Once upon a time I was a young military wife riding a train across the Rocky Mountains with my husband and young daughter. The nearly-4 year old had been strictly forbidden from going to the lower level of the train without her parents because the doors could be opened but she had made a new friend a few rows back who encouraged her to come along on an adventure. When I opened my eyes from a catnap to see the child tiptoeing down the stairs I put an immediate stop to the game. While talking to my daughter, I was horrified when my mother's voice came pouring out of my mouth: "If that other little girl told you to jump off a bridge would you do that too?!?!"
I spent years defining myself by not being my mother but at some point in my mid to late 30s I was well enough acquainted with the realities of life and parenting to find some grace for her and see her as a person instead of an institution. Where I once considered "You sound just like your mother" to be a condemnation, it is now a compliment. We still have issues upon which we disagree but I think they are more differences in generational culture and perspective than anything else. Now I can see all of the wonderful qualities that made her a great mom- and I can see what a really difficult child I was for her to raise. I might have been a better candidate for some hippie artist commune than for life as the child of an Army officer and a civil servant but we all survived it and, now, I wouldn't trade my parents for the world. At 13, I would have sold them for a quarter with a flexible payment plan!
This morning my own 18 year old daughter was channeling me. Listening to her harangue her brothers through cleaning up one of their myriad messes was like hearing my own voice from another room, both the good and the bad. I hear my own demanding shrillness in her but I also hear strength, an ability to organize, and a refusal to be walked on by small children. She certainly has more grace for me than I did for my mother at her age and seems less bothered by being compared to me, for which I am very grateful. Watching children become adults is fascinating if you can step back for some perspective. Watching them take over the nagging for a morning to get the house back into order is priceless.