by Ajike Akande
Last weekend was glorious. The weather was perfect for backyard shenanigans. With the help of our outdoors-loving kids, our house resumed the familiar look of spring and summer – sand from the sandbox all over the floor, cast-off sweaters hanging off the chairs, and water bottles and empty snack bowls on the shelf by the backyard door. Everything is easier and messier in the warmer weather.
As if the weekend needed any improvement, I also had the pleasure of celebrating mother’s day with my family, but mostly with my own terrific mom. We went for lunch and manicures and pedicures. It was pretty heavenly! My mom was adorably excited to hang out with me and commented on how nice it was to have a conversation (or several) without being interrupted by her darling, but demanding, grandchildren.
My mom and I have always been close, maybe even too close if you ask my siblings and Wife. Growing up my mother always worked – a lot. Regardless of her heavy work schedule, she always made special time for us, especially me - the needy youngest child. She took me for quick after school trips to the park between her day job as an education consultant and her evening work teaching university courses. When I got older, she’d slip away, shed off her school principal image and pick me up at school to take me for lunch. It was such a treat.
On Saturdays we would go shopping (an activity, to my mother’s dismay, I no longer enjoy) or I would tag along when she went to speaking engagements or travelled to lead workshops. I quietly sat at the back with my toys and books and watched people listen to my mom. I knew her work was important and that people really respected her, but I just liked being with her and was pretty happy to do so anywhere, at any time.
When my mom was elected to the provincial government, it became even clearer that I had this amazing mom, but her office at the provincial legislature was just another place for my friends and I to go after school to wait for a drive home. When I’d call her office upset about a lousy mark on a test, her staff knew she’d take the call, no matter what. She belonged to her electorate and by extension the province but first, she was my mom.
My mom has been written about in history books. People to this day, long after she’s retired from politics and education, tell me that she’s a hero. I always smile and say, “yeah, she’s amazing, but to me, she’s just my mom.” I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am incredibly proud of my mom. She is amazing and brilliant, incredibly stylish (voted one of the best dressed seniors by a major newspaper) and incredibly accomplished. She is a bit of a queen (you know what that makes me, right?). She always wants to do something “crazy” so she’s great in a private karaoke room or a lesbian bar but she’s a bit scary and seemingly unfriendly when you first meet her; but once she’s comfortable, she a whole mess of fun! To her eight grandchildren she is Big Nanny and so, so, so wonderful.
With a mom like mine, you may not be surprised to learn that as an adult, I often feel like I don’t live up to her expectations and that I’m a bit of a disappointment. This is about me, not her. My mom isn’t quiet about how she feels about her kids. She thinks we’re pretty fantastic and is happy to provide us, or anyone who asks an alphabetized list of the many ways.
I recognize my accomplishments in my career as an educator as well as my accomplishments as a parent. I know that even writing this blog, regardless of how many people read it, is a big accomplishment. I can’t help feeling, however, that in spite of my accomplishments, I am not and will probably never be, as successful as my mother in the same type of public ways. We have chosen entirely different paths for our adult lives. I’ve chosen to be, predominately a full-time mom at home and she chose to be a full-time mom that works outside of the home (I think that all parents parent full-time in some way or another.). She chose, for a while, a very public life, and I have chosen to keep life pretty quiet except for all the small humans that occupy my home and heart.
My mother would tell you that we both sometimes get stuck thinking that because we have chosen such different paths that somehow we both feel judged by the other. My brother and sister would tell us both to get over it and stop being so concerned about what the other does and thinks. My brother and sister pride themselves on being much wiser than their baby sister and much less inappropriately obsessed with the feelings, thoughts and actions of our mother.
Here’s what I know, my mother is the most incredible woman I know because of all the things that strangers, colleagues and friends know about her but mostly because she taught me so much about loving the hell out of your kids the best way you know how each and every day. Sometimes that love looks like co-sleeping and sometimes it looks like kisses goodbye on the cheek of a 6 week old baby on the way out the door to work. For my mom, it meant both of those things. My mother doesn’t apologize for how she loved and continues to love us – not because she believes that she has made no mistakes as a mother, but because she has always loved us the best way she could and that just has to be good enough. I am thick headed but I think that’s what she’s trying to teach me as a much newer and younger mom. For me, this may be her best lesson – no workshop required.
Thank you for letting me use this space to celebrate my mom just days after Mother’s Day. Happy Day Ma!
For all of you who do mothering work, regardless of the name you wear, I hope that you were well feted this Mother’s Day. For those of you who are mothers whose children are far and for those of you who are children whose mothers are far, I hope you found space on Mother’s Day to celebrate in your own way.XO Ajike