Sunday, April 17, 2016

We Become Our Moms: Discuss

“As we get older, at some point we become our moms.” I’ve heard this said over the years; I read it in a ‘Net article recently; and I’ve been accused of it myself. Maybe the truth is out there in the gray areas, which is true of almost anything when you think about it.

It has never been evident to me, by observation, that anyone in my experience has actually become “like their mom.” Some people adapt mannerisms from their moms; others may develop some personality traits that they seem to share with their moms; and many may evince similar behaviors in some ways. Everybody though, I’m sure, remains their own person, with most of their characteristics not being shared with mom.

My ex- told my on several occasions that I was “just like my mom.” I took it as a very hurtful thing to say, because we both knew that my mom was a thoroughly disagreeable person. Unless you didn’t know her, that is. She was rather nice, and friendly, to people outside the family. With us, though, she took no steps to hide her misery and she took very effective steps to bring that misery into our experience of the world.

That is a rather important difference between my mom and me. She directed her misery outward; my own misery is directed exclusively inward. I think exclusively, anyway. Some unintentional spreading of misery surely happened. I generally tried to hide it from the family, my coworkers, and others, but sometimes there was no mistaking it. There was no conscious effort to share my misery, however, I never felt the need to inflict it on others for the purpose of either sharing it with them or making myself feel better. My mother did both of those things, with clear intention and often with obvious enjoyment. So, yeah, saying that I was like her was hurtful. That might have been intentional, too.

Even where some characteristics may be shared, there are big differences in the degree and the effects. Oh, it’s enough, already. This is not a confessional blog.

There are things about my ex-wife in my notes for this post, but I’m not going there. I have never had anything but admiration and love for my ex-wife. That and deep appreciation for everything that she has done for me and for our children. She’s been a great mom, and she’s mostly responsible for my having had a very successful family life. But she’s got a mom, too.

When my mother-in-law died, all three of her siblings were at the funeral. When she thought that no one was looking, her youngest sister approached the casket alone. She stood still for a time, and then she shook her head back and forth and said, out loud, “well, Annie, maybe now you won’t have to be angry at everybody all the time anymore.”

I would never say, to my ex-wife or to anybody else, that she was “just like her mom.” That would be a ridiculous thing to say. My ex-wife was a great mother to our children, a much more well-rounded human being, much more ambitious than her mom had been, and generally a much nicer person. But maybe none of us escape completely bringing into ourselves something of what we learned at our mother’s knee.

Mothers are the most significant others, starting before our births, so it is reasonable to think that we may, in ways big or small, model their behavior. We also carry their genetic inheritance, which will influence our personalities. But let’s not go around glibly accusing people of being like their moms, or foolishly suggesting in print that we all, at some point, become our moms. Most people, including me, don’t want to hear it. 

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