There’s a popular joke that if you want to know how your wife will look in twenty years, just study your mother-in-law. It’s all very well if your wife’s mum is Njoki Ndung’u, less cool if she is, say, someone else.
I don’t know about boys, but girls seem to go through various ‘mummy stages’. Initially, you want to be like mum. You want to dress like her, wear your hair like her. You spend hours flossing her heels, wearing her make-up and begging her for matching outfits.
At some point, for some reason, you rebel. You turn tomboy, shave the hair and burn all your dresses. The girly things get progressively shorter [or for supermodel progeny, progressively longer]. I don’t know if it’s teen angst or a desire to be different, but at that point, sura ka madhako becomes a very deep insult.
Then, years later, with no conscious effort, you become Mum. It could be some latent gene that’s activated by childbirth, or it could be an age thing, but you suddenly notice that you cook, clean, and discipline your children just like your mother did. You style your house in the same way, say the same things, buy the same products, and even pick the same [previously] annoying habits.
You may not notice it at all until a sibling points it out, usually at the worst possible time. Days like that, your husband really wishes his mum-in-law was a mild-mannered Jebii Kilimo rather than … someone else
I suppose my case was a little different. I am an only daughter, and I have bad, bad hair, just like my mum. Hence dreads. I’ve always thought my mum was really pretty and that I was … not. Throughout my teenage, despite endless compliments, I was resentful that my mum’s good looks had gone to the boys. They were all cute to the point of being almost pretty, while I was rather plain.
Relatives often said I looked just like mum, and some of the older ones even break into tears when they see me, claiming they’ve seen her ‘ghost’. Her brothers claim I am a carbon copy, albeit in a darker hue. But in my teens, I didn’t see it. After all, she was gorgeous and I was a dark, shapeless blimp.
With time, I learned to accept me for me, and while I still don’t consider myself a true beauty, I am happy with my looks. So it was quite a compliment when a few days ago, I put up an old picture of my mum. It was taken when she was about my age, and is my second-favourite photo of her. My own daughter looked up at the picture of her grandmother and said ‘Mummy, is that you?’
I laughed and corrected her, but she said ‘Mum, just say the truth. That’s you. I know that’s you.’
I studied the picture for ages afterwards, and even though I still don’t see the resemblance, I can’t doubt my seven-year-old child. So I suppose I am, apparently, just as pretty as my mum.
Talking to mum a few days ago, I confessed how I’ve never thought myself pretty, even though she always said I was. After all, she’s my mother – it’s her duty to call me gorgeous. I told her how I’d always wished I looked more like her.
Then came a surprising admission. My mother, one of the most gorgeous women I know, has esteem issues as well. She admits she looks ‘ok’ but she has never considered herself beautiful!
I guess I’m a lot more like my mum than I realise. And maybe that’s not such a bad things after all.
You might also like:
Crystal Ading' is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through threeceebee.com.