Mother and child share seamless hearts


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Category: Children/Teenagers Date: 15 Jul 01

I write this at 3.30 in the morning with a lump in my throat. I bring out my diaries -ten of them - one for each year of his life so far, and look up references to him. The way he talked before he walked, how he played with plastic books; the dark, scary night he comforted me by putting his tiny arms around me and the morning he frustrated me enough to make me want to scream non-stop; and the time, barely able to speak, he cried out, “Mummy, don’t go” holding on to the hem of my skirt when I was going to work.


Now he’s ten and going away for the first time. Not on his own - with his grandparents and cousin - but to a faraway continent and for a month. Tears pouring down my face after I put him to bed, I asked my husband if this was what we were going to have to go through for the rest of our lives. This parting from our children. He nodded helplessly.


On the eve of his departure, as I drew my children close around me at bedtime, after we talked about the stars and galaxies, my son put his arms around me and said:   “Without Mummy, nothing will feel special.”


Then I felt I had to tell him:

“You know, Sweetheart, you must never say that. That’s my line, not yours and it shouldn’t even be my line - only when my heart aches, at the thought of you going away, does it feel as if a light goes out when you leave the room. You’ve seen birds, how they sit on their eggs, warming them and protecting them, feeding them worms and things until they are strong enough to make a little flight on their own. Can you imagine how happy mother birds feel when they see their babies take off, strong and free? That’s how I want to feel when you are big and grown; when you soar.”


When my first child was born, my first thought was “thank you God for giving this child on loan to me. He’s not mine. He’s yours and his own person with his own destiny in his lovely black eyes. I’m only the carrier. Help me to raise him to fulfill his potential as a human being, to show him how to walk this world with panache and wonder yet with compassion. Let his mind be always curious, always learning, always pushing boundaries.”


“Wait till you’re a mother, and you will know how I feel,” my mother would warn when I used to tell her to stop worrying about me, stop nagging me about where I was going and what I was wearing and when I would be back.


I became one twice over and found out what she meant. To be a mother is to break off a fat chunk of your heart, and send it off with your child when he or she is out of your sight. And when he and she returns, disheveled from school, sticky and sweaty from a party, sleepy after a long drive, your heart becomes whole again.


Once, when I thought I had lost my two children in a mall in a strange country, I didn’t care who thought me mad- I raced half-crying, half-shouting their names through the winding aisles. Typically, I was so relieved they were safe I spanked them.


Children are innocents, but also little animals who, left untrained, can turn into little savages. A mother’s job is, before they fly off for good, to make them into decent and happy humans who will give rather than take from this earth.


When they’re young, mothers spend hundreds of days, hours and minutes picking up broken glass, mopping up sticky orange juice, begging them to be nice, brush their teeth, be kind to the kid with the limp, share, do homework, not dry out their brain cells with Nintendo...


They absorb you and suck you into their little demanding bodies. They make you feel guilty for having an hour off, for working, for an evening out. Then, they bring tears into your eyes because they look up at you with love and say “you are the bestest, most beautifulest mummy in the world,” and make it all worthwhile.


At the end of a rough day, after we’ve scolded them, when we see their soft, round cheeks against the pillows, their tiny warm hands flung out with trusting abandon, we wonder if we are being good mothers, and we beat up on ourselves.  “I shouldn’t have lost my temper. I could have been more understanding. I could have bit my tongue. I didn’t have to say that.”


When they’re older, and fly off for longer periods, and finally for good, mothers just have to face that they have to go on with half a heart until they come back within touching distance. We also have to remind ourselves, if we give in to this sinking without them, we are doing what we can’t bear to see them doing - wasting our lives.


We  have to remember that we too have a destiny to fulfill, potential to harness, a full life to live, that the cord has been cut and they are responsible for themselves. And sitting in the front room peeping out of the windows to see if they’re coming home will put a terrible burden on our children.


“What will I do when I miss you Mummy?” asked my 10- year-old.

“We will have many partings in our lifetime and then there’s the beyond, too. You won’t miss me because I’m always in your heart and you are in mine. We might have separate bodies and separate interests and separate destinies, but our hearts - that’s another thing altogether. Chunks of our hearts will always be mixed up together.”


Being a mother makes you believe in a soul, in the intangible light that animates the body, because whether or not your child is here, whether or not your mother is in this world or the next, she’s always in your heart, and you in hers. What is the soul? Who knows? Except you catch glimpses of it in the seamless heart between a mother and child.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur