October 22, 2008

How I Became My Dad And Other Harrowing Tales of Parenthood

My parents taught me to hold doors open for people, especially women. I have a reputation around the office for doing just that, so much so that occasionally the women I work with like to screw with me and insist on holding a door for me. They know it drives me nuts. (It does. Fucking nuts. It just doesn't feel right, like leaving the oven on before you head out on vacation.) Yesterday evening while leaving the office, a woman was on her way in using the same door I was exiting. I propped the door open, moved myself to the side and let her in.

"Come ahead," I said. And then, apparently, I got a strange look on my face.

"What is it?" she replied.

"Oh, nothing. I just realized that I've turned into my father."

"I know the feeling. I turned into my mom last week in a parking garage."

"So you know."

"Yeah. I do."

And with that she entered the building and I went along my merry way with the realization that I'd just confirmed what I already knew to be true - I have become my father. It's a very small thing but when he holds the door for people, that's precisely what he says. Come ahead. I know, I said it was a small thing. But it's really just the tip of the iceberg.

My dad and I are both very driven. We are, as a result, pretty successful but also very hard on ourselves. We're both a bit on the emotionally intense side too. We have long fuses but short tempers (if that makes any sense). We are both driven by the love of family around us and our highest priority is making sure that those loved ones are happy and safe. We're a little obsessive about that, actually. Both my dad and I are extremely punctual, compulsively so (when we flew places as a kid, we were at the airport a half day early and these were the days before long security lines and bomb-sniffing equipment). We love the same types of music. (Mostly. I honestly don't dig some of the new age stuff he listens to. I mean, dueling flutes and harps? Come on. I'd rather hear Kenny G being beaten with his own sax. New genre - smooth death jazz.) We're enthused by cool gadgets, are liberal in our politics, and have, at most, passing interests in the same sports. Except for golf. The only thing more boring than watching golf is watching someone watch golf. Our taste in books is very similar. We can both take a mean photograph.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are many ways in which we're very different. My dad was a math genius and a straight A student. He even went to the top of his industry which revolves around numbers. I failed algebra twice in high school (shut up), took as many English and history courses as I could and bluffed my way through the rest. I was lucky that I stumbled into a college that let me take music theory for math credit. Which is why I'm 35 and can't add. I somehow managed to squeak out a 3.0 GPA in high school and college. He was valedictorian, I was classkipatorian. He loves to fly fish, whereas I have absolutely no desire to stand waist deep in cold water flicking a fishing rod back and forth hoping to catch a fish that I'd just ultimately feel sorry for.

But despite any differences, the truth of the matter is that I can think of no one better to be than my dad (minus the few bouts of kidney stones he's had because I hear those are painful as hell and I'd be perfectly happy skipping those altogether, thankyouverymuch). It's just a strange feeling - almost like deja vu but in reverse - to have that sudden realization that you have, indeed, become your father.

Have you had any similar realizations? Who are you like and how? And are you happy about it?

Posted by Chris at October 22, 2008 6:52 AM

Well, when I look in the mirror at my neck these days, I see my mother!
But I also see her in my business career and must have gotten my accounting skills from her.
I think of her whenever I volunteer for something because she was always THERE when people needed her (first female to chair our church's annual carnival back in the 70s).
I see her in my ability to sit amid the unwashed dishes and dust build up and read a book for the afternoon!
It's funny because at work four of us were talking about how we've become our mothers!

Posted by: NancyJak at October 22, 2008 7:19 AM

Are you kidding? Its like swimming upstream. I find I can't help myself. Even though I have told my husband to shoot me if I turn into my mother,its happening. Luckily, he didn't take my order too seriously.

Posted by: Debbie at October 22, 2008 7:45 AM

In the past two weeks, my grandfather was in the hospital and it was pretty bad (I'll cut the suspense - he's home now and doing well), and was in ICU at one point. While at the hospital, I found that when it comes to family, I am very much like my mother. We kind of move heaven and earth to be where we're needed for the people who need us. And when it comes to stressful situations, I'm like my dad. I hold it in so much, to the point where other people think I'm a hardass or stoic, because I don't want my emotions to cloud a situation - I want to be rational and figure things out, I don't want to weigh people down with it. Then, I ultimately breakdown when no one's watching. It's kind of a weird mix.

Beyond that, I think I'm such a mishmash of my parents' personalities - I'm a bitch when I'm hungry (like dad), I parent a lot like my mom, and so forth.

Posted by: sarah at October 22, 2008 8:06 AM

I most resemble the mailman. Not sure how that happened?

Posted by: Jeff A at October 22, 2008 8:07 AM

I've turned into my mum, I watch gardening programmes and use the same phrases as her. If only my 15 year old self could see me.

