Friday, 24 February 2017

Oh, Mum

My son comes over every Saturday night.  We have pizza and nachos and chocolatey things, play a strategy board game and watch various anime shows which he likes and wants to share with me.  We both have a taste for plots that involve philosophical issues and a bit of mystery or fantasy.  He has a greater tolerance than I have for violence and blood though I have to admit it can seem quite benign when it involves animated format and an unrealistic plot.  We generally have always had a great rapport and gotten along well, and for this to have transitioned into a relationship between parent and adult child is very rewarding.  We chat easily about our own lives, observations and this shared interest we have in philosophy and psychology which boils down to why do people do what they do and aren't people strange?

Recently I've been wondering how many things I say leave him laughing and shaking his head in private.  This is, after all, something mothers tend to be good at.  He has said to me more than once "Mum you're a bit weird but I love that."

One of the things I remember about my grandmother (and grandmothers are are also mothers) is that whenever she saw you she immediately looked worried and asked, "Are you okay, you look a bit pale?"  Everyone knew was code for I love you and I am prone to being worried about you.  Although it was perhaps mildly offensive and could leaving you wondering if you really looked as awful as she seemed to think, you assured her you were fine and laughed about it later.  Funny Grandma.

I am beginning to notice this sort of quirk in my own mother.  Compliments were never generously doled out in my family.  You certainly knew they were sincere if they did come but for the most part my recollections of childhood involve being praised for being well behaved and if I were dressed up for a special occasion there was praise along the lines of 'you look very nice' which meant your efforts at marking the special occasion were noted and appreciated.  I am sure that performance in a school concert or dance recital was given some sort of acknowledgement and a drawing or essay that earned a good mark was probably also praised or admired, but my point is that praise and compliments were not a significant part of my upbringing.  I suspect this was part of a child-raising philosophy, conscious or not, meant to avoid conceit or over-confidence.  It was probably also due to my mother's English background.  And certainly in comparison to the strategies employed by my own generation as parents the praise and compliments would seem sparse in retrospect.  I wonder how my son remembers his own childhood and how similar I ended up being to my own mother.  I am fairly certain I was probably more like her than typical of my own generation. 

I feel compelled to express that there is no lack of demonstrating love and affection in my family; it's a matter of showing it more than saying it and I am speaking more specifically of compliments and praise not love.

But I am digressing a bit (amazing that it's only a bit) from my original thoughts on the strange things mothers say.  Or in this case my own mother.  Over the past several years, after I survived a difficult divorce and admitted to having been in an emotionally abusive relationship, my mother rather endearingly made significant and obvious efforts to make up for the suffering she perceived her child to have endured.  I was showered with words of love, affection and praise to a point where it was almost comical although I am moved and touched by the sweetness of it.  In contrast to this though, the slightly odd observation/comment-not quite compliment that her own mother was so prone to is beginning to fall more frequently from my own mother's lips. 

Today, meeting my parents at the cafe as I often do, I arrived knowing my hair was not performing at its best but determined to keep calm and carry on.  Growing it out means inevitable awkward stages and my perpetual dilemma is my bangs, or fringe as my British friends say.  I am aware that the opinion of most who know me is that I am more flattered by wearing bangs than not.  At this point in my life I am beginning to not care much about that and find bangs a bloody pain.  So frequently I just want them off my face though I admit that many times in my life I've intended to let them grow out and then been talked into cutting them again.  One of the advantages to aging is increasingly caring less about what others think and if my comfort is greatly enhanced by not having bangs then it's time to do something about that.  So with that in mind lately I've been pinning them off my forehead.  It will be the only solution as they grow but even now while they are still eyebrow length I find significant relief in pinning them back. 

Digressiony Bit...Some women can't wait to take their bras off when they get home and I have never been one of those women.  I am not uncomfortable in a bra but I imagine that pinning my bangs off my face is the same feeling of relief that bra removal brings for some.

So as I was saying, I arrived at the cafe with less than desirable hairstyle and bangs pinned.  Mum said something like this...

"You've pinned your bangs back"

I replied "Yes, I have decided that bangs annoy me."

Mum nodded.  "It looks okay."  She paused a bit and then added.  "It looks deliberate."

Later I thought that this is fairly typical of her.  She appraises something I am wearing or a way I've styled my hair and then comments that it's okay.  As though I may have been in any doubt that it was working for me and needed some reassurance.  I suppose there was a time when that may have been true.  Perhaps in her mind she hears a much younger me asking the question, 'is this all right?'

Now I chuckle to myself privately.  I didn't ask her if it was okay.  If she thought it wasn't okay I would still do it.  I am getting too old to care.  People say this happens in your forties but if that's true I am a late bloomer, as I'm  four months shy of fifty. 

I have not yet begun to worriedly ask my son if he feels okay because he looks pale, not to spontaneously give him approval for something he didn't ask about but I can't help but wonder, what odd things I say that make him chuckle to himself, shake his head and think, "Oh, Mum."


  1. Interesting post Shawna ... It got me to thinking about what my son laughs about as well.

    We also say fringe in South Africa.

    1. Canadian English is increasingly Americanised. I'm not sure if we ever said fringe here but I have seen changes in language in my lifetime, shifting away from British English to American English. Other English speaking groups tend to be closer to British English than we are now. Inevitable I suppose given we live right next door and have more exposure to American media than Canadian. I once looked up the origin of the term bangs but have forgotten it.


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