I caught myself doing it again last night. I’m standing in the kitchen, poised right in front of the oven. It’s the spot that has become my 9 p.m. stop on my way to bed. The routine is the same every single night. I check and re-check to make sure the oven is off, sometimes even pointing at it for good measure to make doubly sure we won’t burn down in the middle of the night.
As I’m furiously checking and re-checking, it dawns on me: It’s finally happened. At 35, I’ve finally turned into my mother.
In recent years, though, one more question usually follows: Is turning into our mother really such a bad thing?
Ultimately, is it really something to be feared? Are we destined to turn into our mother?
Truthfully, I never thought this day would actually come. Not really, anyway. It’s not that my mom and I had a difficult relationship. In fact, our relationship has always been decidedly uncomplicated, something I’ve always been thankful for. My mom and I have always been close, and I know that’s in no small part due to my disability — at least some of it is.
I’ve had to rely on her for so many things. Growing up, my mom was my chef, nurse, and even personal shopper. In many ways, our bond is deeper because of my disability. Not only did I rely on her physically, she became my emotional rock through all my surgeries and hospitalizations; she was there for me when I was scared and confused. We’d have our disagreements, sure, but at the end of the day, she had my back and I had hers.
I grew up watching her advocate for me, especially when I couldn’t do it for myself. She’s taught me to be fierce and independent and my own person – seemingly everything that flies in the face of assimilating or taking on the traits of those around you. I had to be my own person. I had to be, well, me – how could I ever be anyone else?
So why, then, have I felt like I see her every time I look in the mirror? Lately, her words have been coming out of my mouth.
It’s such a natural thing that it’s even shocking at times. I’ll spontaneously start talking out loud when I get frustrated with my computer. I’ll make a point of ordering my burger well done because you can never be too careful with prepared meats.
But I’ve heard stories from friends and have seen enough Lifetime movies to know that, as my grandparents used to say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Sometimes, like in my case, it falls from that tree and surprises you by just how hard it smacks you right on the top of your head. That moment when we become a walking, talking mini-me of our mothers — well, it’s not exactly a moment we can plan for, can we? It happens, it takes us by surprise and all we can really do is try to integrate it into the adult we’ve become.
If a piece of our adult selves has our mother in it, I say that’s something we should be proud of.
Our mother helped us become the people we are, and that’s something we should never hide from. We can be our own person and still acknowledge our mother’s legacy.
The mother/daughter relationship is one of the most complicated relationships we’ll ever have — one fraught with ups and downs, tears and laughter. I don’t know about you, but I choose to go into it smiling. Life is simply too short to do otherwise.