Everything I Know About Being a Mother, I Learned From Being a Daughter

Mother, daughterWhen you were a kid, were you squirreling away mental notes about what you would and would not do when you became a mom based on what your own mother did? I sure did. I had a running list of no-nos forged from all the things my mama did to pluck my nerves and swore up and down I wasn’t going to put my own daughter through such agony.

I, for example, was going to let my little girl wear whatever she wanted because my mom stifled my fashion creativity. In the 80s no less, when you could basically put anything on and still be hip. I mean, wearing jellies with socks seemed like a fun, easy way to transition my favorite summer sandal into the cold, winter months. I vividly remember fighting for that look and silently vowing to be the coolest, most style-conscious mom ever when she shut me down. 

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Fast forward 20 years. I just got done scolding Girl Child for not having her coat buttoned around her neck and wearing those God-forsaken Nike flip-flops out in the November chilliness. I have so failed young Janelle. So much for putting cute fashion over common sense.

But in other, more serious matters, I remember being a kid on the other side of parenthood so vividly that sometimes, even if I want to react the same way as my mother would have, I’ll get a flashback right then and there. A phrase, a feeling, sometimes even a sound or a smell, will carry me back to 13 and remind me how much I hated something my mom did and make me try to think of another way to approach it with Teen Girl.

My mom wasn’t a particularly good listener. There was no reasoning or explaining in my own defense — especially since too much chatter from the peanut gallery might’ve qualified as backtalk or sassing, and that was dangerous territory to tread in. Once she had her mind made up that something was wrong, it was a wrap. It went offense, lecture, punishment. In that order. Every single time. So I try to be more democratic in my household and at least hear my kid out when she’s caught in the crosshairs of wrongdoing.

Sometimes, after she’s presented her argument, I can actually see her perspective. Often, however, she gives herself just enough rope to lasso herself onto a two-week stretch of punishment. But at least she had the chance to be heard and make her case, which is something I never got when I was her age. 

But there are times when I can see my mom in myself so much that when it happens, it catches even me off guard. She was quick to overreact and she certainly passed that down to me. I’ve been in mid-rant before and heard myself — literally listened to myself like I was an outside party — and shut up. Just immediately shut my overworked mouth up. Because I remember being on the other end of those tirades. I know that the longer you go on and on, the more a kid is going to tune you out until you get to the bottom line: how long their punishment is.

I’m not trying to make my mom sound like a raving lunatic, like somebody who should be the subject of one of those jaw-dropping documentaries on the ID channel or worse, Lifetime. She definitely wasn’t that. She was hardworking and loving and interested in what was going on in my life. We just spent so much of our time butting heads, particularly when I was in middle school, that I took mental notes way back then and dusted them off when I became a mother myself.

On the flip side, sometimes the light bulb goes off that my mama’s way was in fact the right way. I’ve even called her in the middle of battling my own child to apologize for making her life more difficult or being an unnecessary pain the hindparts. Being a daughter definitely made me a more astute and sensitive mom. But it also let me know that perfection does not run in the family.

Are there things that your mother did that you’ve been determined not to repeat on your own kids?


Image via Ctd 2005/Flickr

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