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Virtues in Paradise: Celebrating the women who shape us

Saturday 11 May 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Virtues in Paradise

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Virtues in Paradise: Celebrating the women who shape us

A seven-year-old was talking about her mother one day as we walked and she skipped down the beach. I asked her mother’s name. “Which one?” she answered with a big grin. “I have three mothers," writes Linda Kavelin-Popov.

In the Pacific, it isn’t uncommon to have more than one set of parents or guardians raising a child. Children often move from one family member to another or sometimes become a feeding child to a different family. A tradition in the Cook Islands is to give the first born to the grandparents or another family member. This child is quite content to live between mothers and different houses. She’s friendly, independent, smart, and very cheeky. She received an armful of awards from her school on prize-giving day.

I’ve also known adults experiencing chronic heart ache over being “abandoned” by their birth mother, while siblings were kept and raised by her. What makes the difference between a happy attitude toward adoption and a sad one? Transparency about the child being a “chosen child” right from the beginning of life. Not talking about it, guarding it like a shameful secret, tells the child there is something wrong with them and this situation.

I urged a close friend to tell her two-year-old daughter that she was adopted. The child already knew she had siblings on the same island and that she had some kind of relationship to their mother, whom she rarely saw, and this created confusion. My friend said, “I’ll tell her when she’s old enough.” “If you wait, she might hear it from another child at school.” Sure enough, that’s how she found out when she was about eight. She came home after school with a tear-stained face, burst in the door and said, “Mum, are you my real mother? A boy at school said you’re not.” Mum burst into tears as did the child. This needless pain could have been avoided. There is no shame in adoption.

In point of fact, we all have more than one mother. My best friend Evie and I traded mothers in our teen years. Mine was vivacious and emotional, often venting her anger at me but ever charming to Evie. Her mother was calm, peaceful, and quiet. She sewed and fed me delicious dishes. My mother often burned our dinner, lost in her daydreams. I was soothed in the presence of Aunt Betty and literally fed; Evie found my storyteller mother exciting and was fed by her intellectually.

There are always women in our lives to mother us, whether we are related by blood or not. We may find ourselves emotionally neglected, as I felt with my mother. We long for loving attention. Yet, I treasure my mother for what she taught me, for opening a world of music, books, and big ideals nurtured by faith. When I needed emotional tending, I turned to others.

What we all need are soul mothers – those who nurture our spirit with their love, laughter, acceptance and compassion. They see us. We can also learn to have a kind inner mother to take care of ourselves, seeking wellbeing through healthful habits and positive self-talk. Let’s celebrate our mothers with gratitude on this Mother’s Day, letting them know how much they mean to us and what treasures they have given.

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