I’m really not sure when the transition happened. I don’t think it took place from the moment my first child was born. I believe it gradually took hold of me since I didn’t notice until it was already over. The relatively relaxed person I used to be was replaced by a stringent, rule enforcing dynamo filled with pithy instructional phrases. I’m still taken by surprise by the speed at which these sayings fly out of my mouth (I swear I don’t even think about it anymore; it just happens) and have resigned myself to the fact that it will take multiple repetitions to achieve the desired result.
You know exactly what I mean. “Brush your teeth.” “Put on clean underwear.” “Wash your hands after using the bathroom.” “Put your toys, shoes, coat, dishes, penis (It happens!), etc. away.” And let’s not forget the omnipresent, “Remember to say ‘please and thank you.’” I sound like a broken record because I have to say each of these things at least twenty times a day (I have two sons and each action takes four to five requests to ensure completion. This is an excellent math problem in the making...)
As I child, I was convinced these phrases were meant to stifle any type of fun I was having. Mothers have a wonderful ability to break the flow of fun, don’t you think? You run home from school, throw the front door of your house open (you may or may not remember to close it) deposit your belongings on the floor just inside the door and high tail it to whatever activity you had your heart set on doing once you got out of the prison everyone else called “school.” You got about halfway up the stairs by the time your mother called out to you, listing each action to be completed before your eager little patootie could go anywhere it actually wanted to go. With a deep sigh, you would flounce down the stairs, whine about how unfair life was and then sulk your way through each instruction. And you probably threw in a few sighs and eye rolls too. Just for fun.
I am now the lucky recipient of the eye roll/sigh combo. My nine-year-old son has achieved master status with this particular skill. Some days, it’s all I can do not to channel Bill Cosby and say, “Son, I brought you into this world; I’ll take you out.” I’m not proud of this thought, but I do manage to restrain myself, which should count for something. As parents, we spend all day every day juggling the mundane tasks necessary to keep our families safe and happy. Of course, our kids have neither the understanding nor the inclination to help us with any of it. They prefer to kick and scream their way through their young lives, shouting, “It’s not fair!” at the top of their lungs. And so it should be. We know one day they will understand.
And so I have come to the conclusion that my mother, with all of her nagging, was right. I’m dealing with my comeuppance like a big girl (I drink wine and eat chocolate), but it makes me sad she is not here to see it. I can only hope she is out there in the universe somewhere, taking comfort in the knowledge her youngest daughter FINALLY gets it. So when I tell you I have become my mother, it is not with the chagrin you may be expecting. Becoming your mother is actually not such a troubling thing. Sure you may end up with some of her less than stellar habits – ridiculous dance moves, singing off key, misusing current slang, etc. – but you will also gain her wisdom. In the end, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and…you know where this is going. (Don’t you miss the wisdom of the 80s?) It is simply a fact of life that many of your mother’s qualities will become a part of you one day – when you need it the most.