All it took was one innocent comment, mumbled softly but loudly enough to reach my ears, to make my head snap around. “She is so crazy”, possibly said in jest. Needless to say, it is a very true statement about my two year old (almost three year old) daughter Emma, who has lately pushed every limit humanly possible. Our mornings begin with her forcing me awake with breakfast demands of waffles and only waffles, and the day quickly fills with her frolics of running and hiding when asked to sit on the potty, or her outright refusal to brush her teeth unless begged/threatened/bribed. You could say she has taken full ownership of the terrible two’s and her antics are quickly accelerating her into the nightmare status of an annoying, spoiled, rotten brat.
There I said it.
However, it was my husband who brazenly uttered this phrase, so nonchalant that he was, perhaps, joking. I did not laugh. And for the life of me, I could not let it go without retaliation of sorts or a disapproving frown. How dare he speak about my child like this? My precious little girl, the apple of our eyes and the most amazing child that two people could ever conceive – how could he talk smack about her? It made me furious. Only I can critique and judge our kid and this fact alone – makes me my mother.
Turning into your mother is inevitable and I tease some girlfriends about this very same attribute (especially the one with the craziest of mothers). But truth be told, I could only benefit from turning into my mother. In fact, I would be darn lucky if I did a bit more of it. She was a wonderful woman and has gained martyr like status since passing in 1998. Kind, compassionate, open-minded, generous to a fault, loving, friendly – my mother was one of the most likable people you would ever meet. If you were lucky to know her, you wanted to be her friend and if you ever met her just once, she considered you to be one by the end of the conversation. A ‘salt of the earth’ and a ‘gem’ all rolled into one – that was my mom. I was blessed to have her in my life daily for 23 years and I feel privileged to have her watching over me now.
Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit much of her kindhearted traits. Don’t get me wrong – I am not a complete unfeeling, tightfisted, cold-hearted witch. I can be nice, sometimes. But of all of my mother’s traits I could have ended up with, I absolutely have mastered the “how dare you talk about my child (only I can)” characteristic. I know many people, especially mothers, possess this characteristic. I am not unique in this, but maybe the intensity of this need to protect and defend is a bit remarkable, even for a mother. No one can criticize my baby. Not you, not God, and, sure as hell, not my husband. (Yes, she is his child too. That is the same excuse he gives me, so don’t even try it). Does this make me crazy (much like my kid according to my husband)? I don’t think so. I think it makes me caring and dedicated and blindly loving to a fault. Just like my mother.
It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops with my mom. She pestered me (another trait I have mastered!), and judged and raised an eyebrow over my clothes, boyfriends, grades, etc. She was a mom after all and part of the job is to keep your kid in check and on a righteous path in life. Paying attention is a necessary task. Involvement is part of the deal. (Not all parents do it, but the good ones do.) My mom occasionally got on my nerves. My point is she wasn’t perfect, but she was still an amazing mother. My mother loved me and my brother more than any two kids should be loved. (And hey, we weren’t exactly peaches). Similarly, she was an incredible friend, wife, sister and daughter – unless you talked badly about her kids. I would rather walk on broken glass or drink acid than be on the receiving end of that confrontation. It didn’t happen often, but when someone had the audacity to tell my mother their unfair criticism about her children (and they were all unfair of course), she reacted like a completely different person. A psycho if you will – maybe she was having an out of body episode and couldn’t control herself or maybe the rage was so strong it split her personality in two like Sybil. Either way, she was feral wolverine and people should have run the other way.
It is that intense affection that I feel. I never understood it until I had my own child. My love and loyalty burn deep inside my soul and it does not waiver a microscopic speck of measurement. Devotion, bordering on worship, and unconditional adoration coupled with an innate desire to defend my perfect lil’ angel – I truly am my mother’s daughter and I have never been more proud. It is this trait that keeps me connected to her while naively trying to raise a child without her input, wisdom and guidance. It is this trait that leads me to believe I am on the right path to being a good mom. I knowingly follow her footsteps.
So I have my mother’s nose, her gift of relentless nagging, and her steadfast blinders. I know she is giggling up above at my feeble attempt at parenting. I can’t help but feel a sense of comfort in that notion. And to those who dare to speak ill of my child – be cautious to suggest a correction to her behavior and be very afraid if I just smile in return to your unsolicited advice. Of course Emma is a total nightmare when she refuses to nap and whines for endless hours if she doesn’t get her way. Obviously she is a bit defiant, stubborn and foolish for continually repeating the same awful manners that have her headed for a page in Guinness World Records for continuous time-outs in a consecutive, twenty-four hour period – but do you really want to point that out? Do you, pal?
As a side note, Monday, April 9, 2012, was the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She has been gone for 13 years and it is still a daily struggle to live my life without her, but I am confident that she watches (and laughs) from above. This commentary is dedicated to Susan Jane, my angel mother.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog.