As we make our way from infancy to adulthood, we mark time with multiple rites of passage. From our first loose tooth, to a successful driver’s exam, to the birth of a new baby, each of these events signifies our crossing into a land of unexplored possibilities; our transformation, even, into someone new. For many women, one such rite of passage is marked by the exclamation: “I’m turning into my mother!”
Generally, this is announced with dismay. Brought on by a peculiar mannerism, a premature grey hair, or a personality quirk dictating that the dishwasher may be loaded only just so and the glasses must be arranged in the cupboard the same way every time, it usually indicates that genetics and environment have conspired against all one’s efforts to become an individual. Fate has decreed that yet another well-meaning young lady is doomed to become the same conglomeration of idiosyncrasies characterizing the dear woman who raised her.
Well, I have yet to make this statement. Call me a late bloomer, if you will. I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was fifteen, and I earned my driver’s license at the venerable age of twenty-one. (Passed on the first try, thank you very much). So, true to form, I have yet to discover that telltale sign that I have, in fact, become my mother.
But here’s the truth: I’m not sure what aspect of my mom, manifested in me, would cause consternation. Perhaps I could find something if I really tried. I guess, for example, I could dwell on the fact that she’s just so darn nice that she can think of something positive to say about every person she meets. So nice that my brothers tease her by calling her President of the Nice Club. (It’s a lifetime appointment; don’t bother running). And she occasionally laughs at jokes before she gets the punchline. Which is, you know, pretty appalling.
The fact is, when I undertake the foolish exercise of searching for traits I’d prefer not to adopt, I find so much more in my mother that I do want to see in myself. So much that, as of now, I have yet to attain. This struck me with special force recently, when it occurred to me that someday my daughter would be “all grown up”…and calling me for advice.
Which is frankly terrifying.
When I answer the phone twenty years from now to hear her sobbing on the other end because her baby won’t stop crying and she’s exhausted and her house feels like a cage…can I soothe her fears with the same wise, comforting words my mom used for me? When she feels like a failure because her children acted up in the grocery store and aren’t listening to her and told her she was no fun…will I have the grace and wisdom to assure her that she is an amazing mommy? To encourage her with the reminder that she serves an incredible, loving God who daily overcomes her weaknesses and will use her strengths for His glory? To tell her that everything will be okay…and know that she believes me because, after all, I’m her Mama? Can I even come close to being the mother I’ve been blessed with?
To these questions I have no certain answer, any more than I can say whom my children will marry. But I do know that I pray for the ability to meet adversity with grace; to respond to criticism with kindness; to see everybody, even difficult people, as precious individuals created and loved by God. In other words, to be – at least a little bit – like my Mommy.
And someday, if I catch myself laughing at a joke before I get it, or being told that I’m just way too nice, I will hope it’s a sign that I’m finally turning into my mother.