10 lessons from my Tongan Mama

My mother is an amazing woman and she is not without fault and is far from perfect but she was the perfect mother for me. Mother's day is the time of year for us to show our appreciation for our mothers it doesn't mean it should be the only day. In light of mother's day I wanted to almost share an ode for my own mother and what a fitting day to share this, then on mother's day. These may only be 10 lessons but they're are only a tiny fraction of the knowledge and wisdom she has shared with me knowingly and unknowlingly. 

1. Have faith

My mother always emphasised the importance of God in our lives. While we were younger my dad and her would argue about which church to go to every single sunday. She was firmly against the LDS faith of my father and would send us with our grandmother to the methodist church. Even though she never came with us she wanted us, her children to go to church. Later on in life she decided that she needed to at least give her husband's church a try. She spent a year taking missionary lessons and discussions, going to church activities with us, reading the book of mormon and really trying to understand whether this was the path God wanted her to take. After year of question after question of discussion after discussion she finally decided it was time to take a leap of faith and get baptised with her children. 

When she joined the church it was like a lightbulb went off inside of her. We started attending church together as a family, doing family home evenings, reading scriptures together and the more she got involved in church the more she wanted us, her children to develop greater faith. When we had prayers, I would dread when it was her time to pray because they would always be 10 minutes on my knees. Her prayers were so heartfelt, she would almost seem as if she were talking to God. No problems were to big that God would not provide a way. She would say constantly that we were nothing without God. Her faith and belief were the foundation of who she was and she made sure that each of us understood how much we needed Heavenly Father in our lives. 

2. Education. Education. Education

On my mother's side no one had gotten past college. Even though some had attempted university no one had finished until my older sister. She was so sure that education was the way for us succeed in this new country. She had worked since she had gotten to New Zealand in factories or as a labourer and she did not want the same future for her kids. She would constantly talk about us going to university everything she did was for us to have a better future. For her a better future started with a better education. She drilled this into us like it was nobodies business. During the week the TV was off, strictly no friends coming home, homework always had to be done and gifts came not because it was your birthday but because you did well at school. My mum did not finish highschool in Tonga before she came and I know that she did not want the same life for us. She would constantly talk about how hard life was. So for all of her children secular education was not an option, it was a must. When cousins, in laws or anyone will come into her care she will make sure that she would talk to them about their future and for some reason it will go into the topic of education and for one who didn't finish highschool she is the greatest endorser of education. 

She would say constantly say no child is dumb. She would explain that those who work hard are the ones that succeed not those with natural talent. It makes sense that this is her philosophy because she is one of the hardest workers I know. She was also the greatest example of a learner anything she wanted to learn she would always flourish in. She wanted to learn baking she would get recipe books, if she wanted to learn about health she would read books, watch youtube channels. She was the greatest at selfeducation and self improvement. Just because she didn't have a formal education nothing would hold her back even if English wasn't easy for her, she would study and study. We use to do speeches and she even helped me, my brother and sister win in the Tongan speech competitions. 

3. Don't give up 

From the age of 4 I begged my mum to let me play piano because I would see my sister at her lessons. I wanted to learn how to play the piano. So once I reached the age of 5 my mother enrolled me for piano lessons. By the age of 9 I no longer wanted to play. I remember I went into a fit, a screaming match  with my mother because I wanted to quit and she wouldn't let me. I felt at the time like I was talking to a brick wall. My mother moved me to private lessons and from there I flourished with the help of the right teacher and a persistent mother. I finished my Grade 8 by the time I finished highschool and to this day play the piano for my congregation. A talent I wouldn't have if it wasn't for my persistent mother. Later on she told me that the teacher at my old school thought that I wasn't suited to music and wasn't doing to well and so she decided to switch my sister and I. I only found out this a couple of years ago and for me I greatly admire that she didn't give up on me. This is only one example of her stubborn persistence. 

4. Stand up for yourself

English was my mothers second language and even now she still struggles with the language. This didn't mean she was a push over. Going through some documents I found a document from a photography company that my parents won a case for. I found this a couple of years ago. My parents never told me what happened to this day but the basically the judge ordered that the photographer do a free package shoot for us worth over $2,000 because somehow they had wronged my parents with the previous shoot that was done for us. It was obvious that they were taken advantage of because English was not their first language. Even growing up my mother wouldn't even let someone steal her parking spot even so that she waited to the person left and left a note that said "old back" intending to read "old bag". Still laugh when I think about it today but I remember always cringing  and getting embarrassed when my mum made a big deal about things. As I look back I'm kind of proud that she stuck up for herself. 

