My baby will never get to meet my mum, but there is still so much I want them to learn from her. We were complete opposites and so I feel like it’s such a loss for my baby that they won’t have her unique guidance in their life.
Where she was strong, I am weak. Where she was brave, I am scared. Where she was wild, I am meek. All I can do is keep my mum’s memory alive for my little baby and hope that I can impart all the wisdom and life lessons that she would have.
Here is what I know my mum would have taught her grandchild:
The importance of learning
My mum was kicked out of just about every Catholic school in Melbourne by the time she was 15 and then pregnant at 16. It’s fair to say she had a wild side! Because of her lack of education, she was adamant that us kids would have a good education. Me and my brothers were all lucky in that we did well academically at school (PE was a very different story though…). Back then we didn’t have labels for kids who struggled in school and misbehaved and most teachers just pegged them as bad or stupid kids. My mum had a great affinity with these kids and spent countless hours at the school helping them with their reading and writing. She refused to give up on any kid and never made them feel stupid because they couldn’t read. Even when they acted out, she didn’t get upset with them or judge them, her only focus was making sure that they had every opportunity to learn and that they knew they were worth the effort.
How to have a good time
Compared to my mum, I am a total stick in the mud. She was impulsive, silly and maybe a little crazy (OK, pretty crazy). She didn’t plan things, she was late for everything, she was too loud and often times a complete embarrassment to me. She just didn’t see the point in following the rules of life (as long as it didn’t hurt anyone). She loved nothing more than laughing hysterically until she fell into a coughing fit or wet her pants. When she started laughing, you would start laughing too because her laugh was just hilariously infectious… and because you knew she was going to wet her pants!
Don’t let people push you around
She didn’t put up with people pushing her around and she certainly wouldn’t tolerate it if anyone did it to her kids. I was an incredibly shy kid who was pretty much scared of my own shadow. If she ever thought I was being mistreated or missing out on anything, she would march over and sort the situation out. Many a teacher, doctor, shop assistant, extended family member or school parent would cop her wrath if they thought they could get away with pushing me around. Even when I was well into my 20’s (OK, maybe even my 30’s) she would hear about something that had upset me and try to work out how she could sort it out for me. It might make her sound overbearing, but she just hated to see people who couldn’t stand up for themselves get pushed around.
If it was important to me, it was important to her
My mum always made sure I knew that my feelings were important. Maybe it was because she really wasn’t that much older than me, she remember what it was like to be ignored or not heard because you were just a kid. Our family didn’t have much when we were growing up, but if I really wanted something, even if it was frivolous like an ice cream cake for my birthday or 90210 pjs or a fluro ski headband (WTF was I thinking?), she would move heaven and earth to make sure I didn’t miss out. Often to my poor dad’s frustration who then had to find the money for these treats! I wrote more about it here at my old blog all the way back in 2008. She would stay up late sewing clothes so I had something to wear to the school disco and wouldn’t be teased. She paid attention when I said I didn’t want to go to sports day and be humiliated. She would drop me off in town to hang out and spy on my crush, even though we had no money for petrol. In hindsight I can see that none of these things really matter, but they mattered to me at the time, so she made sure it was important to her too.
Being different is OK
She was different to the other mum’s in our very small country town and she was judged quite harshly by a lot of people. She swore, she smoked, she didn’t go to church, she wore pyjamas all day, she laughed too loud, she made dirty jokes, she dyed her hair crazy colours and she wore big jewellery. That might not sound crazy, but back then in our little country town it was outlandish behaviour. She didn’t change who she was though because other people didn’t like it. Not even slightly. If people didn’t like her the way she was, then she simply didn’t want to be around them. It was their problem, not hers.
Being a mum is an important job
She loved being a mum, it was all she ever wanted to do (and be a grandparent). She thought kids were important and raising them was a privilege. She never acted like she needed more or that being our mum was a let down. Even when I would snottily make it clear that I was going to be a career woman, she didn’t mind my attitude and just said she would gladly look after my kids so I could go and have a career. She saw value in her role in the world and wouldn’t let anyone take that away from her.
Maybe that last lesson is more for me than my baby. As I am about to become a mum, I want my kid to know how much I will treasure that role, even if I am not perfect, I will be doing my best. Just like my mum.
Me and mum