In terms of training and preparing a child for life, the mother plays the leading role. From conception to adulthood, and at times even beyond, a mother teaching her child is critical. The old adage, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” is still true in our modern society.
I learned about motherhood and mothering from looking at my mother and other ladies of her time. Outside of my mom, I can think of some other ladies, some of whom had no children, who revealed the intricacies of being a mother to me.
She taught me from the womb
When my mother told me the story of my birth, she related that I was born on a Sunday, “2 o’clock hot sun”. Hard labor, but she was glad when I finally popped into the world and took my first breath.
My early memory of my mom is her being active at home. She never seemed to stop working, and she never seemed to stop singing. I can still hear her voice in my head as she worked and sang. One song that comes immediately to mind says:
O the lark sings in the meadow, In the pleasant flowery meadow
And a happy song sings he.
And the burden of his trilling, All the air with music filling
It is this, God cares for me
God cares for me, Bright is the day before me
Where ‘er I go, right, well I know, His loving care, is ‘ore me.
So yeah, I/we, learned to sing early in life. It was always a joy to hear us sing during morning worship during the week and evening worship on a Friday as we welcomed the Sabbath. There were seven of us children, five boys, two girls, in that order. Mummy sung the soprano and as we grew older, us children learned to sing the different parts. You should hear us!!
My mother also blessed me with the insatiable desire to read. I do not know if it was intentional, but she told me that when she was pregnant with me, she spent a lot of time reading. I still love to read. I can be in the noisiest environment and get lost and undistracted with an interesting book in my hand. Where ever I go, I walk with a book to read if I have down time. I thank my mom for that gift.
She is the one who taught me to read and write. I recall standing near the table while she ironed or sitting next to the sewing machine while she sewed and learning to pronounce words from my first reading book. She was my kindergarten teacher. From learning the alphabet, to writing my first letters to forming my first words, my mom was there. And she did the same for the other six.
Preschool was in her living room or where ever she decided that it should be. By the time I was four years and 10 months, I was accepted into primary school, purely on my mom/s teaching.
Teaching her child through discipline
My mother was the disciplinarian in the family. Obedience was required and expected and failure to do so was met, first of all by reproof and threats. If it persisted, she was not afraid to apply the rod and to do so effectively.
However, her first line of discipline was to teach and instill in her child/children, a love and respect for God.
Morning worship was compulsory. Most times we would rise before the sun was up so that my father could be a part of he worship experience before he left for the garden. We’d sing, study the Bible and then pray.
Our church – we are Seventh-day Adventists – have Bible lessons for each age group, so we studied accordingly. Of course, there was a verse of scripture to commit to memory every day. I can still recall those passages today. For us, it was not a task, but an enjoyable part of our daily life. At times though, some of us did fall asleep during the session.
One of her sayings to us whenever that happened was: “God wants us to be a living sacrifice, not a dead one”.
Having that love for God allowed us to get along well with each other. That is not to say that there were not misunderstandings in the family. They were always resolved, if not immediately, by the end of the day. She taught us how to forgive each other and make up and not to hold hatred in our hearts for each other.
We also learned to work – from early. As long as you were able to do a job mom taught you to do it and then allowed you to practice what she taught you. She would also check to make sure that if it was done correctly. If it wasn’t, then you would have to repeat until you got it right. If you needed some stimulation, she provided that too.
Since we boys came first, she insured that we learned to do everything around the house. As such, all of us can wash, cook, iron and keep house. Some of us can even bake. We never saw this as female work, more so as every Christmas our father took over the kitchen and allowed our mom the freedom of going caroling.
I thank God for my mom teaching me to do those things. I have experienced the benefits of her foresight in my adult life and at times I boast that the only thing a woman can “:cut style” on me with, is that which God has given her.
Then there was the love for natural beauty. I remember her allotting each one of us a small plot of land in the yard of our house. Our responsibility was to populate it with flowers. She provided the seeds or plants and supervision. For a long time, our yard was one of the prettiest in the community. The butterflies and birds often came to visit. To today, my love for a beautiful flower garden still exists.
And then, she found the time to play with us, especially in our childhood. Even then, she taught us lessons such as sportsmanship, fair play, no cheating and being kind to each other. When we played cricket, she was the empire even while she went about her work. She always knew what was going on in our play.
Her living faith
I know of no one who had a stronger faith in God. When it came to spiritual things, our mom led the way in the family. She instilled in me a love for God that has helped define the path I follow up to today. Everything in our lives was measured by our relationship with God and what we read in the Bible.
Often she would quote verses or passages of scripture to us in an effort to guide our “feet” aright. Immediately one comes to mind: “there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”. The first birthday gift that I can recall her giving to me was a small book – “The Story of Jesus”. I devoured it.
While she nurtured my love for reading, she was always careful to monitor and restrict what I read. At the time – between ages 10 and 17 I could not understand why she had a problem with some of the reading material that I choose. Today I know, for I can look back and see the effect they had on me.
My mom was a firm believer in prayer. I recall being in primary school and the school planning an excursion. We lived in the country so a visit to the city was a huge event and all of us wanted to attend. At that time, five of us were still in primary school. Mom let us know that there was no money to pay for us to attend. But she also told us that our father had just planted a crop. What we would have to do was pray God that the crop comes abundantly and earlier than usual.
We attacked the “Throne of Grace” vigorously and God answered our prayers. All of us were able to go on that excursion. This helped to cement our/my faith in God. I still believe in Him today.
Weekly attendance at church on Sabbath – some say Saturday – was the norm. There we were able to connect with others of like faith and at the same time learn more of our Creator God, from our Elders and when they could come, the Pastor who was assigned to our district.
