It's a familiar scene: Your kids do something maddening, and before you know it out comes something you swore you'd never say to your kids. Something that you found enormously irritating or perplexing when your mom would say it to you.
"Tough life" is one of mine, as is general yelly-ness. I'm sure you have yours too -- something you say or a facial expression, or even the way you look as you reach an age you can remember your mom being. Whether she's a great mom or a challenging one, she looms large in our own parenting.
As it turns out, there are some pretty complicated psychological reasons we find ourselves acting just like our moms, even when we don't want to. For one thing, our brains form neural pathways very early in life in response to things our parents do. Under times of stress, our brains can send us down those very familiar pathways instead of calling up the more calm and reasoned behavior we can muster up with little effort at other times.
The good news is that we're not doomed to repeat the painful parts of our childhood for our own kids, genes, neurons and whatever else to the contrary. This Psychology Today story has some interesting ideas on how to cut yourself some slack on channelling your mom.
The best points are to remember that you are not your mother and your kids are not you. While you may sometimes find yourself saying or doing things that she did, that doesn't mean you're her without the 1970s caftans. While our parents are strong influences, they aren't the only ones. Friends, teachers and partners can influence our behaviors just as much. And by the time most of us have hit this stage of parenting, we've had a chance to get some perspective on our parents. Dealing with two cranky kids at the end of a long day can give you a lot of sympathy for your mom's weaker moments.
By the same token, something that made you feel horrible as a kid might not faze your children at all. They're their own people, with their own neural pathways and personalities, and while you might have have fallen apart at being sent to your room, for example, your more introverted child might welcome the chance to get a hold on their emotions in private.
Another good piece of advice is that making small changes to your behavior can do a lot to improve a situation. For example, when I find myself getting really impatient with my daughter, I force myself to speak in the absolute calmest, gentlest tones I can generate and even use a term of endearment. I might be screaming on the inside, but outwardly I'm Chill Mama. When my son balks at putting on his shoes, I try to remember not to take it personally, he's only two and doesn't LIKE shoes.
The fact is, parenting is hard and none of us are perfect. And mom's influence, whether good or bad, isn't our destiny.
Do you have any "I've become my mother" moments?
Image via Perfection1908/Cafe Mom