Growing up on Western media, a lot of Asian children quickly develop a certain image of what our own mothers should be like. We expect a soothing hug when we get booboos and feel entitled to a flurry of endearments when being addressed (“Would you like some orange juice with that, honey?” “Sweetie, are you alright? I baked you some brownies in the oven.”). But the stark reality of it is that a mother’s love is not always tender, nor is it always sweet. Sometimes it comes in the form of a series of admonishments and often it’s expressed in a lengthy lecture and prolonged nags.

While their goodwill and sincere intentions can be misconstrued as harsh criticism by their more sensitized offspring who were brought into a more sheltered world, one eventually comes to terms with the fact that a mother’s love can come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Every now and again it’s the vibrant orange of subtle attention showered upon you at the dinner table via your favourite dish. Once in a while, it’s the brilliance of a prestigious gold making you feel like the most loved person in the world. And when you need it the most, it can be the whitest of canvases ready to envelope you in open arms and an open heart, ready to absorb the hardships of a trying outside world.

It can come in the largess of extra pocket money and it can come in the simplicity of a packed lunch box, depending on perspective. For me, my mother’s love blazes through in the outline of an outstretched palm held over the passenger seat whenever she instinctively holds us back from flying face first into the windshield when suddenly forced to brake in moving traffic. It’s the dedication and sleepy commitment that peeks through when she wakes up at dawn to cook breakfast to feed an army and drives the same long-winding road back and forth to school, tuition and swimming lessons six times a day. It’s the impulse that compels her to give up the better parts of her dinner to a demanding six-year-old with an insatiable hunger for crispy chicken skin. It’s in the simple gift of reading to her babies and instilling a lifelong love of books and beautiful stories in their lives that would eventually become the livelihood and bread and butter of one; thank you for making sure I had a passion for something great that i could create a lifeline of.

As an adult looking back, despite the non-endearments and confusingly having to self-interpret radio silence as a yes or no at times (this article is in no way condoning the idea that mothers are angels sent from above, they can be really grumpy humans as well when they want to be!), it’s easy to see that Western media still has a long way to go in portraying mothers in a realistic light. What the media didn’t train us to see is the fierce silent devotion boiling right under the surface, ready to bubble over at a moment’s notice should they need to take a bullet for us. Or the piercing powerful glance that can leave a rebellious teenager shook to the core, frozen in an unfolding act of defiance.

Here’s to all the mothers out there who love us in all the different, unconventional ways that we can and cannot see. Here’s to loving you back in the multitudes of awkward, annoying and hard-headed ways from that special place in our hearts that we reserve only for our first loves from birth.