Posted by: Katherine at October 22, 2008 8:35 AM

I'm so very far from being my mother in most areas (except maybe her work ethic) that I'd have to think I'd be most like my father. However, he died when I was only 2 and I have had very little contact with his family to know if I'm like him. I look like him.

I'm also so very far from being like my stepfather as well. I've actually thought it very strange that I don't really relate to the two people that raised me in so many areas. My sister is a carbon copy of my mother.

Posted by: daisy at October 22, 2008 8:55 AM

That's sweet, not just that you're so much like your dad but that you're happy about it. I have fingers exactly like my mother, and when I saw a picture of myself from the back when I had short hair, I realize we have the same neck. It was kind of weird but it didn't really bother me.

On the other hand, my husband knows that the best way to get under my skin during an argument is to tell me that I'm acting just like my mother. Which may or may not be true; I'm not telling.

Posted by: Fraulein N at October 22, 2008 9:06 AM

About 8 years ago, my dad drove a moving truck with me from Maine to North Carolina as I officially began my life after college. It was on this trip that I realized how much I'm like my dad. What I think is funny about that is that my dad wasn't around much during my younger years because he worked as a lumberjack and was usually gone before I got up in the morning and didn't get home until 6 or 7 in the evening. It makes you really think about nature vs. nurture!

Posted by: Jaime at October 22, 2008 9:23 AM

Oy loaded questions...

First I failed Algebra twice as well and I totally cannot do simple math at the age of 25 either... we should form a help group for this problem!

Any who... I think I am more (GAWD HALP ME NOW FOR WRITING THIS...) like my mother which scares the freaking crap out me. She is neurotic, manipulative, unmotivated about making money, and plain old crazy. I love my Mom but these things are all truth about her. I guess I look to her for the negative things I see in myself unfortunately because our relationship tends to be strained due to the above mentioned negatives. I guess that answers are you happy about it! Some times I see things about my dad in me too but likely more my mother for was mostly reasonsible for raising me and when I see negative things I disliked about my mother in me I work VERY hard to change the behavior.

UGH... I am digging a hole here... backing away from the keyboard. See I told you loaded questions!

Posted by: Christina at October 22, 2008 9:29 AM

It's funny how these things happen but in all my struggles to not be like my father I find I am probably more like him than I thought. I hope it's the good ways, the giving, caring, generous, unconditional ways but a lot of the time I clearly recognize the things that make me cringe. The awkward, loud, occasionally obnoxious things. but without a doubt it's all of him that makes me so much of who I am today.

Posted by: Jen at October 22, 2008 9:41 AM

I am so becoming my mother. I look in the mirror sometimes these days and I swear I see the younger her looking back. The mom I remember from growing up. Which is not bad... my mom was always very stylish and put together. Our temperments are similar too...although she's mellowed alot with age. We have quick tempers at times, are quick to gauge a situation, don't suffer fools easily, have been referred to as having spines of stainless steel, and have "the look" down pat. We are also fair, quick to grasp the big picture, have good communication and managerial skills (both at home and work), harder on ourselves than others, driven, and able to stand up for what we believe in. These things have made us successful at our jobs, but often put us at odds with some people. We are committed to our families. We are not soft about it either. We are the warrior mothers and wives for our children and spouses. We like things that are often described as "cultured" (wine, food, arts, music, etc)...but simply because we like them. We have expensive tastes etc....
Yes...I'm becoming my mom. As crazy as we make each other, I can think of no one better to become. As time has passed, she really has mellowed. I guess that comes from life situations resolving themselves and not having to fight to feed your family, or to keep bad influences at bay etc... I look forward to that. People gravitate to her because she's fascinating and well read, and funny, etc. She has a good self-deprecating sense of humor. I hope I can achieve those things as well.

Good topic, btw.

Posted by: varinia at October 22, 2008 9:51 AM

I realized long ago that my mother defined who I became. She is chronically late. I'm chronically early. She is a compulsive liar. I'm brutally honest. She is determined to become dependent on someone (me!). I'm determined to never be dependent on anyone.

There are two things I inherited from my parents. My mother and I both like to read. We occasionally read the same books. My father (whom I havent' seen in 29 years) and I both love photography.

I am accustomed to holding doors open for people. I will do so for whomever I am walking with or encounter. I don't know where I picked up the habit. It could be from living with my grandmother. It could be from living with my mother and being responsible for getting things done and my sisters moving. It could be from put others before yourself (show kindness to others). Ten years ago, when I started working for a traditional law firm, was the first time anyone held a door open for me. It still throws me off when the men I work with do it. I find it as disconcerting as I find the "ladies enter the elevator first." I still haven't gotten used to it. I guess I'm not used to anyone putting me first. Does that make sense?

