I was reading a website the other day, and the writer included one of those quote graphics that read: “Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out.” I giggled. I shrugged. I turned to see my son emptying markers on to the kitchen floor (approximately 7 inches from the pile of magnets he had just removed from the fridge and the treasure bounty he had dragged out to play pirates, which by the way, was as quickly disregarded as it was thought up), and I said, “No! You will clean up one mess before you make another.” I turned back to the article and, as ah-ha moments often lead you to, I gasped!
Let me start out by saying that my parents freaking rock. I’m talkin’, “who’s-the-first-person-I-call-when-I-am-feeling-my-lowest, please-be-in-my-wedding-party, can-I-borrow-those-stylish-shoes-mom” ROCK! I can’t remember a time that I was so embarrassed by them that I hid my face, or was so mad at them that I threatened to run away. I was always excited for sleepovers with my friends because my house was fun and my parents were a giant part of what made it that way. We had rules and guidelines just like every other family. We had to pray before meals, we couldn’t sing (or whistle or do a little ditty of any kind) at the dinner table, there was no whispering in front of others, you couldn’t roll your eyes or glare or even cross your arms in front of my dad, homework was first priority, cable was canceled in the summertime, and laundry was always to be folded before Saved by the Bell was turned on. I remember riding Hot Wheels in our driveway, going on camping trips and long bike adventures where my brother and I would laugh because my sister had to sit in the yellow plastic seat positioned like six inches from my dad’s butt and that makes a 6-year-old chuckle a bit. We would “climb” Mt. Tom, which now looks like a small sledding hill with trees, and play hide-and-seek in the cemetery by our house (OK, that last one sounds weird). I cherished family vacations and Christmas mornings and ice cream stops for $.50 scoops at Nelsons after 9:30 church. Being a Machler kid was great, for the most part.
All that being said, there are times that I fight with Nate and look down at my kids, not-so-fondly recalling my parents’ “serious talks” from the bottom step in our basement. I watch Mabel hit her older brother and scold him instead out of sheer “you’re older and should know better” mentality, but remember being in that position with my younger sister quite often. I see a lot of them in my own parenting, in my own marriage, in my own decision-making, soul-searching and dream-chasing. I hear their voices in my head when I am challenged with a crossroads (even though they are sometimes atop opposite shoulders). My mom’s mantra is recited internally every time I am insulted, offended or disgruntled by someone’s objectionable opinion (it’s “Consider the source” if anyone else wants to write that down). And I take all of these lessons, mantras, statements, quotes, actions, memories and feelings, mix them up in a bowl, and create my own sense of self.
My kids need to be excused before they leave a family dinner. I always kiss my husband goodbye. My house needs to be spotless before leaving for vacation because – as mom used to say – no one wants to come home to a dirty house. “Because I said so” is my canned response for annoyingly complicated “why” questions such as, “Why can’t the bath toys swim in the potty, mommy?” I create made-up games with my children, use voices when telling stories, and am trying ever-so-patiently to get them to enjoy puzzles. I dress Mabel in clothes I would wear, which are clothes my mother would wear. I drink wine with my husband after rough days at the office and plan future family vacations based on a financial budget wherein I think we can afford being escorted through Disneyworld by Mickey Mouse himself and Nate reels me back in to maybe just standing in line and getting his autograph like other normal middle-income American families. I take my kids out to dinner and buy them an occasional gift from the mall because “you can’t take it with you when you go” – a quote from my father referencing money, death, and (probably hinting at) the lack of expectancies in their will. And, truth be told, I would have it no other way.
I’m a firm believer in “nurture” vs. “nature.” I know I am naturally dramatic and oversensitive and impatient, but I was nurtured to learn how to cope and deal with these traits (good and bad) and to use them throughout life – whatever that type of life might be. I had children, so I use those mechanisms to try and raise them right with good morals and confidence. I want to nurture them as I was nurtured, maybe teaching them to use a touch of humor to brush off negativity or discomfort. How I turned out may not work for everybody, but it’s what I know and I am so thankful for the memories, confidence, work-ethic, and standards that I now have as an adult.
I’m not sure if that quote graphic on that website I was reading was meant to be insulting or not, but whenever someone tells me I’m being “just like my mom” I smile and say, “Thank you.” I hope that – once you get past the gasp and the “ah-ha” moment – you too can see the comparative as a compliment…at least a little bit.