I spend more time than I’d like to admit looking in the mirror. Brown boots versus black? One piece or two piece? When did that vertical wrinkle show up right next to my mouth and why is it only on the right side of my face? My husband will call out, “When are you coming to bed? Are you looking in the mirror?”
“No. Yes. I’m… making decisions!” I’ll yell back.
For someone who has made a pastime of prancing around in the mirror, I have only just begun to see myself.
“Pamela?” The slight nurse practically whispers my name as she approaches me in the waiting room. She introduces herself, eyes downcast, her petite frame lost in her baggy army green scrubs. She asks me to step on the scale, her voice barely rising above a whisper. She pulls a thermometer out of her pocket and mumbles something as she steps toward me. Before she sticks the instrument in my ear, I stop her.
“I can barely hear you.” My tone is not gentle. Yet I know exactly what she plans to do with her thermometer. Why am I being such a bitch? Her only crime is shyness. I ask myself whether I would behave this way in the presence of my 18 month old daughter and immediately soften.
Before I became a mother I go to the grocery story and help myself to the random peanut butter covered pretzels, chocolate covered espresso beans, and yogurt covered raisins in the bulk aisle that careless customers spilled into the plastic grid underneath the dispensers. If they didn’t get into my mouth first, they were headed for the trash. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I told myself.
Then I had Sweet Pea. I can lie to myself but I cannot lie to my child. These days, I look longingly at the appetizing food in the bulk aisle. Once in a while I purchase a half a pound of that sweet goodness but I no longer sneak the forgotten pieces into my mouth.
When I feel myself getting impatient with the cashier at the drugstore, the front desk girl at the gym, the customer service representative on the phone, or one of the roof guys that leaves us a card just about every week, in case we weren’t aware that our 1960’s T-tile roof is way overdue to be replaced, I take a deep breath and fight the urge to speak sharply. Though I am grossly underqualified for the position, one of my essential job functions as a mother is to teach my daughter how to interact with the world.
With her little eyes trained on me, I no longer lean on the excuses I used to make. He is stupid. She is slow. I don’t have time for this. Who am I to feel like I am better than these people who are only doing their jobs? What right do I have to give them attitude?
Looking at myself through my daughter’s eyes, I am ashamed of my sense of entitlement. I know there are certain things I may not be able to avoid passing on to her; a lifetime of taking her pants to be shortened, an endless search for the perfect hair product and an eyeglass prescription so strong that even the optometrist raises her eyebrows at it.
But I will do everything in my power to keep Sweet Pea from absorbing the feeling that the world owes her something. While I was busy choosing between the cardigan versus the jean jacket, I never saw how bad this ugly attitude looked on me until I became her mother.
To my daughter, I am the cool girl who does everything right. She tries on my shoes. She puts my hair elastics around her wrist. She sets my sunglasses on top of her head. She parrots my expressions and inflections. Apparently, I walk around the house saying “Ok” to no one in particular. When she sits in the cart at Marshall’s, she reaches her chubby arm out to touch everything in her reach, just to feel the fabric as she goes by. Just like I do.
Motherhood smashed the backlit skinny mirror I used to rely on, and left in its place a magnifying mirror and a 1000 watt flourescent bulb. I don’t miss my old mirror. It made me feel good about myself, but what I was seeing was an illusion. I need the mirror motherhood gave me to see who I really am and start becoming the person my daughter needs me to be.
Please visit the FTSF hosts, Stephanie at Mommy For Real, Janine at Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic, Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine, and Dawn at Dawn’s Disaster.