“What goes around comes around!”
Who among us hasn’t heard that maternal phrase, straight out of the Manual of Mothering? It’s usually preceded by the always-popular, “You just wait until you have kids. The way you treat me; your kids will treat you.” (Source: Manual of Mothering, Chapter 1: The Joy of Guilting)
Growing up, I usually ignored these and other silly motherisms, which my mother dished out more than the recommended daily allowance of green vegetables.
“If you keep crossing your eyes, they’ll get stuck that way.”
“Don’t jump off the bed. You’ll fall and crack your head open.”
However, there was one childhood moment that forever burned my mother’s warning of “what goes around, comes around” in my mind.
I was 16 years old at the time, and had just had a terrible argument with my mother. Frustrated by her lack of understanding, I shouted those three forbidden words I had never-before said to her — “I HATE YOU!”
To this day, I will never forget my mother’s reaction. First shock…then hurt… then anger… then those all-too-familiar words:
“You just wait until you have kids. The way you treat me, your kids will treat you. What goes around comes around.”
At the time, I didn’t realize it, but “Momstradamus’” prophecy would eventually come true. However, it would come much later in my parental life, and emanate from a surprising source — my 20-year-old, daughter Katie. Yes, her, the gentle and easy-going kid with a long, proud history of doing exactly what I have always commanded.
“Honey, stay in your big girl bed in the morning until Mommy comes and gets you.”
It started off with a disagreement about Katie not doing her share to help out around the house, and quickly escalated when I came home to a mess she had left.
“I am so tired of cleaning up after you. I do everything for you and ask you do one small thing and you can’t do it. You are a disappointment to me.”
As soon as I said the harsh words, I regretted them.
Katie’s reaction was instantaneous. She rolled her eyes, placed her small hands on her tiny hips, and fired back.
“I AM SO SICK OF THIS. I HATE BEING HOME! AND I HATE YOU!”
At first, I wasn’t sure I heard her right. She couldn’t have said to me – the woman who has sacrificed so much for her? The woman who at that very moment, was wearing her #1 Mom necklace that Katie’s younger sister had given her.
Katie was equally stunned by her words. And remorseful.
“Look, I’m sorry I said that, Mom. I didn’t mean it. When you said I was a disappointment, I was so hurt. I have been working so hard to make money so I don’t have to keep asking you and Dad. I should help out more, but I feel like I never have time for myself between school and working full-time. I feel so bad for saying that, especially since you don’t have your mother. But Mom, when you said I was a disappointment, I lost it. You’re the one who was always telling me “words can hurt”, Mom. You shouldn’t have said that.”
Woah! Where did that come from? This was the kid who always had trouble speaking up and advocating for herself; the kid who was supposed to have lacked empathy.
Then it dawned on me; she isn’t even a kid.
She’s 20.5 years old. An adult. With all kinds of adult stress. Work stress, school stress, money stress, not to mention the stress of managing all that with a disability.
Even though I was now the recipient of those hateful words, I felt the same shame. She was right; I should have chosen my words carefully.
But naturally, I couldn’t just excuse her harsh words or the fact that she wasn’t helping out at home. Instead I selected a page out of the Manual of Mothering, The Joy of Guilting and said, “I’m sorry for being so harsh, but you never should have said ‘I hate you’ to me. What goes around comes around. And don’t roll your eyes at me either, they’ll get stuck that way.”