Learning To Take The Driver's Seat With My Mum

by Simona Terron
I like to think of myself as an independent, ambitious woman living in India. I travel frequently. I spend much time researching and communicating experiences for my work as a writer. It's a job that requires patience. Any writer will tell you the same; and along my winding journey toward mindfulness, I realized that I wasn't making the effort to spend enough time with the very source of my inspiration: my Mum. 

(Yes, I call her Mum, you'll have to get used to that).

So, I recently decided to gift my mum with a bit more of my time and take her to dinner. But that’s not as easy as it sounds.

You see, my mum is the kind of person who hates ordering food at restaurants. For years I’ve watched her let Dad handle the task of picking what to eat, irrespective of where we dined or what the occasion was. And once my brother, sister and I had grown up, my mum still would depend on either my siblings or me to decide for her. When I began noticing this, it irked me. I asked her to participate in the process. 

“Just go ahead and order anything you like, I won’t make a fuss,” she’d cajole me.

Normally, my siblings just shrug. However, on this particular dinner date, I refused to let it slide.

I wondered, how does a woman who taught me everything I know about being in charge of one's own destiny, taking control of one's life, and breaching barriers simply refuse to make choices? 

Was she intimidated by the multiple choices on the menu? I tried making it simpler by demystifying the names of dishes when it came to ‘exotic’ cuisines, like Japanese food.

Did she worry that her choosing unwisely might lead to ordering too much (she taught us never to be wasteful) or too little? I tried to help by checking with the servers about portion sizes.

Was she worried that she’d order something that didn’t taste as good as we’d expected and we’d be disappointed? I tried to make light of it and remind her that she’d raised us to eat whatever was put in front of us and that this would be no different.

But it didn’t matter what I did, she just seemed to not only dread this exercise, but slowly began getting annoyed and feeling attacked by my insistence that she do the ordering.

This upset me deeply. Then, after a little introspection and reflection, I realized that I was probably upsetting my mum even more than I was upsetting myself. I thought I should view this as an opportunity to let mum relax and enjoy having her kids make the decisions for her.

She was probably enjoying the freedom of not having to select anything for a change and instead be pampered by her kids after years of it being the other way round. And I finally saw the light.

So now, I pick the place. I decide what we’re going to eat and ask her only for guidelines – would she prefer seafood or meat? Does she want to eat it with rice or noodles? Would she like a cool beverage or some soup instead? Narrowing it down to two options made it simpler for her, and if she still didn’t want to pick, I did it for her.

She never criticized my choice or inflicted statements like, “I wish you had ordered that instead of this.”

It took me a while to realize that my mum was just happy to let me be in the driver’s seat, trusting my love for her and my passion for food.

Now when we go out to eat, I choose instead to use our time together to do any one or all of the following:
  1. Thank her for everything she does, no matter how small
  2. Ask her if there's anything I can help her with
  3. Schedule some alone time with her in the coming week
  4. Ask her to share stories from her childhood that she's never told me before
  5. Acknowledge and apologize for the times I've let her down so she knows I haven't forgotten all about it
We’ve grown way closer thanks to this, and I am so grateful for her patience with me.

I hope she always knows how much I love her, “Happy Mother’s Day, Ma!”

Featured Image Source: Rod Waddington
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