Growing Together To Be Like My Mother

Most people don’t particularly enjoy hanging out with their mother’s friends, but one of my favourite things to do with my mother is to join in on her aunty lunches/high-tea/coffee hangs. 

It all started during study leaves in high school. Most of my friends are nerds and wanted to study 24/7, but I was like we all gotta eat lunch so why can’t we just hang out for lunch, destress, and go back to studying right after?

My friends are nerds and they did study through their meal breaks; but not this nerd, I followed my mum to lunch with her friends every other weekday. It’s 2 hours of not studying – I will be fine. And I am, plus I have the extra wisdom than my peers from hanging around wonderful aunties.

Fast forward a few years to now, where I routinely hang out with my mother’s aunty friends in Hong Kong. These hangs last about 4-5 hours on average including lunch and coffee/high-tea. The amount of time I spend with them got to the point that one of them actually had fro-yo with me without my mother after lunch with my mother. 

And in one of these coffee hangs recently, the aunties were talking about mother-in-laws, and that led into potentially being one for their children in the future. 

One of the aunties said something along the lines of:

maybe God gave us the children or children-in-law to help us grow‘. 

I looked at my mother and said, ‘Die loh.’ (rough English translation: well, we’re both screwed)

And my mother said, ‘Who die? You or me?’ 

I said, ‘Both of us loh.’ 

We both laughed cause it’s true.

I think my favourite thing that my mother has ever told me about her children is that she legitimately thought that God sent us to torture her. I mean, when you have 3 kids at ages 7, 4, and a baby that puked at every cough – she’s 100% right, it is torture. 

The torture didn’t lessen into my teens, especially after we moved to Beijing. Out of the three children, I was the worst. Perhaps my siblings are smart and learnt from my mistakes; perhaps I just had a massive teenage inferiority complex that needed to be the best, even if that meant being the best at being the worst. 

Yet throughout the worst, my mother never crumbled under the pressure. There are 3 times in my entire life I distinctly remembering my mother showing a human meltdown in front of me. Apparently she cries in front of my sister a lot, but that’s probably because my sister cries at everything

The first memory was when I refused to go to bed around the age of 3 or 4, I heard my mum cry for the first time, and my dad came into my room to gently tell me to basically stop being an idiot and go to bed. The second time was when her sister-in-law, my aunty, passed away. 

The third time was on my last night with her in New York my freshman year.

It was quiet. We shared Malaysian food – kangkung belacan and beef rendang, if memory serves me correctly. She walked me to a meeting in Kimmel Centre. She held my hand tightly. We haven’t held hands since I was a child. At the front of the Kimmel stairs against the backdrop of the Washington Square Arch, she handed me a paper bag filled with fresh produce from the Union Square Greenmarket. Then we hugged tightly. 

We probably whispered our ‘I love you’s and ‘goodbye’s and ‘see you soon’s, but the only sound I remember is her silent swift walk away from Kimmel so I wouldn’t know she was crying. I remember how I couldn’t sit through that meeting and spent most of it in the fourth floor GCASL bathroom sobbing. I forgot the bag of supplies in the meeting room, and couldn’t find it the next day.

Even as I write this moment out, I started tearing up in the Hong Kong subway. New Yorkers have a saying that you become a New Yorker when you are breaking down faster than the MTA and ‘give zero fucks’. I’ve yet to see anyone show emotion on Hong Kong’s MTR, which is probably why it runs so smoothly and efficiently.

When I was much younger, I wanted to be a nurse because my mother was a nurse before she had me.

I will never be a nurse. But instead of wanting to the occupation of what my mother was before she had me, I’ve come to figure out that what I want to be when I grow up, is to be like my mother.

In many ways, I’m already am like my mother. I’ve gratefully inherited her elegant jawline (that is asymmetrical and requires painful braces to fix) and high cheekbones. We laugh really easily, and could care less about what you do because we care more about who you are. I’ve also learn to adopt her silent strength that anchors the wandering heart, that soothes the anxious soul.

And what I think is most important that she cultivated in me is a spirit of adventure and fearlessness. She raised a family, which is something that I cannot ever fathom doing, let alone doing it in a foreign country, let alone doing it in China.

She was the first in her family to become a Christian, and the first in her family to leave Malaysia on a one-way ticket to London with only a few pounds in her pocket.

She’s one of the rare Asian mothers that openly compliments her children, lets her children open up to her with minimal judgment (she’s still Asian), and tells her loved ones that she loves them.

She also still holds her husband’s hand as they nap on the sofa, like otters. My brother thought it would be funny to wish ‘heppy motters dey’.

My mother recently shared with me that unlike many parents she knew of, she never prayed for what we view as ‘success’ for her children. Of course, she’d hope that we would be successful in all that we do (which we are), but her concern was not earthly success, but that we would have a strong relationship with God first.

My mother’s heart aligned with His heart. 

Her prayer is proof that God answers prayers, because she asked for what was already on God’s heart.

My mother’s prayer wasn’t just miraculous because God is good, He fulfills the desires of our hearts, and surpasses the impossible wishes, but because my mother was just as steadfast in her walk with God as God is relentless in blessing his loved ones. It’s one thing to pray that her children will also claim their identities as children of God, but it’s another matter to live by example.

In hindsight, there were moments where it really looked like God may not have answered her prayers, especially during my years as a teenage wreck. But in recent years, it’s been really awesome to see how her children’s walk with God has manifested differently for each of us. From this blog, to my sister’s never-ending notebook that covers her daily devotion and prayer requests/answers, to my brother’s testimony to his youth group – God’s still answering her prayer.

The reason why her three children are similarly strong in faith but wildly different in our personalities and interests is because she trusted God to guide us on our own paths. Above all, her prayer is God’s prayer because she let Him do His thing in our lives.

God gave us our mother not just because she needed us to grow, but also so that we can grow up with her as our mother.


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