Your Mother’s Voice: Some Things Just Stick

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I am my mother’s daughter. I have her eyes, her hair texture, her hands, and I’m sure a whole host of other physical characteristics. But, like most people, I have tried to be my own person, forge my own path, and of course, be better and better off than the previous generation. This was never truer than for my parenting aspirations. My Generation X’s failures aside (https://blog.shrm.org/workforce/generation-x-fails-to-match-their-parents-living-standards), I have had that often-wrongheaded notion that I could do it better.

More specifically, I have spent much of my life making fun of the crazy things my mother said to me growing up that seemed to make little sense, sounded too harsh (poor, pitiful me), or were just plain wrong in my mind. I call them “Peggyisms” (my mom’s name is Peggy). After all, I have a PhD. I should be able to be smarter, clearer, and more creative in what I say and how I say it to my child.

But darn it if motherhood didn’t whack all these aspirations right out of me. Not only have I been hearing my mother’s voice in my head as I parent my 2-year-old, I have been hearing her come right out of my own mouth!

She’s there in instances as small as hearing her very Texan accent come through loud and clear as I teach my son new words (tomater, anyone?), or as big as my reprimands, “Stop right there, mister, before you make a mess/ hurt yourself!” or “Don’t make me tell you again!” (both of which my 2-year-old likely doesn’t even comprehend!).

It seems she always comes out in times of frustration, exasperation, or alarm. For my mother, single syllable curse words have three syllables—and believe me, my son has mastered all three by hearing me say them on numerous occasions.

While I may have some things to pat myself on the back about, they aren’t really my own doing but products of research and a progressing society (http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/18/24-things-your-kids-wont-believe-about-your-70s-childhood-5753472/). We no longer drink and smoke during pregnancy. We don’t let our child play in the street—or really, we don’t let our child out of our sight (which is debatable as to whether or not this is progressive). We are much more attentive to the food he eats, the toys he plays with, the schools he attends, and his overall childhood experience.

In these ways, I am, or we, as a society are parenting better than previous generations, attempting to give our children more than we were given, which seems to be one of the goals of every new generation. But I, and I suspect I’m not alone here, am unable to escape some of the things that were engrained in me.

As cringe worthy as some of my mother’s influence may be to me, it isn’t all bad. I have adopted my mother’s affectionate and playful approach to my child. I have also adopted her tendency to run to the doctor for every little sniffle, which could be seen as paranoid, but since the last little sniffle that sent us to the doctor actually turned out to be my son’s first bout of strep throat, I am glad I inherited it.

I am proud to say that I have managed to stop myself from repeating one the most baffling Peggyisms though. Whenever we argued and I would “talk back” to my mother (which was often), she would use whatever I was saying and throw it back to me in the form of “I’ll make you think_____,” regardless of whether or not it made any sense. This came up for me the other day with my son. He was having a meltdown leaving school because we were going home instead of on a special outing. I was carrying his lunchbox, his backpack, my keys, my phone, and my son. As we approached the car, he began kicking, trying to wiggle out of my arms in the parking lot, saying, “No Mama’s car! No home!” I tried to entice him with the snack that awaited him in the car, our pets that awaited him at home, his toys. Nothing worked. He cried. Next, he tried to wiggle out of the car seat as I buckled him in, “No seat!” he screamed, and I had had it. It was hot. I was tired. My hands were full. I could hear it just about come out, “I’ll make you think no seat!” (see, it makes no sense), but I stopped myself.  This time. But it’s only a matter of time, and I’m sure this Peggyism will also make its way into my parenting repertoire.

Anyone else channeling their mother as they mother? Know that I’m right there with you. 

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Brandy hails from Paris, TX. She has always admired Memphis: the culture, the kitsch, the city life it offers. So she moved here for a job and to be closer to family after many years of traipsing around the U.S. Brandy spent her 20's school hopping from state to state, eventually finishing her undergraduate degrees at the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville and her graduate degrees at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, where she met her wife, Theresa. In 2009, they moved to Minot, ND where Theresa was stationed in the U.S. Air Force. In ND, she survived three blizzards and a flood before moving to Memphis in 2011 to teach writing, literature, and gender and women’s studies at the University of Memphis. Brandy and Theresa were married on a rooftop in NYC in 2012 and welcomed their son, Finnegan (Finn) in 2015. Brandy likes to pretend she’s a juggler or a trapeze artist in the circus flying from role to role: wife, mother, writer, editor, teacher. Sleep? She doesn’t remember what that is. She loves a good cup of half-caf in the morning and a light bubbly bottle of prosecco on the occasional evening out. Her first novel, The Palace Blues: A Novel (Spinsters Ink) was a 2015 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Lesbian Fiction and winner of the Alice B. Readers’ Lavender Award. Her writing has appeared in Ninth Letter, Pank Magazine, Sinister Wisdom, and Lumina among others.

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