Posted by: Maria at October 22, 2008 10:02 AM

I had the EXACT realization this morning. I became my mom...and we all knew it would happen. But, I've spent 29 years + 8 months fighting it.

This morning my 3-year-old was coughing alot. As we were packing her up for school, I asked her if she felt sick. She said, "No! I'm not sick. I don't need to lay in the bed. I'm fine. Let's go." So, we got in the car and she was still coughing. So, I said, "Hmmm...I just don't like the sound of that cough." My child screamed at me, "Mama! I'm not sick! Now, stop talking about it!" I could only laugh because I would have told my mom that exact same thing. And my mom would continue to dwell on the fact that I am coughing and she is concerned. She can never let anything just go.

I am her. I have never wanted to be her. But, I know there are worse people to be like...

And also? Yesterday's post - did you live near White Oak Bayou?

Posted by: Tomika at October 22, 2008 10:17 AM

I realized over the summer, when my parents were here to visit, that I am my mother. I've long been suspicious but after not having seen her for nearly 2 years, I realized that whoa. We look alike, we walk alike, we talk alike. We move alike. We have the same facial expressions. I am also very like my father in a lot of those ways. But I am mostly my mother. Which is fine, because my mom is a badass.

Posted by: Sparkle Pants at October 22, 2008 10:27 AM

My mom often tells me that I'm a great parent, but what she probably doesn't realize is that I'm only as good as she was to me. I'm very proud to be my mom, with minor improvements (like being on time). :)

Posted by: Brad at October 22, 2008 11:07 AM

Since I came from a very dysfunctional/abusive home, I have spent my adult life attempting to be NOT like my parents. My daughter assures me that I have not become my mother, so, so far, so good.
BTW: I like you just as you are!

Posted by: Maribeth at October 22, 2008 11:17 AM

I often open doors for other people, and get such a kick out of it when guys open doors for me. I don't understand the women who get angry about it (for the most part) and make sure to always smile and say thank you.
Also, my mum and her friend were over here and I was making my bed - including a queen sized duvet, which gets a bit tricky by yourself - and mum's friend says how hard it is, and I say, "Well, I find that if you put it inside out and grab the corners like this..." And my mom gets this dorky smile on her face . . . "That's how I taught you to do it!" And I hadn't even realized. huh.
Personality wise, I'd rather be like my mum, who's driven and practical and smart, but instead I am more like my dad who is ... well, he's bipolar, and I get a lot of the crap that comes with that except the mania, because I'm just plain old depressed. And I hate it. So there.

Posted by: Heather at October 22, 2008 11:23 AM

it is a lifelong goal to NEVER become my mother. so far, so good.

although i do find myself saying mothering things like "when you are a mommy, you can make the decisions" type stuff.

Posted by: ali at October 22, 2008 1:33 PM

I am my mother. I turned into her and for the most part I'm proud of that. My ass on the otherhand, I wish I had my ass back.

Posted by: Cass at October 22, 2008 1:38 PM

I am with Cass, I would like my own ass back!

I have my mother's motivation, neat freakiness, and ability to talk entirely too much.

Posted by: steff at October 22, 2008 3:05 PM

I am my mother. I had that realization a few years ago, while shopping for pants for work. I found a pair I liked, that fit great, and in true "my mom" fashion, I bought a pair in every single color they had.

I am so my mom. And I'm ok with that.

Posted by: Mindy at October 22, 2008 3:06 PM

I turned into my mother when I was sternly speakign to someone at work and noticed I was wagging my motehr's finger.


Posted by: Tuesday at October 22, 2008 3:36 PM

I have no idea who I resemble - emotionally or physically in my family. I'm very unlike my mother and not at all like my father in any capacity. So much has changed in me and how I view the world in the last seven years, that I'm just now getting a sense of who I am and who I might like to be. We'll just see how that turns out!

Posted by: k8 at October 22, 2008 3:38 PM

I realized I was my mother when I started having long conversations with strangers in the grocery story...about coupons, no less!
And yeah, so jealous about you being able to take music theory as your math credit in college. I took "symbolic logic" thinking it would be easy since there were no numbers involved, but I was very wrong. Like D- wrong. Whoops!

Posted by: Katie at October 22, 2008 4:57 PM

I have my mom's hands. Seriously, it's like her hands were grafted onto my arms. It's comforting when I'm holding my babies and look down and see my mother doing the same.

I have some of her mannerisms and speech patterns, too. I find it odd when I do something just like her, because in most ways our personalities are extremely different.

