Along with zillions of other people, my daughter, Alison, writes a blog.
As The Neurotic Housewife, Alison writes about her life as a stay-at-home mom, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this side of her in a horrifying sort of way.
It’s like looking into a mirror.
Oscar Wilde once said, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.”
As my girls grew up, I often taunted them with that. Oh yeah? You think I’m a fruitcake? Just wait until you get older and you find yourself doing the exact same things.
I didn’t realize the full truth of my words until I started reading Alison’s blog (http://neuroticalison.blogspot.com).
For example, she writes: “I’ve never been any good at keeping records of our family’s events and memorable experiences. It’s not my fault. It’s in my genetic code. Seriously. Ask my mom.”
Another post: “When I titled this blog ‘The Neurotic Housewife’ I wasn’t kidding … My mom has bravely owned up to the fact that she played a heavy hand in making me this way. I’m thankful she’s ’fessed up, because this has saved me many hours of sitting on some therapist’s couch.”
In another post she listed some of her neurotic tendencies: keeping towels she never uses (and forbids people to touch) in a linen closet, obsessive worrying about getting enough sleep, never letting her bed go unmade, washing her hair and putting on make up every day even when she’s sick.
When she was younger she convinced herself if she spoke more than 300 words in a day she’d lose her voice, so she kept track of every word. When she got to 300 she stopped talking.
“Most of these are purely motivated by my desire for complete world domination,” she writes. “Or on a small scale — control of things around me. The counting words/worrying about sleep is sheer neuroticism … just blame it on my mom.”
She writes it all in fun, although, sadly, it’s based in truth. She blogs about our family’s lack of holiday traditions (my fault) and writes extensively about her frustration with the neighborhood kids not listening to her whiny nasal voice.
“The older I get, the more I realize that our (hers and my) personalities are much more similar that I ever thought. I’m still stubborn like my dad but wishy washy (no offense, Mom) like my mom,” she writes.
When my granddaughter got two goldfish Alison wrote: “I’m hoping to keep them alive for at least a few months. I remember having fish as a kid, and I’m pretty sure my mom killed them. Something about bleach residue in a bowl she put the fish in while cleaning their tank. History is not on my side.”
For the record, it wasn’t bleach; it was pine cleaner that killed them.
Sometimes one of my daughters will call me, horrified, because she said or did something that I always say or do. Or she’ll confess to a particularly annoying behavior and blame me for it.
I just laugh and say, “You’re welcome.” Not that she’s thanking me.
But such revelations bind us together in our common human frailty and weakness. That’s the basis for any human relationship, for we are all frail, so in a way it’s a gift I’ve given them.
Alison says when she does the dishes she often feels like me; that it’s the way I stand at the sink or the way I sing. “I feel like I’ve morphed into you every time I do the dishes,” she tells me.
That actually gives me hope. Along with passing along my habits of eating cupcakes and muffins bottoms first and singing the laundry song (to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — “All I ever do is laundry; laundry’s all I ever do”), I can’t help thinking that my daughters may have also caught my habits of faith.
I pray when I do dishes and sing when sorting laundry. I love my church. I wrestle with God and eventually turn to him when I find that I can’t control the universe or that I’ve lost my way. Along with my neurotic quirks, they’ve seen all that, too.
A well-known proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Contrary to Oscar Wilde’s words, maybe “like mother, like daughter” isn’t so bad after all.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via e-mail at email@example.com.