Turning into my mother

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day to everyone who is, or has ever been, or has ever acted as, a mum. On the scale of emotions surrounding ‘turning into my mother’, I have worked through denial and am now in a tentative acceptance. She’s great. I hope I have her tenacity when I’m fifty (and her skin).


To mark the occasion, here’s a list of ways in which I am like my mother:


1. I like my tea strong. Admittedly, I also like it sweetened, which she thinks is abhorrent. But somebody made me a milky tea yesterday and I had to employ all the self-restraint in the world not to spit it out. Sorry, kind man at work.


2. My optimum state of relaxation is achieved when everything is clean and tidy. I asked her recently how long she spends cleaning each week and she said, “oh, about thirteen hours,” so I never really stood a chance. I can’t relax if there’s mess or disorganisation, and I think my parents’ place is my safe haven for that very reason. My mother is the enemy of dust and dirt.


3. My default walking speed is ‘marathon runner’. Beware anybody who loiters or dawdles, and God forbid you stop on a narrow path. I consider it a personal achievement that I beat Google Maps’ walking estimations every time.


4. I feel deeply for inanimate objects. And sad-looking animals. And upsetting television storylines. Basically, we both feel things a lot.


5. I adore nature and the outdoors. My mother is a hardy sort, prone to fits of gardening in minus temperatures. I remember how much I enjoyed ‘helping’ as a child; to pot and weed and water, and watch things grow over the seasons. I have an obscene number of houseplants in my bedroom because it makes me feel close to nature, and I will always find the brightest spot to sit in because I hate feeling cooped up by the indoors. We went for a hike yesterday and I don’t know which of us was most excited – though she was the one striding confidently through brambles and ankle-deep mud.


6. I put lavender oil on my pillow to help me sleep, and on my temples when I’m feeling stressed.


7. List-making. If she is the Queen of lists, I am the heir to the throne. I have made lists of lists I need to make. Meta-lists. She has taught me well.


8. Supermarket shopping gives me abysmal anxiety. She once cried in a Carrefore when we were in France because it was too overwhelming, and I thought it was hilarious. Silly mum, I thought, being dramatic. Then I grew up and started buying groceries. I feel you hun.


9. I believe, though I probably shouldn’t, in fate and the power of the Universe. I have found myself saying, “the Universe must be telling me…” with a growing frequency – at first ironically, and then with wholehearted sincerity. Every bone in my body that has studied and adores the sciences revolts each time at the sheer irrationality. I blame my mother. I still remember her gentle voice telling me, “everything happens for a reason” at each childhood disappointment or teenage heartbreak.


10. I am beyond content reading a book under a blanket, preferably with a nice hot drink. I think this means I am turning into everybody’s mother, and am in fact just too old for my own good. Sometimes I like books more than people. My mother definitely likes books more than people.


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