This foundation served to keep me out of trouble when I entered secondary school and was more on my own. I learned to say no to those friends who tried to teach me their ways instead. It was not difficult for me to say no to them when they suggested cigarette smoking, fornication or school truancy to me.
Preparation for adult responsibilities
Without saying so, my mother made it known that we could come to her with any issue, even if it was something that we knew she would be disappointed in. If there was need to discipline us as a result, she would. The degree of discipline depended on the act.
She used as her measurement an old saying that she had learned from her father – there was a figurative cup into which our misdeeds went. When it overflowed, it was discipline time. There were times when it overflowed quickly.
Early on, I knew that my parents loved each other. It was not that there was much if any, public show of affection. It was more something that you felt and experienced. Similar to the way she taught us to forgive each other, she acted with our father. There were times when they quarreled but the disagreement did not go into the other day. I can’t recall her putting down our father in front of us either.
Mummy was a smart lady. In reflection, if my father had always gone with her advice, things would have been much better with us – all around. I can recall her making suggestions to him and at times he would resist them. Later, when he did agree to try them and he was successful, he would talk as though it was his own idea. My mom would just look at us and smile. Not once did she say “I told you so”, or “that was my idea”.
But there were times when she acted even though he did not agree with what she wanted to do. I recall that there was a time she wanted to rearrange the rooms of the house. He did not agree. She waited until he left for work and then she got the hammer and other tools, called us children and said, “we have to finish this work before your father get back home”. So we vigorously got to work.
When he got home that evening and opened the door to what used to be the kitchen, he realized that he had entered a bed room. All I can recall him saying was: “a a!”. That was the end of that matter. And it did not make us feel that we could disrespect our father in any way.
As a matter of fact, they supported each other in our training. If we wanted to go out and we asked her and she said no, and then we went to him to have him over-ride her, he would ask us “what did your mother say?” That settled the issue, for we know that he would not go against her wishes.
There was never a time when we wondered who was “the man in the house” and our father did not have to proclaim it nor did our mom.
Supporting even in adulthood
As I grew older, it seemed as though my mom held the reins of my life closer to her. She was very careful about my academic education but never neglected the spiritual or the social. In fact, early on she took notice of my interest in the opposite sex and did her best at first to curb it and later to gently guide it.
One of her early sayings to me about my interest in females was “girls and books don’t mix”. She wanted me to take care of the academics first. Ladies would come later. When I wanted to be stubborn and she found a note in my school pants pocket, that I had forgotten to deliver to the intended recipient, she stimulated my behind with a switch. I got the message and held it down after that until I had completed school.
That’s not to say that she forbade my interaction with the opposite sex, it’s just that she taught me to keep it in perspective. Proverb: “there is a time and season for everything under the sun”. She also taught me not to be jealous of the opposite sex. Respect their choices, so that if one didn’t feel about me the way I felt about her, respectfully allow her to go her way. And at the same time, there would be no need to stop talking to the person.
I learned this well and found later on in life that this confused people, especially ladies who were accustomed to the man close to them acting insecure when another man came around. When I didn’t behave that way, they’d conclude that I did love them or care. Far from it, but I believe in choice and respecting choice. Not that I’ll just step away if another male show interest in my lady. But if she chooses him…….hey, good luck to you and him. I can still be a friend.
I did not do as well at the end of my five years in secondary school as I should have. My father was totally disappointed as was my mom. He took a hands off attitude to me then, my mom approached the situation differently. She would pay the fees for me to attend a private secondary school for another year but I would have to find my passage to attend school. And that school was one hour’s drive away from home.
How was I expected to do that? By then my father was selling snow cone every Sunday on the beach about 15 minutes ride away from our home. I had to join him in that enterprise, but I would have my own bike. Whatever money I made, would go toward me making up my passage. I can assure that I didn’t miss a day of school. I also learned another valuable lesson.
Later, when it was time to choose a wife, she sought to guide my choice then too. She did not agree with my final choice. I ignored the reasons that she gave but it turned out that she was a prophetess. Still, once the deed was done, I had her full support and so too did my wife. She loved our children and never acted unkindly to my wife or them. And she never interfered in our relationship.
Throughout life, I was aware that my mother was praying for me. Another gift that God had given her was dreams and the interpretation of dreams. She told my wife that she was pregnant with our third before my wife knew that she was. She had dreamt fish, the night before.
And so, it was via a dream that my mom found out that she was coming to the end of her days.
Her final years
She called me aside one evening about 8 years ago while she was watering her flowers, and told me of a dream that she had. Then she gave me the interpretation. It was that she would get sick but she would not die immediately. She asked me to promise that she would not be placed in a home. I was surprised that she would think that we would do that. I promised her that even if I had to pay for someone to come home and care for her, she would not be placed in a geriatric home.
Not long after she suffered the first of a number of mild strokes. My father was still healthy then but later he died, four years before her. As they aged, they seemed to love each other more. He spent his last days in the hospital and she could not visit him every day, but it was always heart stirring to see how he would light up whenever we took her to see him. They held each others hands throughout the few minutes they got together then.
After he died, she refused to return to their bed. Her last four years were spent on the couch in the living room. My oldest sister and I took care of her. For her last two and a half years, I was unemployed, so my sister and I exchanged days looking after her.
I give praise and thanks to God for giving me to her. For me, she was an excellent example of motherhood.
I hope that whether male or female, you have been inspired. Feel free to comment or ask a question in the space provided underneath, respectfully.