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March 12, 2009

I refuse to be my mother (not that there's anything wrong with her!)

-6 You know the depiction of Jewish mothers frequently seen in movies? The ones with the whiny, nagging voices who are always shtooping food down your throat- and then telling you that you look like you gained a little weight all in the same breath? The ones who are constantly agonizing over every little sneeze or bruise on your body? Well imagine that caricature multiplied by ten and that was the kind of mom I grew up with. Not that I don't love my mother dearly...after years of therapy's at $150 an hour I figured it was my best option… but I did promise myself that when I finally had kids I was going to treat motherhood similar to that Seinfeld episode, where George says- he's going to do the opposite of every impulse he has knowing full-well that having been raised by a woman who had me in an MRI machine when I complained of a headache it was both predetermined in my genes that if I didn’t consciously control my impulses I’d very likely continue to treat my kids the same way.

Whereas I'd been to dozens of specialists by the time I was ten, my kids go to the doctor for their yearly checkups- and that's about it. I try, despite my inclinations to be that nervous, anxious mother- to not go mad over every scratch, cough and complaint of belly pain. I adamantly refuse to subject them to batteries of tests- but more than that- I don't want them to live with a cloud of fear about impending illness and death over them- kind of the way I was raised.

So here I am feeling all empowered, busily living life- trying to be present in every moment- even the time-outs when that black cloud that loomed over my childhood threatening to strike a bolt of lightning whenever life seemed a little too still reared its ugly head. A few days a go I noticed this black and blue mark on my breast- and the old fears immediately kicked in, and I found myself obsessively searching the internet for clues to the illness that’s been chasing me since I was a kid (note to self-- NEVER check the internet when you are nervous- it will only increase it tenfold) so I made an appointment to see my OB/GYN on Friday.

Although I had a baseline mammogram two months before my 35th birthday- I am a basket case. I'm checking the color of the bruise  on a minute-by-minute basis- which of course seems even sillier when I actually type it out- and my mind is racing with every “what if” scenario it can conjure up. I haven't experienced this level of apprehension in quite some time- but oddly enough when I called my mother (despite my better judgment) her reaction was the polar opposite of what I expected. Instead of increasing my fears and telling me to run- not dial for an appointment- she poo-pooed it away- saying I probably just bruised myself- and don't remember, and then she did her best to distract me with funny anecdotes about similar experiences she had in her thrities. Essentially she gave me what I desperately needed; some good old-fashioned, rationalizing-it-away time, (I mean hey, I do get black and blue marks on occasion and usually have no recollection of just how they got there?! Right, right?!) And it was incredibly comforting to simply have my mommy assuage my fears rather than intensify them.

Of course, ultimately this bruise could be something serious and I am pretty nervous about it, but the silver lining is that above all else- I turned a precious corner with my own mother and as I parent my own kids I’m learning to cut her some major slack, and wishing we could’ve had these types of conversations years ago- which probably would’ve saved me a boatload of money spent on therapy!

This is an original post to NYC Moms.

Melissa Chapman is a weekly columnist for the Staten Island Advance, blogs at Kids in the City , contributes to She Knows, iVillage and Time Out NY Kids


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