Posted by: Becky at October 22, 2008 5:08 PM

When I get my hair cut, the stylist forces me to remove my glasses. I'm nearly blind so I know nothing about how the hair cut is progressing until the very end when she hands my glasses and a mirror to see the back.
I asked my stylist a few months ago to cut my hair short, after having long hair my entire adult life. I asked her to "do whatever you think will work for me" and gave no further instruction. When she was finished, I placed my glasses on my face and stared into the mirror, to see that I had become my mother.
It still freaks me out in the mornings when I blow it out, but I like it. She's not perfect, but she's awesome. And she's my mom.

Posted by: Jenn Benn at October 22, 2008 5:35 PM

Actually I started the process of morphing into my mother at a pretty early age so she got to see some of it. Now that she is gone, the transformation is almost complete and I find myself spitting out jems like "if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?" and my favorite "if if's and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry christmas" i don't really know what that last one means but it keeps coming out of my mouth and i can't stop it. when i start sounding like someone out of the movie fargo, we will know i have fully morphed.
come ahead....I love that, it's so gentlemanly.

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at October 22, 2008 8:01 PM

Actually I started the process of morphing into my mother at a pretty early age so she got to see some of it. Now that she is gone, the transformation is almost complete and I find myself spitting out jems like "if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?" and my favorite "if if's and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry christmas" i don't really know what that last one means but it keeps coming out of my mouth and i can't stop it. when i start sounding like someone out of the movie fargo, we will know i have fully morphed.
come ahead....I love that, it's so gentlemanly.

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at October 22, 2008 8:01 PM

I am very much like my mom. In looks and traits, so I'm told. My parents owns a towing company and when I'm dispatching and the guys give me a hard time about where I'm sending them I, apparently, give them the same look my mother does that says get the hell out of my office and do what I told you. Besides that we look very much alike, cook the same and both have a temper. With my dad, I have gotten his sense of direction, never get lost. And, his work ethic which I suppose is from both of them. He taught me when I was about 12 to drive and to run our backhoe. As he's purchased more equipment, he's taught me to run them as well. I am now just as good as he is (and not to sound snotty, but most men who run them professionally) on the trackhoe and bulldozer. Different things from both of them I guess, but I'm happy about them all. I really like this question. Mind if I borrow it sometime?

Posted by: Dianna at October 22, 2008 8:15 PM

I've been my parents for years. Especially once I had my son. Embrace it. And be thankful your father is who he is and not something you wouldn't want to turn into.

Posted by: coolchick at October 22, 2008 9:11 PM

My dad and I are so much alike that my mom sometimes has to just throw up her hands and give up. She says it's like living with 2 of the same person. Educated, liberal, stubborn, opinionated individuals with foul mouths - that's my dad and me. (Of course my mother is all of those things, too, but to a lesser degree.) I even look more like him.

As of yet (and I'm only 24, so give me time) I haven't said or done anything that gave me that instant, horrifying "I've become my mom/dad!" feeling. But I'm sure it's coming!

Posted by: Stephanie at October 22, 2008 9:12 PM

growing up I always thought I was like my Mom but as I've gotten older, I realized I'm just like my Dad. I lost my Dad in June and was staying with my folks at the time. My son and I stayed 3 more months with Mom. And at least once a week, she'd say, "You are just like your Father." Things like the look I gave her when she took the door knob off the door when she locked herself out. I so often hear his voice coming out of my mouth. It's really sort of comforting at this point.

Posted by: Annie at October 22, 2008 11:57 PM

My biggest realisation was about a week after bringing my daughter home from the hospital after being born. I was hormonal (to say the least) I was sitting watching my newborn babe sleep (she wasn't doing a lot of that but at this moment she was) and I was struck down with the realisation that my mother only ever wanted the best for me. That I was HER baby and she was only ever trying to protect me, make me be the best I could be, fulfill all my potential, that she had been there from the beginning. I got it. I called her. Sobbed and sobbed and told her thank you. She was overwhelmed. And I was scared for all that I had ahead of me. A teenage daughter. SHIT!

Posted by: Beth at October 23, 2008 4:10 AM

I won't say I AM my mother but since I am A mother, I've noticed that there are more similarities than differences between us.

Posted by: Nadine at October 23, 2008 4:56 AM

I am strange, I guess. I always have been a mixture of folks in my family. I can have my mom's temper, but it's her dad's. I make sad faces like my grandmother and can, on occasion, bake like her when moved to do so. I swear like my dad. And I tell jokes like my uncle. I often am told that I don't look like anyone in my family, and that's pretty much true, even though I know I'm related to everyone the way I'm supposed to be. I'm just a mix.

No one has said "You're just like your _____."

Except when I pick up the phone, because Mom taught me phone-voice.

Posted by: alektra at October 23, 2008 3:10 PM

I failed math in grade 10 and 11-we should create a club!

Funny thing is....I WORK in high schools. Just not in math classes. LOL!

Posted by: Scatteredmom at October 23, 2008 10:54 PM