I know it’s hard to believe but Nelson Mandela always reminds me of my mom!
No, she’s not black, or manly nor has she spent time in prison. However she has over the past many many years, (can’t say how many as that would reveal my much older sisters age!), managed to keep the peace in our family.
This may come as a huge surprise to you who read here regularly, but as a child I had a bad temper, which became a ferocious temper when I moved into my teens. My younger brother was the usual spark which fueled my fire.
He had the ability to push the button which drove me from 0-20 in a split second. I would feel my rage rising, until it boiled over. In time I learned the only way to ensure I did not commit murder, was to leave the room, or house.
Admirable and sensible of me I know, but just before leaving I admit I may have closed every door I could find with as much fury as was humanly possible.
My mother dealt with these rows without caring who said or did what, she would just roar at both of us. There was no blame on one. We were both guilty.
I can remember family holidays each year in Co Donegal. To get there meant travelling in a car for over four hours. In the back of the car were five children and a dog.
There was not enough room for all of us so, I being the lightest, was put on top of various knees.
My perch never lasted long as eventually there would be a roar, “Get off my knee you’re too bony”. I’d then be thrown or pushed onto someone else’s lap.
Due to the length of the journey and the fact we were in such a confined space, our patience would be low. No ipads or dvds to amuse us. Inevitably someone would thump someone and all hell would break loose.
It was at this point my mom would once again keep the peace.
Would she inquire who did what to whom, and try to right the wrong? Would she hell.
She would half turn around and begin to try to slap whoever she came in contact with, shouting “Stop that”.
Sadly for me I was the poor misfortune perched on a lap who was picked up and held out as a human shield.
My mother once again did not care who had done what. We were all equally guilty.
Growing up, as is common among children, I had the odd row with “friends” at school. I would come home in the height of temper.
As I would enter my home to tell my mother all about my latest sorry tale of injustice, my mom would once again not take a side.
Instead she would always say the same thing, “No wonder there is trouble in the north of Ireland when you are down here fighting over nothing”.
As a child this drove me insane. What did I care about the North of Ireland?
What on earth had my friend arguing with me got anything to do with the North?
Why could she not just listen to me and take my side?
The years have passed and I would like it on record that I have learned to control my temper.
I myself am now a mother and I have been witness to many rows between my children. I have also had to listen to many tales of woe about friends and enemies at school.
It is now that I understand the wisdom of my mothers words.
Most rows stem from minor disagreements. Most rows without fuel end peacefully.
My mother had the good sense to never take our side and add to the problem. As siblings we learned to put the row behind us, and with friends we learned to solve issues, forgive and move on.
As I look to Northern Ireland, it was only the removal of blame and the willingness of both sides to engage in dialogue which eventually allowed two opposing groups to find common ground.
This was my mothers solution all along.
As I look to what Nelson Mandela achieved in South Africa, I think he and my mom would have got on very well.
She too managed to keep the peace, often under very difficult circumstances.
At times I’m not sure Mandela would have done it as well!