Friday, May 11, 2001
Just like Mom
Universal characteristics define mothers: You know who you are
By Patricia Gallagher Newberry
There comes a moment in every mother's life when she opens her mouth and lets fly someone else's words.
They are her own mother's.
My moment came circa 1994, when my spouse asked what I might like for my first Mother's Day.
A little peace and quiet, I responded.
Just like mom.
You know you're a mother if you've uttered that line or any of the others you grew up hearing.
Child: I'm bored.
Mother: I'll find you something to do.
Child: Can I have a friend over?
Mother: I'll think about it.
Child: He/she/they won't give back my toy/book/game.
Mother: Don't go away mad, just go away.
You know you're a mother, too, when you add rhetorical questions to the mix:
Do you want to go to bed right now?
Am I the only one in the house who knows how to change the toilet paper roll?
The mother gene affects more than conversation, though.
You know you're a mother, too, when you become the apparel police, pestering your children to wear jackets in the morning, shoes on the driveway, helmets when riding their bikes and pants when leaving the house.
You know you're a mother when you go to the store for milk, bread and bologna and come home with Pokemon fruit roll-ups, Toy Story Popsicles and five kinds of gross cereal.
You know you're a mother when every trip to the store or the mall or park or church or anywhere else entails the packing of juice, snacks, diaper wipes, toys and enough other gear to get a small family through a long weekend.
You know you're a mother when those trips to the mall always include a quick run by the markdown racks at Gymboree and the Children's Place but rarely, anymore, a stop in the suit department of Parisian or the shoe aisle at Lazarus.
You know you're a mother when the only chapter book you've nodded off to recently include characters named Harry and Hermoine and Dumbledore.
You know you're a mother when you develop an obsession with bathroom habits: Did you go yet? Do you have to go? Why don't you go now so you won't have to go later?
You know you're a mother when you spend far more time in front of the sink and washing machine than in front of the TV or mirror.
You know you're a mother when your purse is littered with a dozen half-used Kleenex but nary a working pen.
You know you're a mother when your car's windows are covered with sticky fingerprints, its carpets crusted with stray Skittles and its upholstery creased from years of car seat use.
You know you're a mother when you can't imagine driving a car that doesn't have a front, middle and back seat for essential separation of front, middle and back children.
You know you're a mother when you consider a balanced meal anything that includes a glass of milk and a food that didn't come out of plastic.
You know you're a mother when you consider any food that hits the floor still good if it's free of dog hair.
You know you're a mother when the tub is clean enough if it's absent fuzzy black stuff and the water is clean enough if you can see the bather's limbs through the murky flotsam.
You know you're a mother if you've ever done anything with your shirt tail wiped a milk mustache, wiped a runny nose, wiped a tear besides tuck it into your jeans.
You know you're a mother when you find yourself complaining that some days go on for ever but the years just fly by.
You know you're a mother when you recall those fast-moving years by events rather than dates: The winter the youngest gave up diapers. The spring her brother went to the emergency room. The Mother's Day the oldest learned to ride a bike.
You know you're a mother when you actually look forward to eating a Mother's Day meal in a restaurant that serves drinks with crazy straws and brings crayons with the menus, so long as the diners at the next table get the same.
You know you're a mother when you dig out and repair and proudly wear your homemade jewelry each May and make room in your drawer for a little more.
You know you're a mother when you creep up the stairs long after the jewelry is put away for the year and the Mother's Day meal is complete, long after the last cup of water and the last bedtime story, just to smooth back their hair and pull up their sheets and savor the privilege of being somebody's mother.
Patricia Gallagher Newberry's column appears every other week. She welcomes mail at email@example.com or CincinnatiEnquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati, 45202.
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