Mother’s Day hasn’t ever meant much to me. Growing up in India in the 80s, there was no concept of celebrating these so-called special days. It was only when the greeting card business took off that such days started being celebrated in India. I was in college by then and it never struck me to make or buy a card for my mother. I’m sure if I ever did, it would have been viewed with extreme suspicion.
Since there no fond memories attached to this day, I don’t particularly value the day even now, as a mother myself. Sure, I’m happy enough to get the cards they supposedly make for me while at playschool and kindergarten. After all, it’s just some sort of scribbling and splashing and it encourages their fine motor skills to hold a pen or paintbrush. But I am coldly practical, and I don’t fool myself that it means anything. At four and two, they are too little to know or care about anything that doesn’t involve them getting cake, toys or books.
This Mother’s Day though was particularly hard. My husband was travelling, as always. My helper, who lives with us, was enjoying a day off with her friends. I was happy for them both. My husband was being pampered thoroughly by his mother in India. (It’s never Mother’s Day in India, but Son’s Day 365 days in the year!) As for helpers in Hong Kong, they are entitled to just one day off in a week and I try not to ask my helper to rearrange her holiday schedule because that is the only day she gets to meet her friends. And on that particular day, my helper was celebrating her own birthday.
So I was at home with the two kids and they were getting on my nerves. They are going through a phase where they just can’t bear to share anything. They both want the same toy, the same book and even the same food. By the same food, I don’t mean they want to eat the same thing. But if one has something, the other must have it. That very piece. That very spoonful. Even if it is just to spit it out. I was fed up of mediating. I was fed up of offering them solutions. I ignored them and very soon there was pushing and shoving and one was bleeding from the nose, the other from the lip.
In complete rage, I marched them off to bed for an afternoon nap, punishing them with no lunch. And then I turned my fury to the phone and deleted every one of the 1000 ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ messages I had got that morning.
The kids got up in a while, hungry and repentant. I took them to meet a friend who had offered to keep them entertained for a while, if I needed a break. While they were still technically being ‘punished’, it didn’t feel like one because she had baked cupcakes by the time we got there! She has always been a ‘Child-Whisperer’ and this time, she worked her charm and got them calm and then allowed them to ice the cupcakes and decorate them with chocolate chips.
When we left, I was carrying back eight cupcakes, when the pestering started again. There was a constant barrage of “Can we have the cupcake now?” “Now?” “OK, now?” from both sides, peppered with pinches and pushes, as each one wanted to have the other’s share as well. I replied as patiently as I could with the blood pounding in my ears that they could have one each after dinner.
Dinner was at a new restaurant that was surprisingly empty on a Sunday evening. The waitress first got cards and colour pens and asked the kids to make me Mother’s Day cards. And then she announced that she was getting me free flow prosecco on the house to celebrate my special day.
Considerably soothed by the prosecco, I looked down at my kids and smiled lovingly at them. The restaurant was slowly filling up. As a few people sat down at the tables beside ours, they looked approvingly at my kids who were now furiously colouring what they claimed were flowers (I can safely bet that those varieties don’t exist even in the best botanical gardens!) My daughter noticed them and smiled back. My son who copies everything she does, smiled shyly at them too. Soon, my kids seemed to have acquired a band of admirers.
“Do they know you, Amma?” asked my daughter, surprised.
“Then why are they smiling at you?”
“They are smiling at you, darling. And your brother. Because they think you’re sweet. You’re being good, colouring so well and playing with each other so nicely.”
“And because we’re sharing?”
“Errr… Yes.” I didn’t know what exactly they were sharing but I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to reinforce the need to share.
Suddenly, my daughter slid off her seat and picked up the box of cupcakes and walked off. Her tail, my son, followed. I thought they had decided to ignore my instructions and just eat the cupcakes before dinner and I was getting ready to bark out an order, when I saw what they were up to.
“We made these cupcakes. Would you like some?” Without having got a taste themselves, my children were offering random strangers cupcakes. And surprised and charmed by the children, the random strangers accepted the cupcakes happily and ate them, cooing about how delicious they were.
As the box started getting empty, I braced myself for furious howling from my son and counter-screaming from my daughter. But when there was one last cupcake left and no other takers, my daughter settled down and told her little brother, “Let’s share this after dinner, ok, V?” He nodded happily.
I was left gob smacked. I’d got the best Mother’s Day gift ever!