When my husband tells me “you’re being just like your mother” it’s not a compliment. It means I’m being bossy or stubborn. In other words, I’m not accommodating him. Now, if I were behaving like his mother, he’d be thrilled. It would mean I was nurturing and admiring him - and probably baking him cake.
It’s my mother who gets the bum rap. I’m partly to blame for this. Since I was a teenager, I was determined not be like her. My mother did not represent the hip image I aimed for. She did incredibly annoying things. I remember sitting beside her in the car and listening to her snap her chewing gum as she drove. “Mom, could you stop that?” Wounded, my mom removed the gum. “For heaven’s sake, Marjie, I can’t do anything right around you.”
No, she couldn’t. She got embarrassingly excited at parades, cried at commercials, and was crazy for garage sales. She snorted when she laughed, drank too much at parties, and always wanted to go on mother-daughter expeditions. “Let’s go for a canoe ride,” she’d urge. “Let’s go apple picking!” I shuddered at the thought of us being seen together in public. Hanging out with your mom was definitely not cool.
By the time I went to college, I’d eased up. I no longer felt that everything my mom did was a direct reflection on me. And being away made me realize what a generous, supportive person she was. I appreciated her, but I still didn’t want to be like her. I was going to create my own unique identity in the world that had absolutely nothing to do with my mother.
But now that I’m in my forties and my identity is pretty well formed, I’ve got to ask myself. Have I turned out to be like my mother?
At forty-four, my mother was married for the third time and had already sent my brother and me off to college. I’m still with husband number one and my two children will be around for another eight years. When she was my age, my mother owned and managed two childcare centers in our hometown, while I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom just beginning to restart my career. She lived in a small town in Michigan. I live in Chicago. But we aren’t really talking about life events here.
We’re talking about character and personality. And in these areas I admit I’ve turned out to have some strong resemblances to my mother. Both of us are independent and opinionated, which sometimes gets us in trouble. We are both optimists – we wake up happy and find there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. We get engrossed in a good book and tend to bite our nails when doing so. We generally expect to get our way and become impatient and cranky when we don’t. We drink chardonnay. We’re generous to the people we love.
Hmm. Looking over this list, I guess it’s not so bad to have turned out like my mother after all. But I still don’t chew gum.