honesty couldn’t be classically defined as kind. But I couldn’t find the right words then to prove my point.
I think I have a better explanation now. My mother, whom I call Mummy or sometimes Mother in exasperation, is the epitome of inner strength. Her inner strength cannot be summed up in simple, trite words such as sweet or kind. It is how, as a nurse, she cares for her elderly patients even in the face of bittersweet endings to lives of pain. So, whenever I hear words like “sweet” I never think my gladiator of a mom fits that description. Sweet is a stay at home mom, involved heavily in the PTA, baking cookies while wearing a lace apron. My mom is much more than that. She is determined and hopeful, sass-talking and tender hearted; the complexity that is my mom just can’t be defined.
When I was younger, I wanted to sing, and badly. However, the end result was just me singing badly. I sang for my mother once, a long while ago. She said something along the lines of: “Your singing isn’t that good. You should work on it.”
I didn't feel angry or hurt. I took the advice and ran with it. I did vocal exercises that sounded like I was choking to death. Not too long after, I sang for my dad, who was part of his university’s official choir. I was deathly nervous. To calm my nerves, I started a vocal exercise that sounded like a dying motorboat. My mother dissolved into fits of hysterical laughter. In dramatic queen fashion, I said that my talent wasn’t being appreciated and continued working at it.
Months later, after I had put in some time, I sang for my mother once again. She proudly told me I had improved. “Look what happens when you put your mind to it,” she said.
When I hear the phrase “Well, of course your mom would say [insert false praise here]. She’s your mom!” I laugh a little and then think you obviously haven’t met my mom.
This is certainly not to say that my mother is the type to highlight my flaws either. In fact, she’s very forgiving and indulging. She still believes that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that I have untapped potential. But neither is my mother the type to obscure the truth in order to convey the sentiment.
I've thought a lot about whether I want to be more like my mother. If I were to ask her opinion on it, her answer would be “No. I want you to be better than I am.”
Regardless, I feel the overwhelming answer is yes. When you love and live with a person, you get to know quite a bit about that person’s flaws. And yet, despite these weaknesses, she’s influenced the person I am today. She’s the more introverted version of me, the drama queen turned down quite a few notches; but the framework still remains. I share her determination, hope, tender heart and ability to sass-talk.
I’ve asked her about whether or not there’s some validity in telling white lies. Her answer was, “If the people who love you can’t tell you the truth, then who do you expect to?”
And I kinda can’t argue with what I’ve come to see as one of the truest displays of love, her honesty.