With Mother’s Day this weekend, I realize my feelings for my mother have shifted over the years. Instead of feeling afraid I’m turning into my mother, I now have a deeper appreciation of the many positive qualities she’s modeled for me.
If I’m lucky enough to live to the ripe old age of 96, I hope I age as well as my mother. At 96, my mom is cheerful when she answers the phone and hears my voice. “Hi Honey, how was your day?” She’s genuinely interested in my life and rarely complains. She’s so delighted when I visit her every week for lunch and we play several games of Rummikub. Our weekly visits remind me of my childhood when my grandparents came for dinner every Thursday night and played bridge with my parents after dinner.
Help, I’m Turning Into My Mother
While writing this post, I Googled: “Help, I’m turning into my mother” and got about two billion results! A superficial review of them revealed negative feelings about the fear of turning into our mothers. “It’s practically universal — both to catch ourselves being ‘just like’ our mothers — and to recoil at the thought,” says psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You!: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict. She thinks we may find ourselves adopting our mothers’ most annoying habits because “things that have always bothered us about our mothers are tendencies that we saw in ourselves all along.”
Author Deborah Tannen writes that the reason we’re so afraid of turning into our mothers is because “moms are a yardstick for how we measure ourselves. You’re not tall or short, you’re taller or shorter than your mother. You’re also younger than your mother — until something happens that makes you feel just as old as her, like having kids yourself. The fear of adopting our mothers’ habits,” says Tannen, “is also a fear of getting older. It’s not as much about your mother as an individual but about your mother as an older woman.”
My Mom Is a Role Model
With each passing year, my mom has become more precious to me. I often brag about her to my friends who agree that she doesn’t look or act her age. Since my father died in 1996, I’ve called her every day to check in and exchange news. Her mind is still sharp. Every day she does several crossword puzzles, enjoys the weekly Scrabble game in the senior community where she lives and still plays an excellent game of bridge.
The attributes I appreciate most about my mom are her thoughtfulness, her ability to nurture friendships from her childhood and her generosity. Ten years ago, she decided to move from her condo to an assisted living community. She told my brother and me she did it so we wouldn’t have to worry about her or make that decision for her. She lives in her own apartment but she eats all her meals in the community dining room. If she needs any medical attention, nurses are available 24/7 to assist her.
Fortunately, she’s been in excellent health and her only stays in the hospital have been when she gave birth to my two brothers and me. She doesn’t wear glasses or hearing aids and her cognitive skills are good. I recently told her I was bragging to a friend that she doesn’t take any medicine. She stopped me and said: “That’s not true. I have a shot of Canadian Club whiskey every night!”
Like my mom, I am also a widow. Since my husband, Sonny died last September, I’ve chuckled to myself over some of the new daily habits I’ve adopted like my mom. Recently, I started watching Jeopardy, doing crossword puzzles and watching television while I eat my dinner.
Of course my mom has qualities I try not to imitate. The worst is her impatience. Whenever I feel myself getting impatient, I remind myself that I do not want to be that way and make a conscious effort to cultivate patience.
So on this Mother’s Day, if you’re blessed to still have your mother in your life, tell her what you appreciate about her. That’s the best Mother’s Day gift you could give her.