May bouquet: A reflection on Mother's Day
- Written by Sharon Lesley Le Roux, 1 May 2017
Lantau mum and one of the mentors in this year’s Young Writer’s Competition, Sharon Lesley Le Roux reflects on the reasons we celebrate Mother’s Day.
As a child growing up in the north of England, Mother’s Day was all about a handful of daffodils (my mother’s favourite flower) picked from the garden, a handmade, coloured-in card containing a message of love, and a Mother’s Day breakfast that consisted of my mother’s favourite marmalade or curd, with toast and coffee, all delivered on a tray to my mother in bed.
For my mother, I’m certain it wasn’t about any of these gifts at all. It was knowing the pleasure that bringing them all together had given me, her child. It was understanding the excitement I felt about being able to ‘surprise’ her on her special day. And, because she was my mother, she would have overlooked the soil I’d brought in on my shoes, not seen where I’d coloured outside the lines, not cared one jot about the burnt bits I hadn’t managed to scrape off.
Thanking your mother
Whoever, and wherever, we are in the world, we all observe Mother’s Day. The same day my mother and I were busy celebrating, so were mothers and their children in Ireland, Nigeria and Bangladesh. Mother’s Day is one of only a handful of celebrations observed by families all around the world; each nation setting aside a date once a year – the second Sunday of May in Hong Kong – to celebrate the relationship of mother and child.
In the 21st century, what is Mother’s Day about? Is it just another of those ‘Hallmark’ occasions which businesses cash in on? I don’t think so. Handmade cards made by small hands still beat shop-bought ones, just as they did when I was a child. Phone conversations with mothers and grandmothers abroad are priceless compared to flowers, chocolates or gifts ordered online.
Mother’s Day isn’t just one special day in the year when children get to show their awareness of, and appreciation for, the things their mothers do for them; of course this happens in households all over the world every day. For children, Mother’s Day acts as a reminder to stop and think what their relationships with their mothers mean.
This year (being an English mother, my family and I celebrated on March 26), I asked my two girls what Mother’s Day means to them. My 13-year-old believes Mother’s Day is “a way for women to feel good about themselves, especially those who’ve gone through the hard work of having kids and raising them. And, it’s for the children to appreciate what their mothers have done, and gone through, to make their lives as good as it can get for them.” My five-year-old feels Mother’s Day is about “giving lots of love to your mum,and giving a big love heart for loving us”.
Appreciating your child
For mothers, Mother’s Day is a time when we are reminded to pause a while in our busy lives, and reflect on just how absolutely awesome it is for us to be able to bring life into the world. It’s for us to remember there was a time when our little people didn’t exist, and to acknowledge how much richer, as a result, our lives are for having them. It’s a time for us to look back and see ow, as each year goes by, we are changed by the act of motherhood. We are changed by the sacrifices we make daily, simply to put our children before ourselves. And we are changed by feelings of protection and empathy and joy and more, the depths of which we didn’t experience before we had children. In creating our children we, in turn, have evolved and grown.
We appreciate the blessing and the privilege that comes with the role of motherhood. We send messages of love to our own mothers, understanding only now the sacrifices they made for us when we were children. And, we send our friends who are mothers Happy Mother’s Day messages, acknowledging our shared membership of one of the most rewarding clubs in the world.
Honouring unconditional love
Not so long ago, my mother sent me a Helen Exley collection of quotes and poems: In Praise and Celebration of Daughters. On one of the pages of the book, I found this: “I even love her bones. We are so close. She is my very best friend.”
Mother’s Day isn’t just the time to celebrate the mother figures we are to our children, but also the friends we are to them – and they to us. Mother’s Day is the perfect time to leave our separate interests aside, and do something together we enjoy. My children have two mother figures here in Hong Kong – myself and Mama Ruth, our family’s domestic helper who my kids have known, and loved, all their lives. The day before Mother’s Day this year, my girls, Mama Ruth and I went to the cinema. Sitting on vibrating seats, we watched Beauty and the Beast through 3D glasses. We enjoyed the movie and each other, as we laughed and cried together.
There’s a Filipino saying that translates as: ‘Even with the food all ready for her to consume, the mother will always find the need to give every last morsel to her children.’ This is true of all mothers, but here in Hong Kong especially, mothers like Ruth are a perfect example of just how far mothers will go for their children. A few years before she joined our family, Ruth had come from the Philippines to Hong Kong, leaving her two-year-old son in the care of her brother. She came because working here meant she would be able to put her son through school, and put food on his table.
Ruth is in no way unique. In Hong Kong thousands of women have given up that precious relationship with their children we western mothers take for granted, so they can give them a better life. Ruth’s boy will soon be 23, and will be graduating from nursing college. His mother is justifiably proud of him, as we are of her, knowing the sacrifices she has made to get him to where he is today.
Be it as children or as mothers, the meaning and traditions we each attach to Mother’s Day are rooted in love and honour and respect. Though it may well have become a commercialised event in recent years, still it remains a celebration – of motherhood and of the relationship between mother and child. Mother’s Day is the recognition of the protection, nurture, sacrifice and unconditional love that mothers give their children, and the happiness and love their children give in return.
Whenever, and wherever, you are celebrating this year, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.
An international celebration
Mother’s Day has been observed, in some way or other, throughout history. The Greeks and Romans held annual festivals to honour their mother goddesses. In 17th century England, Mothering Sunday – the fourth Sunday of Lent – was the day faithful people returned to their ‘mother church,’ the church they were baptised in. After a prayer service to honour Mary, Mother of Jesus, children of the parish would give the gifts and flowers they’d brought for their own mothers. On Mothering Sunday in Victorian times, girls working in service as housemaids went home to visit their mothers.
In early-20th century America, one daughter’s successful campaign for a national day to celebrate and honour the sacrifices mothers make for their children is why today millions of people around the world celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May.
In Hong Kong, as in the US, children celebrate their mothers by giving them a card and a bouquet of flowers. Carnations are a popular choice. Schools encourage children to dedicate poems to their mothers and to help out in special ways at home As it is a holiday, families often mark the occasion with a big get toegther.