Hush little baby don't say a word

Lebanese mothers are a unique breed. Do not try to understand them.

Do not try to compare them to non-Lebanese mothers anywhere in the world and by God, do not object to any of their beliefs, words or behaviors. You have been warned.

The key to Lebanese mothers is to accept them in all of their glorious idiosyncrasies. One such perplexing trait is what I like to call their Florence Nightingale complex. For those of you not familiar with the founder of modern- day nursing, shame on you. Just kidding. Florence Nightingale was a celebrated social reformer who tended to wounded soldiers during the Crimean war and effectively professionalized the nursing role for women.

Whether or not she harbored some Lebanese blood in her cells should be up for debate in my view as all Lebanese mothers seem to have inherited an innate ability to morph into Ladies of the Lamp at the first sight of an offspring sniffle.

No matter your age, your general disposition, your family status or your bank account, you are, once again, your mama’s baby when you have the misfortune (in more ways than one) of falling ill.

She may first notice your muffled voice over the phone or your return from work a minute earlier-than-scheduled or simply follow the trail of tissues you leave behind and the chain reaction would have been triggered. It’s as if she were programmed to make you feel better: hourly check-up phone calls (for those lucky enough to avoid a full-on Florence relocation to the sick ward), a caravan of chicken soup, boiled potatoes and rice with yogurt and an array of colorful syrups and pills magically making their way to your bedside. Beware, objections are not taken kindly; any attempt to stray from the path of maternal coddling will surely be met with silent disappointment, violent rage or potent tears depending on each individual maternal style.

Not. Worth. The struggle.

From the moment you surrender, all manners of babying are fair game. It doesn’t matter how ill you are and what your disease may be: acute or chronic, severe or mild, a Lebanese mother’s maternal efforts will not be dampened. Even spouses become superfluous. The wiser ones will graciously accept their temporary expendable status and step aside so mama can work her magic.

Sure your mother may have not spoken to you in years, sure she may have dis-owned you but… what’s a little estrangement when you are sick?

Why they feel compelled to nurse us back to health is a mystery I haven’t yet fully elucidated- though I have many theories.

Perhaps it is a trait they have inherited from their own mothers (whose lineage must somehow trace back to Florence Nightingale I tell you). Our grandmothers may have been nursing superheroes for all we know.

Perhaps they feel responsible for our health because they actually were (remember? When all you were was a helpless pooping feeding sleeping small human?). After all, they take the credit for growing the tiny spec of a zygote we were to the beautiful healthy adults we’ve become. Lebanese mothers nurture -never mind the occasional suffocation-. It’s what they do. And old habits die hard.

Perhaps it’s for entirely selfish purposes. You see, by some inexplicable cosmic connection, they get sick when we are sick. When little Nayla gets a cold, her mother can’t sleep. When baby Marwan has diarrhea, his mother stops eating. The sooner we recover, the better they will feel.

Or maybe it is simply their way of flexing their motherhood muscles. Because somehow, no medicine prescribed by a doctor makes you feel better than a plate of rizz w laban* made by your mother.

So while coddling may, at times, make it harder to breathe than the bag of mucous you’ve been carrying, my advice to you is this: understand the uniqueness of your Lebanese mother, embrace the seeming insanity of her nursing fervor and admit it is precisely that insanity that makes you feel insanely loved and taken care any age.



* Rice with yogurt


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