Hopes to Return a Favor (Honoring Enate)

I have always been mommy’s little girl. I am the fourth child in a family of five kids, and to my siblings dismay, I am my parents’ favorite. I know I will receive some angry phone calls from my siblings after this blog is posted, but hey, it is what it is. My father would bluntly declare I should be the child that gets the best of something, be it a slice of cake or the front seat of the car. Whatever I asked for, I would get while my siblings had to beg and try to convince my dad. To be fair, I am the child that asks for the least amount of things in the house, but my siblings do not understand that. I am also the only child that was breastfed. In fact, I was breastfed ‘til I was 4-and-a-half years old. My attachment with my mother was so extreme that I could not go to kindergarten at the age of three. Instead, my mom home-schooled me and when I was four years old, I was sent to school. I was already past the first level of KG, thanks to my mom’s implacable teaching, so I skipped a grade and joined my peers. But when I came home from school, I would jump in my mother’s lap and enjoy the taste of the milk I have been longing for all day. After I grew up, I was still attached to my mom. I would not eat dinner unless she fed me, I never disobey ANY order she gives, and every good result I got in school, I came running to show my mom what I got for her. To this day, making my mother happy is the source of joy that has no competition.

Which one do you prefer: Wood or fur?

No one can deny the special bond between a mother and her child. Of course there are some bad mothers in the world, but most of the time mothers have a special connection with their offspring. Mother-child bonding is crucial in determining the psychological health of an individual. And this connection is not limited to humans; animals also form mother-child attachments. But why are mothers and children so attached?

Up until the 60s, scientists believed children are attached to their mothers because mothers provide them with food. But a group of social and cognitive psychologists, led by American psychologist Harry Harlow, had a different perspective. They argued the importance of comfort, companionship and love as the basis for healthy relationship development. To prove their theory, they separated infant monkeys from their mothers and raised them in a laboratory with two non-living mothers. One was made from wood and the second had a fur covering. On the first study, the fur mother had a milk bottle and the wooden mother did not. The study found that the infants spent almost all their time with the fur mother. In the second variation, the wooden mother had a milk bottle and the fur mother did not. Now, the babies would go to the wooden mother, feed on the milk, and immediately return to the fur mother. The researchers further went on to show that infants that had mothers, living or non-living, felt more free to explore their environments, be brave enough to challenge an intruding toy, and run back to the mother when they felt they were in danger.

What I feel as an adult

After she became a stay-at-home mom, my mother dedicated all her time into making sure we are mentally and physically prepared for the world. My mom raised me to be independent, strong and ambitious. She made me believe there was absolutely nothing I could not do in the world; all I had to do was figure out what I want and work hard to get it. So, as an adult, I would attempt almost anything I wanted with the blind ambition that I can and will do it—and most of the time it works! Before, it was about getting good results on my math test to make my mom happy. Now it is about how I can possibly return the favor she has done me. Sometimes I look at her and think, “If only I could put her in a big protective bubble, just so I can protect her from catching a disease or being attacked by a dog….” I know how unreasonable and silly that sounds, but that is how I feel. When someone so much as looks at her wrong, I want to bite their heads off. God save the person that wrongfully denied her a service or talked to her disrespectfully at an office! As a child, my mom would take me shopping, make sure I eat right, and buy me stuff for school. As an adult, it is my turn to take my mom shopping, make sure she eats right and buy her everything she needs. While I cannot put her in a bubble, I can make sure she lives the very best life.

Written by: Hellina Hailu