Listen To Your Mother, Portland, is happening tonight at the Alberta Rose Theater. I’ll be taking my mom as an early Mother’s Day gift.
“UGH! When you grow up I hope you have a daughter just. like. YOU!”
My mother shouted this curse over one million times during my 11th – 18th years of life.
And really, I don’t blame her. I caused that woman much misery during my teenage years. I was a bad kid.
Not bad like, “sneak out of the house and go drinking with my friends” bad. More like, “I hate you! You can’t tell me what to do! I wish I’d never been born! Fold the damn laundry yourself” bad.
I was a tad disrespectful.
I wasn’t this way with my teachers or other adults. I had lots of friends at school. I even won the Drill Team “1986 Miss Congeniality” award. But at home, the rage I felt from the sheer unfairness of being a teenager came forth in a vengeance toward my mother.
Mom didn’t do anything to deserve my anger – but she was my mom. She had to love me no matter what. However, my mother is very passive and avoids conflict at all costs. She didn’t know how to handle my adolescent angst. If I could go back in time to the 1980s and whisper advice to her from the 44 year old woman I am now, I’d say,
“Andee’s upset. She just found out the boy she likes doesn’t like her back. She feels unpopular. She didn’t get invited to the party everyone else is going to. The math teacher embarrassed her in front of the class. Her best friend got 5 invitations to prom, and she hasn’t been asked yet. She has a huge zit on her chin. All Andee needs is a hug and to know she’s loved.”
But how could Mom possibly know all that when her own flesh and blood unleashes a barrage of hate on everyone in the familial path? She had her own issues going on. Sometimes, she shouted back. She grounded me. This just made me yell louder. Always though, the curse.
“I hope you have a daughter just like you!”
16 years ago, my husband and I decided to start a family of our own. We rejoiced at the radiologist’s news: It’s a girl! Oh happy day…wait. The phrase my mother cursed at me entered my thoughts like a freight train. Oh, Lord. What if she’s just like me?
When Emma entered the world, I took one look at her and fell in love. Even as an infant, she looked just like her daddy. As she’s grown, others have commented on their similar appearance, their mannerisms, and their habits. She is a Daddy’s girl through and through.
Of course I wouldn’t have a daughter “just like me”. The genetic makeup between my husband and myself is completely different than that of my parents. Besides, I know what signs to look for. We will just raise our children to calmly speak their feelings and show their parents respect.
As Emma neared her 2nd birthday, I became pregnant again. Yay! Another girl. The curse didn’t even enter my mind this time. I began to look forward to all of the adventures my two daughters would share together not only as sisters, but best friends.
Immediately following Annika’s birth, the doctor put her into my arms. I looked down at this slimy, scrunched up, little being and I saw it. This little one looked just like me.
It didn’t take long to realize Annika’s attitude was completely different than her sister’s. Where Emma keeps her feelings inside, Annika wears her emotions not only on her sleeve, but all the way down her maxi dress. She has no poker face and she’ll tell you exactly what she’s thinking. Kind of like…me.
Early on Annika could transition from tranquil to tantrum in less than 10 seconds. Sometimes the rage comes from out of the blue. By the time she reached 5th grade, I came to expect a fiery tirade as soon as she returned home from school.
“Why do I have to do everything around here?!?” She’d scream when I asked her to unload the dishwasher.
When I asked her to start her homework, I’d hear, “I hate school! Why do you make me do more work after working all day?!?” I admit. I didn’t have an answer for this one.
“You just want to make me do everything! You don’t even love me! I wish I were never born!”
Oh my Lord, the curse. My daughter is just like me.
Sometimes I will lose control and yell back, “Annika! Go to your room!” I’ll turn around exasperated and catch my husband’s eye when he mouths, “Just. Like. You.”
More often than not, though, memories of my own adolescence flood back to me. After my daughter spends some quiet time in her room, I’ll pad up the stairs and open the door. I’ll silently enter and sit by her on her bed. I’ll reach over and envelop her in a hug. She cries. I’ll ask “What happened?”
The answers spill out of her like the Dutch boy pulling his thumb out of the dam. “Someone else got the choir solo. I didn’t get to sit by my friends at lunch. I didn’t finish my essay and had to stay in at recess.” And so on, and so on.
When the tears stop, she reaches for the tissues on her nightstand, blows her nose and asks, “Mama, do you still love me?”
I stare into my daughters eyes, the same color as mine. I remember as passionately angry she can become, her joy is even more exuberant . When she is happy, she is a ray of sunshine to everyone in her path. Her laugh, contagious. Her generosity, enormous. She goes out of her way to make sure everyone is included so no one ever has to feel left out.
I answer my daughter, “Annika, when you grow up, I hope you have a daughter who cares for others, who is intelligent, who is loyal, who stands up for what is right and has a heart for God.
In other words, Annika, when you grow up? I hope you have a daughter just like you.”
Carisa Miller and Kelli Martinelli, co-ordinators for our local Listen To Your Mother, sat with me for an interview recently. Listen to the podcast for all the info.