This I Believe

Paula - Glastonbury, Connecticut
Entered on March 26, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
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I believe that daughters eventually come to understand their mothers.

If most women are anything like me, they spent much of their formative years at odds with their mothers. They were especially good at being judgmental with a capital “J”—they possessed the innate ability to criticize, scrutinize and condemn everything their mothers did.

For me this judgmental stage lasted a good 20 years; starting when I was around 12 and ending at about 32 when I had my first child. I couldn’t imagine how my mother could wear those so-called comfortable shoes; why she’d listen to that hideous talk radio station; why she wouldn’t let me stay out late with the car; why she wanted me to get off the phone with my boyfriend; why she wanted me to stop sulking.

It wasn’t until I had my first child that I slowly started to see the other side, which I suppose is called maturity. The reality is that I not only understand my mother, but I’ve also become my mother. I wear comfortable shoes almost exclusively, I keep my radio tuned to talk radio all day long and I make my daughter change her clothes when her belly button is showing and when her earrings threaten to touch her shoulders.

But more importantly, I can clearly see why my mother said what she said, did what she did and believed what she believed. She wanted to instill some solid, no-nonsense values into a silly teenager’s head. She wanted me to be practical, smart and motivated.

Now that my oldest daughter is nearing 11, she has started looking at me with that familiar, sidelong glance of criticism, and my 8-year-old tells me it’s embarrassing when I wear my winter hat—the blissful stage of their early years is officially over. To my daughters, I’ll just be their dorky mother with the sensible shoes who doesn’t know how to Instant Message someone and who is too strict about the websites they’re allowed to visit. The penance for all my previous criticizing and judging is painfully clear—I estimate that my daughters will be out of their judgmental stage by approximately 2028.

But I believe that they will eventually emerge and understand me.

Understanding our mothers is a bittersweet realization. We feel mature and enlightened—just like the adult our mothers wanted us to become. But now we also understand all the heartache and struggles our mothers went through to raise us. It leaves us slightly embarrassed to think about our insensitivity, immaturity and lack of respect for the woman who gave birth to us, nurtured us and stepped aside while we went on our merry way into adulthood. Sorry Mom. I swear I’ll never do it again.