Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Motherhood Gene

Oh my God

I've just had a bone-clattering revelation. I'm sitting here, with my mouth hanging just slightly open, eyes glazed like donuts, with the slightest sweat beading on my brow. I've become the one and only thing I was determined never, ever, ever, in infinity, ever to become. It's a shock, and a little hard to say out loud, but, I've become my mother. 

The transformation was so creeping and insidious that I didn't recognize it until it was too late. I didn't see it happening--and now, (insert high pitched, quavering scream here) it's done. 

When I was a teenager, and then a new mom, being anything at all like my mother was my greatest fear (next to being abducted by aliens and anally probed). I mean, come on--she always looked tired and in need of a haircut, she didn't ever take the time to paint her toenails or try new makeup styles, she'd fall asleep, upright at the table, after supper, she constantly had a pencil behind her ear and a never-ending list of things to do, sure she spent more money than she could afford on nice jeans for me, but did she really expect me to go to the mall with her in the pair she'd been wearing since the 70s? She was forever worried about where my brothers and I were going and who we were going with, and, geesh, just try to leave home to back pack around Europe, and she was a burbling, snotty mess. It was down-right embarrassing. Didn't she have any self-respect?!

I vowed to be the exact opposite of womanhood and motherhood. I was going to be liberal, cool, calm, unrushed, and sophisticated. My philosophy was simple, intuitive, and intelligent--every person has their own path to walk, and their feet are firmly planted on that path the second they're born, so all I had to do was give the people I brought into the world a place to live and grow, spread a little love and warmth around, and the rest was up to them. If they made mistakes, it was part of their growth, important to where their path was taking them, not my concern. I was free to live my life while they lived theirs, and yeah, our lives would intersect, but sometimes that might be kinda nice and fun. In fact, after my first child was born, and I was moving with his father to a small town, where I likely couldn't work, I asked my mom (and this is a direct quote), "What am I going to do all day? I'm going to be so bored. It'll only take an hour to clean the house, and then what?"

Well, I know you suspect what I'm going to tell you next. Mmmhhmmm. My philosophy imploded about a week after I had to put it into practice. And it wasn't pretty. 

I was a bloody mess. 

Twenty years later? Still a mess. I constantly have a pencil tucked behind my ear, dirt under my fingernails, I still manage to wear t-shirts with breast milk stains on them (my last child stopped nursing 3 and a half years ago), my hair occasionally looks like I've dragged a brush through it, and as for the lists, I can't keep them organized. I keep losing them, so consequently I can't keep track of what I've done, what I'm doing, or what I'm suppose to do (in fact, before I owned a cell phone, I actually lost one of my kids because I misplaced the field trip notice that told me where I had to pick him up. It was a harry couple of hours!) When I wear toenail polish, it looks chipped about 15 minutes after I've applied it, and worst of all, I spend every waking (and often sleeping) moment of my life in a state of perpetual worry about my kids--I'm a snotty, burbly mess. In short....I'm my mom. I'm starting to look like her--my small, perky boobs seem to be getting bigger every bloody day, and sound like her. I find her voice coming out of my body at a startlingly regular rate. Just the other day, in a fit of frustration, I inadvertently used one of the well-know gems I heard regularly throughout my youth--"If you keep acting like that, I'm going to drop kick you in the crotch." 

The transformation is complete. And now, after the shock has worn off, I realize it's not as bad as I imagined it would be. She wasn't perfect. She blew it sometimes (lotsa times). But age is the great equalizer and I see things differently. She wasn't deplorable. She was a mom and woman doing everything she could to make our lives, and her life, work. She encountered struggles, successes, joy, vomit, and interminable Christmas concerts, just like me, just like you. 

From here, where I sit, right now, it seems to me that the things I reviled in her are the things I've become (though honestly, I'll never be as organized or tidy as she is--I mean, she never once lost one of us). As it turns out, the reality is nothing like the fear. It took me alotta years to figure this out. 

And what about her? What about my mom? Twenty years later, she's become everything I intended to be--well put together, sophisticated, cool, calm, and unrushed. 

Maybe if I'm really, really lucky, someday, I'll get to grow into that part of her too. 

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