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DESPITE MY BEST EFFORTS, I'VE BECOME MY MOTHER

It happened so insidiously that I never saw it coming. As a rebellious teenager, I swore it would never happen. As a cocky young adult, I scoffed at the thought. But somehow, despite my best efforts to dodge the bullet of destiny, it caught up with me and happened anyway: I became my mother.

It didn't happen overnight. These kinds of things never do. The transformation took years, and the change came so gradually that I scarcely noticed what was happening to me.

I trudged through many slow, painful years of cutting my maternal teeth on baby Tylenol, disposable diapers, raspy coughs and piercing cries in the middle of the night. What can I say? I was distracted.

Even in those early years of motherhood, I held on to my conviction to "not be like my mother," or better yet, "I won't ever do that to my kids," as I sought to discover my parental identity and carve out my own life and legacy to my children. I smugly believed that observed bedtimes should be more of a guideline than a rule, and that winter hats would make my kids unpopular with "the crowd" by messing up their carefully coifed hair. After all, I was sure that had been my problem, and now I had all the answers.

I vowed to never forget childhood memories of my mother as being worrisome and overprotective. She never let me have any fun or do the things all my friends could do. There was the time when I was 10 and I wanted to ride my bike to a girlfriend's house on the other side of Cheektowaga, requiring me to negotiate the Thruway overpass and Cleveland Drive exit ramp. My spiteful, wretched mother killed all the certain fun in that innocent adventure.

But then, as my children began passing from one stage of their lives to the next, my stance on topics that challenged conventional wisdom began meeting defeat. A whisper of a thought began to emerge. Is there a better way than my way? Could my mother have been right all these years?

The first time I told my oldest son: "Move back from the television," I looked behind me to see who had said it. Just then, I heard the echo of my mother's voice drifting through my head. The eagle had landed.

I began to drag out some of the choice motherisms when the need arose: "Stand up straight" and "I don't care what all the other kids are doing" and the universal favorite, "Because I said so."

I have told endless stories about my own childhood to my children with the misconception that they care about what I did back in 1976. Yikes. What could I be thinking?

As it turns out, I shifted from logical thinking to primal loving and instinctive reactions when it comes to raising my kids. I fell back on the tried-and-true admonitions of my childhood archived into the vault of my brain since birth by my own mother. It worked for her, why not for me?

Now I buy my children underwear for their birthdays and put toothbrushes in their Christmas stockings because I know that's what they really need. I'm not in a popularity contest. I am just trying to raise decent human beings with clean teeth and clean underwear.

After all, you never know when you'll be in an accident. There. I've said it. It's official.

CATHY EGGERT lives in Cheektowaga.