Typically, I see myself as someone who is (mostly) calm, competent, intelligent, level-headed, with a sense of humor and a decent dose of sarcasm. My husband often tells me that my strengths – or my weaknesses, depending on the day and our conversation, and how much I have annoyed him at the time – are my ability to listen, and my optimism (these can be weaknesses because, he says – with a good amount of truth to it – that I am so good at listening, I often forget to talk myself, and so do not share my opinions/news/etc as much as I really should, and when he is being especially pessimistic, he sees my optimism as not being willing to perceive reality, a take that is colored by his own views, and that I still do not believe to be true. Hey, you gotta agree to disagree sometimes!)

 

But this is me, now. Me, adult. Me, away from the stresses and strains of my youth. In brief – this is me, when I am not with my mother.

 

Of course, this past week? I was with my mother. So – while I may have outwardly remained calm, there may have been some carefully concealed seething held back by clenched teeth. Competent? Sure, as much as I was allowed to be. And yes, this may have resulted in some of the seething – that automatic assumption of authority and control she came with, despite coming to stay with me, in my home, as my guest. Intelligent? Well, sure. I guess. As much as pregnancy brain would allow. (Can’t blame all my faults on my mother, much as I might sometimes want to). Level-headed? Nope. Of course not. This is the woman who raised me, who nurtured me, who inevitably helped me develop my various neuroses and quirks and bad habits. She is the one who can immediately push my buttons and turn me from happy to incandescently angry in moments, with just a few words, or a twist of her lips, or a meaningful glance. Sense of humor? Ha. Ha ha ha. Sarcasm? OK, that remained. It was just internal, never let out, not where my mother could actually hear and judge.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother. Adore her. She did a fabulous job raising all of her children (all three – THREE! – of us. I don’t even have one yet, and can’t imagine the challenge of that) so that they became normal, functional, competent, achieving, and happy adults. She somehow managed to keep us healthy, happy – and above and beyond that, saw the three of us through college and further (Graduate school for my sister and me, a post-baccalaureate program for my brother), on our ways to productive careers (or, in my case, a career path… as I am still training), married and starting families of our own. She was – and is – a wonderful mother.

 

And she still drives me crazy.

 

She comes, and I fall back into the habit of being her daughter. Which, no, is not at all a bad thing (I can only hope to emulate her in many ways). But it means I fall back into the habits and patterns of the last time we lived together for a long period of time – which, um, was when I was eighteen. In high school. Young, and stupid. Headstrong. No real ability to take care of myself yet. No real desire to, either. (That came about a week into college, when I realized that I really, truly liked clean clothes, I did in fact feel better when I ate a balanced meal rather than only waffles and ice cream, and WOW, books and other “necessities” were expensive, now weren’t they?)

 

I was a pretty good teenager, and I don’t regret who I was back then. I just don’t want to be that person, now. But when my mom shows up? Suddenly she rears her head again, and I find myself falling back into those habits I thought I’d long since left behind. Resentments for small injustices, petty angers over different ways to do things, and, oh yes, the incredible urge to roll my eyes because she just doesn’t understand.

 

My mom is the first person I usually call when I want to talk something over; when I have big news to share or a decision to make, she’s the voice on the other end of the line. While we have gone weeks without talking before – when one or the other of us are busy – more typically, we talk nearly every afternoon. (She is a great dog-walking companion… When I’m walking the Upper East Side and she’s hiking the trails in New Hampshire) While I can’t say I agree with her every opinion – and while I know I would make many different choices that she does, and has – she’s the one I like to talk to, confide in, and bounce my ideas off of. I won’t necessarily follow her advice, but I will always ask for it.

 

But that’s when she’s THERE, and I am HERE. When we are both here? Not so much. I become whiny, self-indulgent, and just want to be left alone. (At least, the “me” in my head does. The actual, physical me? Is better controlled. No whining or self-indulgence allowed. At least, allowed to be expressed)

 

I wish there were some conclusion to this; some resolution, some miracle way to put the past – and those habits developed over a lifetime together – behind. But I don’t have one. Instead, I am just savoring my night alone tonight – she’s gone to stay with my brother and his wife and baby – and taking the time to recompose myself. Because tomorrow, it starts all over again. (Except worse – because we’ll be returning to my childhood home, where I get to fall into these habits with both my mother and father, all in the familiar setting in which I grew up) And hoping that perhaps I’ll figure out how to stop doing this – and soon – before the baby is born, and she comes to stay with us to help out for the summer. Because? I don’t want to regress to a baby myself, all while learning to take care on another.

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