MOTHERS are infallible. They’re the bastion of sound counsel, the gatekeepers of wisdom and a sage. At least, we’d all love to think so. After all, they have our best interest at heart, they know us better than we know ourselves (though that’s debatable sometimes) and here’s the raison d’etre of it all — they gave birth to us.
Oh yes, the nine months of lugging you around in their womb like extra baggage and those agonising hours of labour constitute the bedrock upon which their pedestal is built. They simply can do no wrong.
Or can they?
We fail to see that sometimes our queens are people too. They come up with bad decisions and make mistakes. They dish out dodgy advice and a whole slew of malapropisms which leave us scratching our heads and wondering whether they’ve accidentally sniffed the elephant glue they were using to repair stuff around the house. Nevertheless, we love them all the more for it — their quirks, the chinks in their armour, and the fumbles that just point to their earnestness in trying to raise their children, the best way they know how.
It’s time to put away those rose-tinted glasses and start viewing our mamas as they are — human, fallible and dispenser of sometimes laughable advice. So in honour of Mother’s Day, we pay homage to dodgy counsel, pithy advice and pernicious proverbs mums all over have been guilty of dispensing in their efforts to raise their little ones to be paragons of society.
STICK AND STONES
The classic “Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” advice is laid out every time we run back bawling from being teased, mocked or bullied in school. We’re told that we should brush them off; that words are as ephemeral as Snapchats and exist only for a moment before fading off into obscurity. It shouldn’t matter because nobody got hurt.
Here’s the thing: Being called fatty bom-bom when you were 6 still stings when you turn 46. Why? Because unlike the saying, bones may heal, self-esteem, most often than not, don’t. We’re taught the mantra that words shouldn’t affect us but it ignores the reality of emotional and verbal abuse. So “yay” to mummies who are still our shoulders to cry on when the children on the playground get mean but “nay” to namby-pamby sayings that do nothing to address name-calling and insults. Instead, children should be taught to stand up to any forms of bullying, and to learn courtesy and respect so they don’t end up being bullies themselves.
EAT UP EVERYTHING!
“Finish everything on your plate!” We all grew up being members of the “clean-plate club”.
How many times have you been told off for not finishing your plate of food? On one hand, finishing your food on your plate teaches you about food wastage. On the other, perhaps the lesson should be about eating in moderation or eating healthily.
Most of us Asian children grew up hearing that phrase “Clean your plate!” often prefaced by “Don’t you dare leave the table until...” The message that we’re lucky to have decent meals and that leaving behind uneaten portions is wasteful and disrespectful has become so ingrained in most of us that we carry on the habit of wiping everything off our plates (and sometimes, off our partner’s plate too!) right until our adulthood.
Isn’t it any wonder that obesity is a problem among adults these days, and even for some children? Nevertheless, we’re all thankful for mums who slave away in the kitchen to ensure we get our meals but say “nay” to finishing up everything and instead, encourage eating in moderation and healthy balanced diets.
BOYS WILL BE BOYS
Ah yes. Ever wondered why there were two sets of rules governing girls and boys during our growing up years? Boys could get away with rough horseplay, dirty clothes, no household chores and later curfews. After all, they’re boys and therefore, some rules don’t apply to them.
God forbid if girls trail in mud in the house looking like the swamp thing after playing with their friends, prefer trucks to dolls, fail to make their beds in the mornings or do the dishes.
A new study from Netmums, a website for parents in the UK, reveals that 88 per cent of mums admitted that they treated their sons and daughters differently despite thinking that this was wrong. Most worrying of all, mothers are twice as likely to admit to being more critical of their daughters than their sons.
When mamas attribute bad behaviour to “they’re just being boys”, they’re unknowingly removing personal responsibility out of the equation. Children need to be held accountable for their actions, taught that both sexes are equally empowered to achieve anything they want to, and that the same rules apply to both boys and girls in order to counteract the negative messages that society sometimes send. We’re grateful that mummies love their children unconditionally and want only the best for them, but say “nay” to gender biasness when it comes to raising boys and girls.
GET YOUR AMBITION IN ORDER!
Who isn’t familiar with the “doctor, lawyer, engineer” expectations most old-school Asian mums drill into their children while growing up?
You want to be a hairdresser? “Over my dead body!” screeches mummy as she waves the science book in front of you.
It’s all too common to have mummies (and even daddies actually) force their children into meeting their expectations and not necessarily what the children would want to actually do themselves. Perhaps it’s the idea that these professions are viewed as jobs favoured by the upper echelons of society. Most parents in the past came from poorer backgrounds and struggled to give their children a decent education. Perhaps it’s that struggle that drives mothers to ensure that children lack nothing and that they should be given the best opportunities to go further.
However, to pressure a child into studying or considering a profession that he or she isn’t cut out for could merely ensure his or her failure at it. There’s already enough pressure posed by the world out there that you don’t really need more in the form of mum’s lofty expectations at home. And sometimes, your child can be the best hairdresser there is and achieve great success through his or her passion.
So yes, we all have our mums who with their quirks, have sometimes doled out dodgy advice or counsel that we recognise doesn’t necessarily qualify as words of wisdom.
However, we’ve all turned out fine in the end despite the mistakes and fumbles that our very human mothers make. Perhaps it’s because we recognise that their actions, however misguided, have been backed by an undeniable emotion which has kept families together no matter the challenges that come with raising children. It’s called love.