There we’ll be, totally minding our own business, when suddenly we’re enjoying an in-depth conversation with the checkout girl at Walmart about pantyhose (and calling them pantyhose). Or maybe one day, totally without our own knowledge or permission, we find ourselves giving unsolicited advice about something we know nothing about to a stranger, only to retreat, mortified, mumbling an apology into our turtlenecks — which, come to think of it, our mothers also used to wear.
Actually, to be honest, I made up those examples. My mother’s not like that at all. In fact, I have the kind of mother you wish you had. (Sorry, but it’s true.) Patient, kind, supportive, honest. The kind of mother whose kitchen countertops are always clean, whose dining room table is always impeccably set (even if it’s not actually time for a meal), who puts a vase of fresh flowers by the bed, and pleasant-smelling soap in the bathroom. She’s the kind of mom who always has time for a chat, who doesn’t pry, who hops on a plane at a moment’s notice when you need her.
So, while some women may be horrified to find themselves turning into their mothers, I’m over here like, “Sign me up!” The only thing is, I don’t think I’ve quite figured it out yet.
How Exactly Do You Become Your Mother?
On Christmas morning — channeling my mother — I donned my frilly apron, cracked a dozen eggs, set up three different skillets (to accommodate everyone’s different omelet preferences), brushed the tops of the croissants with butter, and set the table. Then I spilled something on the floor, cursed, burned my hand on the stove, had a panic attack, and poured out all my sorrows to the cutlery. “I’ve learned how to make brunch for six people,” I explained to the spatula, “I just haven’t learned how to make it look easy.”
While some women may be horrified to find themselves turning into their mothers, I’m over here like, “Sign me up!”
Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I do catch images of my mother. A pair of elegant dangly earrings. A collared shirt under a sweater. A bit of lipstick and mascara. But other times — most times — I see only me. Baggy sweatshirt, rumpled jeans, more frizz than hair. And I wonder, how exactly do you turn into your mother?
At social functions, I am much more likely to trip on the stairs, spill food on my shirt, or forget my own name, than smile engagingly and ask the person to my left about his job. My mother can talk to literally anyone about anything. I can talk to nobody about nothing and frequently do. My mother always knows just the right thing to bring to a dinner party. I always show up with something random I pulled from my fridge at the last minute and realized, in the car, is covered in mold. (Which prompts me to shove whatever it is down the side of a hedge and pretend I never meant to bring anything in the first place.) At what age do we turn into our mothers? I think I’m old enough.
We Are Our Mothers — Whether We Like It or Not
Because, look, I get it — when we’re kids, our mothers breathe in our general direction, and we’re mortified. That’s part of being a kid. And we vow — as even I vowed once or twice — to never do whatever it is that is currently bothering us about their existence. And even as we get older, we tell ourselves that we will never (ever) utter certain phrases, or make our children do certain things. And then we utter those exact phrases and make our children do those exact things, and we wonder: How could this possibly have happened?
What if even the things they did that we still disapprove of were done, not to scar us forever, but because our mothers are human and humans aren’t perfect?
But consider this: What if our mothers did what they did because they were adults, and we were kids? What if even the things they did that we still disapprove of were done, not to scar us forever, but because our mothers are human and humans aren’t perfect? What if we now, too, are grown-ups? Grown-ups who aren’t perfect. But grown-ups who have learned a thing or two. And if we find ourselves suddenly uttering the dreaded utterance, or doing the dreaded deed (whatever those things may be for us), then maybe we could try to remember that a child may not be the best judge of what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
And if, like me, you have the kind of mom you wish you could become — and if, like me, you find yourself falling short — don’t worry. Because, if you’ve got a mom like I do, she loves you just the way you are. Frizzy hair and all. And if — walking past a mirror, or making it down the stairs without falling — you catch a glimpse of your mom in you, you’ll remember the truth. She’s with you, whether you know it or not — whether you like it or not — and, as it turns out, that’s probably a pretty good thing.
Happy Mother’s Day!