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And So, I've Become My Mother

We're still very different, my mother and me.

And yet.

I often find myself saying or thinking things that I heard her say while I was growing up.

Things that once made me roll my eyes, things I prayed that I would never say once I got... you know, old.

I hear my kid whine about how she wants yet another piece of candy, and I catch myself saying, "When I was your age, your grandmother only let me have candy on Halloween."  Which, by the way, is completely untrue.  I was allowed to have candy whenever there was candy around, it's just that there was never any candy around.

Or, my favorite, "Eat your <insert offending food here>, there are children all over the world who don't have even this much to eat in a day."

Oh, God.  Yes, I have become my mother.

Pragmatic.  Principled.  Unwavering.  Stubborn.  Slightly, yet understandably, arrogant.

Okay, the arrogant part has pretty much always been there.

As a kid, her words existed as obstacles to my utter and total happiness.   Each trite platitude seemed to endure as one in a series of attempts to make me feel bad about what I was doing, what I wanted or how I was behaving.

Maybe that's partly true, but... I don't know, maybe it's not.  Maybe she was just doing her best with the tools she had at her disposal.

I have realized that intention may not always be communicated precisely in the day to day of mothering.... or wife-ing... or friend-ing... or simply be-ing.

I remember this line in the movie version of The Joy Luck Club where a mother tells her daughter about how she brought a live swan from China only to have it taken away at immigration when she was entering the United States.  She kept a single feather from that swan for the purpose of handing it to her daughter and telling her one day, "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions."

Mothers and fathers hand swan feathers to their children all the time, I think.  We just forget to add the lyrical Chinese-y saying that keeps us from looking like jerks while we're doing it.

For example, excuse me while I engage in an inexcusable level of self justification, but that line about kids starving in Africa/China/India/AMERICA?  That's completely true.

I'm not trying to make my child feel bad for not eating, I'm trying to give her some perspective, you know?

Of course, she doesn't see it that way.  She may never see it that way.  She may only see it that way as she utters the same trite phrase to her own children as they turn their noses up at whatever she's decided to feed them one evening.

This is my hope that she, to quote my mother, "one day, has children who are exactly like her."  She should be so lucky.  Don't tell her I said that.

Perhaps, becoming some version of your mother (or father) is an intrinsic part of adulthood.

It seems to me that given that the average American woman's life span is around eighty, my life is just five years short of being half over.  And that is barring any unforeseen acts of God.  Just as a completely unrelated side note, if I were a Puritan living in the seventeen hundred and somethings, I would actually be dead... like, two years ago.  Maybe even before that, because they would have thought I was a witch with accursed far eastern magic or something.  I know that doesn't have anything to do with this post, but I just found that so interesting.  Anyway.

My point is, I think, that there are worse things than turning into your parents, or, more specifically, assuming the characteristics we associate with "thinking like an adult."

Every kid needs an anchor, a rock upon which they can build their perspective of how the world works, and, of course, a person upon which to heap the blame during future therapy sessions. It's my belief that the people who love you often require just as much "getting over" as the people who have hurt you intentionally.

I've made peace with the idea that one day my kids are going to grow up and think, "I can't believe she did that to us."

I live, however, by the value that they will also follow up with, "But she did what she thought was best because she loved us."  I think, as a parent... or, actually, a human being in general, that's the most anyone can realistically hope for.

So, yeah.  I have no problem being my mother.

Because my mother is a good person.

Because my mother raised good people.

There are worse things I could be, I think.  Actually, come to think of it, I can't think of very many better things to be.

I just had to say that one more time, because, wow, surreal.

Also, what do you mean you didn't like this post?!

Don't you know there are slackers in China who don't even have access to blogs?!

Now, settle down and finish your peas.

And do not forget to be a doctor when you grow up.

Reader Comments (35)

true say true say... i see my sister is same as her mother (my mother, our mother... same2same).

and i like the "kids need a rock" idea. i guess everyone needs some type of rock. just never had that idea presented in this vivid a manner.

good stuff. good stuff. except may i add one small teensy, tiny point to that last line:

"And do not forget to be a doctor OR AN ENGINEER when you grow up" that is the true eastern way. :)

its nice to see the other side of life

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFahad Khan

Waaaaahh! Okay... okay... I'll read it AGAIN just to make YOU happy, mom!

