Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Mother's Curse

You are arguing with your child.

You are exasperated over him/her wasting his/her considerable gifts of talent and intellect on pursuits such as X-Box, Skateboarding, clothes, boys, MySpace...the list could go on.

The child blocks your brilliant arguments with a dazzling display of 12 year old tactic (also known as stubbornness) that so stuns you, that you throw up your hands make an annoyed groan and drop your hands to your side apparently beaten. Of course, because this is your child, you know you could take them in a fair fight, but kids don't fight fair. You only have one thing left to do. You know you must curse your child.

Born of centuries of mothers before you, you raise your right hand and point at them and say:

"Someday, you are going to have a child just like you."

The child looks at you in complete and utter amazement. This is the best you can do, Mom? But, your child is young and has no idea what you have just done to him/her. You, on the other hand, know exactly what you have done. Your mother's curse is standing in front of you looking like at you like you looked at your mother a century ago. And you just think, "Yep. It serves you right, you little brat."

The Mother's Curse is the most powerful curse in the world, I have decided. Of course, there are biological reasons that it works every time with natural children. But what about people who seek to avoid the Mother's Curse by remaining single, or becoming a nun or priest? Oh, believe me, there are employees/parishioners/students/co-workers who will fulfill these requirements, too. You can run from the Mother's Curse, but you cannot hide. Eventually, you will run into someone who fulfills your Mother's Curse.
I didn't even have to be a mother to run into mine the first time. Actually, I think it was really someone else's, but I got to observe. When I was 25, I was on a trip and visiting a family who had 5 kids, like we did. The oldest daughter had been left in charge of the crew while her mother had come to the airport to pick me up. Of course, my flight was delayed (when are they not?) and so we were later than anticipated in getting back to the house. Oh! You should have heard the hue and cry!
"You always do this to me! I am never on time for anything because I always have to watch the kids! You are never ever on time! I am so embarassed because I'm late for my party!" It went on and on.
I realized that I had said exactly, to the letter, those things to my Mom at 16. It was like I was listening to myself. I was horrified.
I happened to be travelling with a friend and I looked at him and said, "Remind me to call my mother tonight and apologize for being 16." He promised he would. And I did call her. She laughed and forgave me. WOW! what an eye-opener! Sometimes, that apology is a long time coming, Mom, but I think that my mom would tell you it was worth the wait.
The interesting thing about the Mother's Curse is that, although at first your Mother gets some smug satisfaction in the fact that your child is proof that you did not know everything at 12, in the end she feels badly for you and wants to help you get through it, too. That's because she loves you. It's really kind of a reflexive curse in that respect.

Remember the pop wisdom, "When you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you."? Well, that's what happens. Your mother has to suffer through the pain you are feeling as you realize that you were a deeply flawed individual at 12, and that you don't know how to fix it in your 12 year old, either. Grandma must watch as you struggle with this creature whom you both love, who is, in fact, not just your curse, but her curse and her mother's before her and so on and so on...

But, don't worry, it tends to build bridges between mothers and children. Who else am I going to ask about why my child is wasting all her time on MySpace when she is so brilliant? And why she speaks to me as if I am learning disabled? I go straight to the source. Mom knows, because she had me, but more importantly, she had herself.
And maybe that's the key to undoing the Mother's Curse: Knowing yourself.

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