5. Money, Money and mo Money

Mum always, always, always was very frugal when it came to money. She knew every cent and would always make sure we didn't waste money unnecessarily. She would push us to save our money. This lead us each to become financially independent and she always discouraged debt in any form. This didn't mean she said no to everything in fact I remember when I was a child I had been to Tonga a couple of times to Australia and to America. She even got me on a cruise for my graduation present. To her it was better that we experience things but we can't experience those things without sacrifice. So we didn't get lunch money, even clothing we bought was usually on sale. She always told us to live within our means. Even lessons now I'm still learning from her is that she is willing to do anything to make money even spending saturdays doing a garage sale or selling the essential oils so that there is a little side income. I guess you could say that's where we all get it from my brother and sister with their entrepreneurial mindset and me with my many side hustles. I use to teach piano, sell my baking, sell my old things and now my photography. I wouldn't say we were money hungry but I don't believe in 1 income source. 

6. Family First

My mum would show this in example just as much as she talked about it. My mum would find any excuse to bring the family together. She would be the one calling and making sure every one turns up in our extended family gatherings. Even though she was the youngest she understood the importance of having family. When my nana got sick and had a stroke my mum took my nana in and we all took care of her until she passed away. To my mum it was no trouble at all. Whenever we would have family moving to NZ. My mum would always welcome them into our home to stay. I can't remember a time where it was just us 3 and our parents there were always extra family around and I liked it that way. Through her example she really showed the importance of having family and being their for family. 

7. Dance like no one is watching 

Any time there is a dance my mums always the first one to dance. She'll dance and dance until she can't dance anymore. I love dancing but I noticed it takes confidence to dance in a room with other people. I realised I didn't really have this problem and for me dancing and having fun is the same as if I was just in a room by myself. If I'm having fun then I'm living life to the fullest. We danced together as a family had fun and and it really helped us have fun in the moment and step out of our comfort zone. She even made us do dances when we were younger that we would perform at talent shows. I hated it but now I'm always dancing in the car, on the street at work as soon as music comes on thats me.  

8. You need to be more than your beauty

For her it was inevitable that we would be married she would always say that we need to be more than just a pretty face. That's why she's making us get an education, to have a faith and to learn skills that we can use. She would always say about finding a husband "you can change their personality but you can't change their looks"  it was of course a joke but she would talk to us about finding a person to spend the rest of our lives with and she would say you need to bring something to the marriage, its not enough to be a pretty face. She would encourage us to look good of course but she made sure that more then on the outside the would be more on the inside. To her inner beauty was more important than outer beauty. My mum is beautiful and maybe thats where she learnt her lesson about this and really tried to instill in us the importance of inner beauty and inner strength. Even though she spoke of us in terms of getting married she made sure that we were independant that if we didn't find someone that we would be able to live our lives to the fullest. 

9. Look to the future learn from our mistakes.

Unlike other Polynesian mums I noticed that my mum wasn't one to take my money when we started earning. When she talked about us getting our education she highlighted that it wouldn't benefit her as it would benefit my children and how much better their future would be.. I noticed with other polynesian parents it was to go school to give back to them and then some would ask them to stop school and go back to work because they were in need of money. I am grateful truely grateful for the vision my mother had for us. She broke alot of traditional thinking and customs by telling us 

She would often say to us to be better parents for our children and to learn from her and my father's mistakes. It really wasn't easy for my mother and father to navigate being parents in a whole new country and for my mother in a new religion. I've watched them grow as parents to realise that they didn't know everything but they were doing the best that they knew. It was a humbling experience and it still is. To this day my mother constantly always try to talk to us about our next step she never wants us to get comfortable.

10. Love your culture, your heritage, your homeland

My mum always emphasised the importance of keeping our Tongan language. I'm actually the worst Tongan speaker out of my brother and sisters. Although I'm fluent my reading is actually better than my talking. My mother always talked about Tonga and the way she was brought up to help us love her homeland even though I've visited a handful of times, to me she makes it very real for me. What's funny is up until I was in my early 20's I believed my nationality was Tongan. I didn't believe I was a New Zealander (partly because I was always asked where I was from) but because she always made me feel I was Tongan. She would teach us the customs and though I disagreed with some of it she would explain the importance of keeping some of the important traditions. 

In alot of ways I'm similar to my mother probably the most in our family and thats why alot times we didn't see eye to eye. I am grateful to her for teaching me the most important lesson so really this 11 lessons is to be kind and help those in need. She has encouraged me to be friends with people who have disabilities, to those who were fatherless and to people who didn't have friends. She is a selfless woman of service and is always thinking of others before herself. Everything she gets she gives to her neighbours, to the people around her and to us. She is blessing to everyone around her. I love her and I couldn't be more proud to be her daughter.