Sunday, 11 May 2014

Gabi - a Mothers Day Champion

It has been a big week for Gabi.

On Tuesday night Gabi was a participant at the Mother and Son session at her son’s school, Saint Ignatius College in Drysdale, a 20 minute drive through Geelong.

Two nights later she fronted up and was a team member at the subsequent Mother and Daughter night. At her Mother-Daughter session in 2012, Gabi had ticked a box on the evaluation form to say she would be interested being a team member at a future event.

Participants can also tick a box to say that they would like to become a member of the Time & Space Community. They receive stories about mums, dads, young people who often are going about, what the subjects consistently consider to be, their ordinary life. And then you and I, encountering their story, might contend that they are quietly being extraordinary. Another way I describe the people of these everyday stories are as ‘champions who have been spotted’. Gabi is one such champion.

If you have been to a Time & Space session you will have seen and heard from that brave group up the front... the people on the community panel. We usually have two parents and two young people sharing their insights about the questions the participants will answer in their small group session that follows. Gabi was a panellist on Thursday night.

In answer to the question... what is a special quality you see in your child? She said this about her daughter...

My daughter’s special quality would without doubt be her inner strength. Her courage and ability to overcome adversity, adapt and navigate her way through an experience of great loss in Year 8 was just remarkable and inspiring.

At the end of the evening, Gabi came up to me with a specific question. I got a chance too, to say thanks for the insights she shared and for how she impacted on the audience of mums, mentors and teenage girls.

Her daughter has completed the two Time and Space programs in sequence – The Father-Daughter in Year 7 and then the Mother-Daughter in Year 8. As a family – they have now done three of the four sessions available in the transition years of high school. As you know, Gabi and her boy did the Mother-Son this week.  

In our conversation, I shared a clear memory from the Father-Daughter night three years ago. Gabi seemed surprised but her husband stood out to me.

He explained how determined he had been not to miss the father-daughter night. He was seated, had a quiet satisfaction that he had made it. He had kind eyes. Gabi remembered and reflected...

“Oh yeah, we made a big effort to make it to that night. He made the journey down here from Melbourne.”

Often dads make big efforts to get to Time & Space events from work far away. It is humbling to witness the priority they put on being with their son or daughter.

This was different again. Gabi’s husband mustered the energy to be transported from the Royal Melbourne Hospital to be at the night with his daughter.  He had a terminal illness and passed away just a few months later.

You see Gabi’s question was opening up how we might tackle the Father-Son night for her boy next year. There is always provision for a mentor to be there if mum or dad is not around (and, as in this case, sometimes it is a sad reason). It is that care and foresight that makes Gabi a pretty obvious and ‘spot-able’ champion mum.

In saying on the panel that her daughter has inner strength – we kind of know how her girl has inherited that. Having affirmed her daughter’s quality Gabi went on to offer a message to the girls there on the night...

It also highlighted to me that our girls are strong. Without knowing the young ladies here this evening, I do know that you all have inner strength, because of the wonderful role models you have sitting beside you. I hope you always remember that.

It was evident to those of us there that we were in the presence of, to use Gabi’s words, a wonderful role-model. The principal of the school remarked to me afterwards that whilst Gabi didn’t specify the detail of her loss, a good number of the mums there would have been in the know.

That’s why I reckon Gabi’s story is a great example to share on Mother’s Day (here in Australia today). Gabi has courage. There’s selflessness in the way she first sees and acknowledges her daughter’s quality that emerged from that loss – a loss that was obviously Gabi’s as well. And then let’s regard the kindness in her forward planning to start thinking about a session for her son that will be happening in September 2015.

Let Gabi and her story represent the way mums give, the way so many mums sacrifice as a default action and the way mums are ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’.

This story is a gift for Gabi and her kids written on Mother’s Day 2014.

If you are reading this now it will be because Gabi (and the kids) said it was okay.