A sense of herself

At seventeen, my mother knew all about my lesbian love affair. At the same time, she feared for what my burgeoning dependency on aerosol can sniffing would lead to, an anxiety she disclosed to me when I was 27. Only, I wasn’t having such an affair, and the cloud formation in my room was a consequence of struggling to maintain an anti-gravity hair do. I doubt she’ll ever believe me.

I’ve never been one to impale myself on too many certainties, but more than once a week, I’ve witheringly declared that family members are the folk who know me least. They would interpret this as sheer denial; more evidence of me wilfully rejecting my shortcomings. All the better if I’m exhibiting ‘typical’ hot-headedness while making the declaration. They’re so predictable. Insert eye-roll here etc.

Of course, they would be half right; in the way my Mother was half right.

I wasn’t having it off with my mate. We were just doing our homework together. Not really. We were endlessly on our backs practising smoke-rings, taking in it turns to change the record. At three years older, she was a grand canyon of a leap ahead in coolness and maturity, so I out-sourced much of my cred to her along with my determination to be an individual by going along with whatever it was she wanted to do. Less sexual frisson than the thrill of circulating with the older boys and getting a premature swagger on. Whatever it was I was radiating, my Mother’s instincts slightly lost the run of themselves.

And that’s how our relationship has trundled along ever since. Raging instincts in combat with half-insights and quarter confessions between which truths fall unnoticed only by hindsight, if ever at all. A woman sure of herself locking hormones with one who is not.

Mother knows her child best. That sounds like an awful lot of pressure to me. And a bit of a supernatural feat, if any can manage it. Grandparents, too, are certain about our little one’s personality if the wonky parallels drawn between this cousin and that uncle are anything to arch a brow at. Aunties, too. Soon it’ll be teachers defining her with pat descriptions while instructing us on the ways and whims of her being.

She’s brave. She’s shy. She’s fearless. She’s old-fashioned (spot the vernacular relic). She loves company. She’s happy on her own. She’s a thinker. She’s a dreamer. She’s quick. She’s taking it all in. She’s a bleedin’ heart liberal. She’s Mensa material. (I just made that up). She’s voting Yes. Etc. etc.

She sounds suspiciously like a moody cretin best avoided but I listen on in bemused detachment without any definitive contribution to offer.

For I don’t really know what she is. She seems as changeable and contradictory as the rest of us. Lately, I’ve been outsourcing decisions on her weekend meals to her child-minder. What does she like best? Should I give her some scrambled egg along with her seemingly sensitive side? Or is that not a sensitive side but just a phase that would prefer mashed potatoes d’ya think? She’ll eat anything, she replies.

No she won’t. She really doesn’t like ice-cream, especially if you give it to her when she’s wondering why a cartoon character is acting sad. She’ll have lost interest in everything else until she finds out the reason why. That much I know.

It’s a start that has no ending. Sort of like this post.

6 thoughts on “A sense of herself

  1. Interesting read…something to think about as I often label my children when talking to others…he’s the artistic one…he’s the athletic one…maybe i shouldn’t do that 🙂

  2. I love this. It seems so simple when we look at our small children, and so complicated when we look the other way, back at our mothers.
    I have the advantage (ish) of raising my children far from extended family, so their periods of being defined by or according to their relatives are limited.

  3. “It seems so simple when we look at our small children, and so complicated when we look the other way, back at our mothers.” That’s it. And even then I find myself listening to everyone else’s observations half-doubting my own. One person’s nosey anti-ice-cream cartoon enthusiast is another’s self-controlled caring soul. Neither makes her “her mother’s daughter”, which is a relief.

  4. Funny things weans; they keep trying to be themselves. Mostly they’re someone else when they’re with other people. Me, I loved my auntie’s potatoes. My Mum was always perplexed when we got a bag of the same home grown tatties to take home, and I wouldn’t eat them at our house. It was years before my discerning palate worked out that this was because my Mum always overboiled the tatties. More years later, when I was a grown up with the privileges of going back for a visit, I always asked for oven chips.

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