It doesn’t happen all at once. There are little signs as you go through life. Perhaps it’s a quick look in the mirror and then a double take because you notice that what everyone has always told you might be kind of true — you may really look like your mom. And then there are the times when you swear you hear something your mother said when you were younger, but it’s coming out of your mouth. Stop right there…hang on…this can’t be happening.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a process. You go through cycles in your life. When you're young and your mother is the north star in your tiny world, you think she's the prettiest, nicest, most perfect woman around. You decide early on that you are going to be just like her when you grow up. You may try on her clothes, her make up, or repeat what she says. My mom was a teacher so I played a lot of school. I’m sure that my stuffed animals were, by far, the most educated in the whole neighborhood. I watched my mom’s every move, learning how to be that perfect woman, that perfect mom. During those early years, your mom is always there for you. For a while that works, but eventually things change.
Right around junior high, you discover that your perfect mom may not be so perfect after all. She’s old-fashioned and doesn’t understand what young women need in this current day and age. If she stays at home to take care of the kids, you think she should have a career. If she has a career, it may not be the right one. After all, she’s just a glorified secretary or assistant. She should be in charge of the company or have gotten a professional degree. Being a teacher may be fine for her, but you know that woman can and should have everything.
And her rules. Doesn’t mom know that kids need to find themselves? They need to experiment, make their own mistakes. Growing up today is much different from the past. A 10:00 p.m. curfew? Is she for real? She grew up in a small town, where the streets were probably rolled up at 8:00 p.m. and every one was in bed. She can’t possibly think that waiting until you’re 16 to date is a good idea. And as the high school years go by, you're counting the days when you can get out on your own. You dissect your childhood and become determined not to make the mistakes your mother did.
Now come those fabulous and free-spirited college years. No one to answer to. You get to make the rules. You are finally in charge of you! You don’t really think too much about mom…you’re too busy experiencing life. It’s during this time that your mother may get on your nerves. When you talk to her over the phone, she may ask too much or try to get too personal. When you go home on break, she is, apparently, not aware that you have been taking care of yourself and have been doing just fine, thank you very much. Old rules and restrictions may come in to play. You tell her that she doesn’t know where or what you were doing at college so why does she need to know now. She gives you that mom answer: You won’t understand until you have kids of your own. Really mom? You decide very early on that the less she knows about your life, the better.
And then it comes full circle: You have kids of your own. And yes, you find that your mother was right when she told you to just wait until you have children of your own. If you’re lucky, your mother is able to come to help out when your children are born. You notice that she’s calm and ready to help in any way she can. She smiles a lot and doesn’t try and tell you how to do things unless asked. This is lovely. She is lovely.
And as the years go by, you become closer. You call with questions or to share stories that you know she will enjoy. She reminisces about your childhood. She’s once again there for you, and you realize that she has been all along.
No, you don’t suddenly think your mom is perfect again. She still has lots of faults and idiosyncrasies that drive you crazy. But you realize that perfect isn't what makes a mother special. It’s actually the little things, her daily humanity and yes, her faults, which endear her to you. You can now smile at the qualities that make mom, well, mom.
And when you look down at her hands, now soft and wrinkled, you remember those same hands holding yours, and a small tear may well up in your eyes. Those were the hands that fed you, helped you to walk, held you, played with you and hugged you. And now when you hear yourself utter a mom saying, a little smile develops. It’s a little journey down memory lane…
Oh, I still have lines I’m not quite ready to cross. I hope to hold off wearing full-on mom jeans, orthopedic shoes, and those dreaded granny panties as long as possible. And I’ll continue to dye my hair until the wrinkles belie my age. But I’m fine with looking in the mirror and seeing a part of my mom look back. After all, I’m one of the lucky ones. I still have my mother around. Her looks, mannerisms, and little quirks only become more endearing the longer this wonderful and loving mother-daughter relationship lasts.
So it happened slowly and with not much thought. I became my mother, and that’s okay.