Mothers, be good to your daughters

Giving my mom the credit she deserves

I’ve got this mental image of my mom in the driver’s seat with one hand on the wheel and the other hovering just over the gearshift. Her eyes intent and emotive, she’s gesturing slightly with her right hand — turning it over repeatedly or pointing explicatively. It’s clear she’s having a nuanced conversation in her head, perhaps berating a peer for having disrespected her, or coaxing a friend out of anxiety.

In the mornings she’d drive me to school in this fashion — I’d imagine she’d go in to work that day and perform each monologue just as she’d rehearsed it. All the while, she’d be unfalteringly composed and impressively articulate.

My admiration for my mother has suffered few interruptions. I was a moody teenager at one point in my life, of course, so surely I once thought I understood everything my parents couldn’t. But on a fundamental level, I’ve always housed a deep, hitherto unspoken identification with her. Since I’ve been at the University, I’ve been reminded of this powerful admiration on more occasions than I can count.

I call my mom during the 15-minute interlude between class and Alderman to tell her my TA doesn’t know good writing when he sees it. She doesn’t patronize me, but she does gently correct me. I allow her to invite me down from my high horse and go about my day with more soundness of mind.

I call my mom from a gas station in North Carolina and inform her, tentatively, I had been doing 87 in a 70 and would have to appear in court for reckless driving. She exhales, and composedly reminds me I’m not the only one on the highway who’s going somewhere important.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I was completely overwrought with a debilitating anxiety I couldn’t pinpoint. I had started the day with a midterm and thought I would relax afterward, but I couldn’t. I fell victim to my occasional but overwhelming neuroticism — the kind that convinces me I must have failed that test, will probably fail all my classes and will inevitably suffer a life full of obstacles and shortcomings. So, I took care not to make eye contact with anyone gleefully drinking a green beer outside Trinity — instead, I got to my apartment and called my mom.

“Some days are harder than others,” she said smoothly.

She was right, and it was enough. Her simple mom-isms are generally enough to talk me down from any self-constructed catastrophe.

During that conversation, she went on to unaffectedly tell me she’d been doing some “soul-searching” recently. A grown woman with two college-educated children, tenure at a reputable institution and her feet always planted firmly on the ground, she coolly told me she was considering taking her life in a new direction.

I was struck with a profound admiration for her in that moment. It moves me to witness the relentlessness with which my mom respects herself, the level-headedness with which she conducts herself and the self-awareness she displays in every situation. My mom, a successful, established woman, is still learning about herself — and has no issue being transparent about it. To me, that is sheer bravery.

It’s for that reason I feel warm when I catch myself carrying out one of my mom’s emotive hand gestures, or when people tell me they can read my thoughts on my face. Although I’m my own harshest critic, I’m encouraged by the knowledge that I’ll probably turn out quite like my mom.

My mother is the voice of reason when I need to be talked down from a sudden onset of anxiety. She is the woman who owns more trendy flats and blouses than will fit in her closet, but shamelessly dresses down when she can — just because she can. She’s a nurturer who keeps our backyard garden full of vibrant life because it brings her happiness to watch things grow. My mother meets people’s quirks with a smile and the phrase, “There are all kinds of crazy people in this world, huh?” She’s the reason I’m quick to remember a bad day does not equal a bad life.

I’d be lying if I said I give my mother enough credit for the integral role she continues to play in shaping my character. Both permanent soul-searchers, my mom and I are alike in more ways than I know how to articulate, and I’m immensely proud of that.

Victoria’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at

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