Parentpost from anywhere

Published: Friday April 3, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday April 4, 2015 MYT 4:53:36 PM

The strong bond between women

All amazing women: Alicia (left) with her mother and mother-in-law (right).

All amazing women: Alicia (left) with her mother and mother-in-law (right).

A mother acknowledges the strong females in her life, who have helped to empower and inspire her

In Britain, where my in laws live, Mother’s Day is celebrated sometime between late March and early April. In Malaysia, we celebrate with the Americans on the second Sunday of May. As we straddle the two dates, I want to acknowledge the women who have helped me to become the person I am today.

My Ma defied her parents to marry my penniless father. Mima, my maternal grandmother cut her daughter’s hair off when she discovered Ma had eloped so Ma had very short hair for her wedding pictures. Living all the way across town almost 40 years ago without a car, Ma was isolated and sometimes depressed. I recall her caning my sister and I when she was angry. No answer we gave was ever good enough. She was much gentler on sisters number three and four, though life continued to deal her difficult cards.

However, Ma was also an amazing cook and a great listener. She talked to us like she cared about our opinions and listened to us like we were her equals. She was not the kind of mother to tell you what was right and wrong and rarely criticised our decisions. She gave us freedom other children could only dream of and I became all the more capable for it.

As a child, I was often frustrated that she seemed to know so little. She didn’t have ideas or solutions. I felt like I lacked guidance. Then I became a mother and understood exactly how out of depth one can feel. There isn’t a magic age at which you suddenly understand everything. What you do come to know however is that above all, your mother loves you as best as she can, with everything that she’s got.

My Mima was not always the frail and insecure person she is today. Once upon a time, she carried me on her back through the back lanes of Cheras so I would not accidentally cut my feet on glass from the broken bottles that littered the area. She pointed out papaya trees to me and told me some were male and female. She said she would like to have a cat one day when money was not so tight.

My Amma had chickens and adored sister number two. She gave me coffee, black as tar, from her saucer and told me that if I helped her with her chickens, she’d one day leave them to me. She was delirious with morphine, dying of lung cancer and did not realise that her house and chickens were long gone; developed into some swanky apartments in Taman Seputeh. 

Both my grandmothers were essentially single mothers. Though they had husbands, they were often left for long periods to raise the children while their husbands philandered and drank. I recall seeing Mima slapped for daring to question her husband. Amma’s husband pointed his shotgun at her, and then my father for trying to defend his mother, during an argument.

I also remember my Taima, my maternal great grandmother. She was little, always singing and filled me with awe. She came from China as a mail order bride for an older gentleman and taught herself to read. She also played the organ and was a skilled machine embroiderer. She taught me to sew and beamed with pride at my small and tidy stitches. When she found out I had a boyfriend, she wanted to see if he was handsome and then smiled smugly when he was suitably fair of face.

Because her son, my grandfather, was a poor husband, she sometimes lived with Mima to help her raise the children. She was especially fond of my uncle who lost his hearing to a terrible bout of fever as a toddler. Though they were a good team, they resented each other and I found their constant animosity confusing.

My mum-in-law was a complete shock to me. She is an only child and both her parents had died when I first met her. She was private and stoic, as only single children know how to be. Coming from a close knit family of four sisters, my then boyfriend’s mother was very different from anyone I’d ever met. After almost two decades though, we’ve laughed, quarrelled, disagreed and rallied together more times than we can count. We share so many similarities; we love to craft and sew and we sass our husbands. She graciously takes my side when her son is misbehaving and will listen to me rant without taking offense.

From this network of women, I have been woven into the person I am today. I cannot say how grateful I am that my mother and mother-in-law get along splendidly and that I can count them both as my greatest of friends and allies. When I am having a bad day, at least one will be available to laugh at my silliness. Failing those two, there are my three sisters.

From these amazing women, I’ve learned that though we may not have the answers and we may not be perfect, we are good enough. The fact that we get up everyday in our uncertain, imperfect lives and give it our all; that makes us good enough.

Tags / Keywords: Parentpost, Parenting, Family, Mother s Day, building bonds, strong women

More Articles

Filter by

All amazing women: Alicia (left) with her mother and mother-in-law (right).

The strong bond between women

3 April 2015

A mother acknowledges the strong females in her life, who have helped to empower and inspire her

Gentle loving: Its more important to comfort a distressed child than to discipline him. - Illustration: Tribune News Service

A little more kindness for all parents and children

13 March 2015

This mother intervened because she couldn’t stand by while a child cried in misery.

Beyond looks: (From left to right) Bern loves reading and boarding, Katelin can do a split on chairs and Cian with his beloved toys.

Shift your focus from looks to truly connect with people

27 February 2015

Find out about people’s interests instead of their skin-deep beauty.

Lean on us: Three sisters rally to take care of their mother who has always been there for them, when she suffers from a stroke. — Tribune News Service

It’s our turn, mum

13 February 2015

This daughter wants her mother to know she is no trouble at all.

Saying 'No' when everyone else is busy buying

30 January 2015

Parentpost: Maybe there is more to life than chasing after things.

Open for discussion: In French schools, teachers are encouraging discussions on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. — AFP

Making sense of a terrorist act

16 January 2015

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, French schoolchildren ponder on the country’s fundamental values of liberty, equality and fraternity.

A new mother has to learn new skill sets

2 January 2015

A young career woman turned full-time mum is grappling with her limited living skills.


Recent Posts