If you are any reflection of your mother, I think she would be a wonderful person. :-)

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave2

There are certainly worse things than becoming my mother, but the older I get, the more I realize that I am not that much like her, but I have gained some of her wisdom.

At least that's how I like to think about it.

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I think representing an aspect of your parents is a good thing. I will never be my parents but I'll build on what foundation they gave me.

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAvitable

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by nic. nic said: RT @Faiqa: Native Born: And So, I’ve Become My Mother (this is a beautiful read.) [...]

Ooooh, man. I've uttered more of my mom's sayings than I have a right to; my favorite is "Because I said so", which we all know is the WORST to hear but I get sick satisfaction out of using it.
But yep - my mom is fricking incredible. I seriously don't think I'll ever be as awesome as she was - I really can't measure up.
Also - what's that other lame mom-ism? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? So, yeah. Really, we're HONORING our moms.
Don't roll your eyes at me!

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSybil Law

Beautifully said!

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrandeMocha

I thought that I would be immune having no children of my own but then I started teaching. Every now and then I would hear my mother's words pass through my lips and I would think, "How has this happened?" Now that I am well on the path through middle age I have given up on questioning it all and just accept it. In some ways I am my mother. Even more satisfying now is when I can use my mother's words against her. Yes, it will happen.

December 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKailyn

Well, said, Faiqa. Well said.

As a child, my mother drove me crazy with all her rules and sayings. Now that I have "life experience", it's humbling and amazing to realize how wise that woman was (and is). I, too, have learned that there are worse things in life than becoming your mother.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

yes, your mother raised good people. And that combination of your own wisdom/love and becoming a "version" of your mother, has totally made you a fantastic parent and wife! Waah Waah... I expect Qorma for dinner after that comment :)

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertariq

Doctors touch people. ew.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

I think those trite platitudes come from having this huge ideals that we want to pass on to our children, and we look at them and realize there is just no way to break it down into small, manageable bites. Ideas like perspective and gratitude and health and ethics.

Those trite little platitudes?

It's as close as we can get during day to day life, I think.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Britt


well said well said.

hear hear to the qorma

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFahad Khan

Being like your parents is kind of like the idea of religion for me. You have to pick and choose the characteristics/teachings that you want to have as a part of you.

I am so opposite my father. The only time I ever remind myself of him is when I look at my hands, or I clear my throat, or put on a dorky baseball cap. I am trying hard to think of those positive traits of his that I have inherited, or that I could cultivate in myself. I'm having a hard time with that.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Ugh, I am also turning into my mother, except my mother is insane and now I am also insane. I don't like it.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersuzy pepper

@Fahad Khan, Next time you use the phrase "same2same" on my blog, please don't use your last name. There's no reason why I should have to bear the brunt of Shabina's embarrassment. I have a younger brother of my own, thankyouverymuch. ;-)

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Dave2, Awww, that was so nice.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Megan, Yes, actually, that's kind of what I meant... we're still quite different.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Avitable, Yep, that's what I meant.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Sybil Law, You've said that you don't think you could measure up to your mom so many times before... your mother must be SUPERHUMAN AMAZING because you're pretty wonderful.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@GrandeMocha, Thanks!

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Kailyn, Oh, it *has* happened, and it was everything I thought I would be.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Rachel, Thanks, Rachel.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@tariq, If I were my mother, I'd point you to the fridge and tell you where the plates are. You know it and I know it. :-)

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Poppy, I know. Plus, medical school is hard.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Miss Britt, True.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Jason, I think you're exactly right... it's gleaning out the best and then living your own true life. Dear God, did I just quote OPRAH?

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@suzy pepper, Heh... yeah, there's a possibility of that happening for me, too.

December 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

I'd say I'm turning into my mother too, but I can't fit into any of her dresses. Lord knows, I've tried...

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterB.E. Earl

"Because I said so!" is a totally valid reason for anything, ever. My mom said so.

December 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

@B.E. Earl, It's a shame... I bet you'd look great in a dress.

December 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@Lisa, Yep. I've started using that one, too.

December 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

thats cool.. it's when I start to turn into your mother that we're gonna have problems....

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSlyde

@Slyde, Well. That's a horrifying thought.

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

@B.E. Earl, It's a shame... I bet you'd look great in a dress.

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColeen Sosa

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