Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.

My mother used to say that to me all the time. I was always “Little Miss Contrary” to her. I can’t count the number of times she used to “curse” me as a kid, saying she hoped that when I grew up, I would have a daughter just like me. Really, what an awful thing to say to a child, because if said in anger, as it always was, it’s invalidating everything about them. My response was always something to the effect of, well at least then she’d have someone to understand her.

Well, mom, congratulations. You got your wish.

On the other side of that coin, I have always heard people bemoaning how they were just like their mother. I discovered recently that I am exactly like her in so many ways. We sit the same awkward way, we fidget in the same way. I was talking to her about my recent diagnosis of ocd (at 40!) and she told me how she counts, and it dawned on me that she has ocd, too.

But it’s so much more than that. All the self-judgments I have, the feelings of never being good enough, needing everything to be perfect stem from the fact that she never could compliment me without saying something negative, too. Stop touching your face. Stop dragging your feet. Don’t slouch. Oh, you got a hundred on a test *sniff in disdain* wasn’t there any extra credit?

And the rage. My mother flies into a rage at the drop of a hat. She’s been known to follow people in their cars until they get where they’re going so she can yell at them. Like, wtf mom?

However, I am NOT like her. I’m a happy person, generally speaking. People describe me as bubbly. I try to praise my daughters (who are so much like me) without throwing in judgy thoughts or comments. I want them to be proud of their creativity, not ashamed of it. I want them to be able to express their anger without going from relatively happy to instant rage. I want them to be able to problem solve without resorting to violence. And I want them to know violence is not the answer to any problem, nor is it an expression of love in any way.

She sees me in therapy now, and of course she blames herself. So now, when it’s too late to change anything, she says she’s sorry. She’s sorry she wasn’t there when I was a kid. Because she sees me not being there for my kids. But when she was home, she was always angry and critical. And I don’t think she really sees what that has done to me, or understand how I have passed it on to my daughter.

Because where my daughter is like me, I am like my mom. AND I HATE IT. I don’t want to be like that, and I don’t want her to treat my grandchildren the way I was treated, the way I’ve treated her simply because I didn’t know any other way. My mother never taught me how to be a mother, but I’m learning. I’ve learned how not to act. Now, I’m trying to learn how to act.

My daughters have seen me struggling this past year; they saw me hit rock bottom, and they’ve seen my climb back to … myself, I guess. A better me. And we’re all better for it. Because I’m fixing things now, while my kids are still kids/preteens. I’m changing for the better when they still want my guidance, approval, and company. By the time my mother tried to bond with me, I was past that point, and resented and resisted everything about her.

I resist her to this day, whether I mean to or not. I’m pretty sure that stems from – it’s too late for her to try and mother me. I raised myself. I may not have done the best job, but considering I was a teenager who lived alone for years, I graduated high school and college, didn’t turn into a drunk or a junkie… I did ok. And I’m doing better every day.


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