I am an adult… or so it would appear to others.
I have a car. I have a job – several of them, all freelance, all requiring me to get my stuff done – all grown-up like—without someone looking over my shoulder. I have a social life full of people I’ve met through work and other interests. I even own a mop, a broom, and a few cleaning products. On paper, I seem to cover all the bases of being an adult.
But drop me in my mom’s house and… well, it’s like I’m 15 again, and I’m afraid of someone listening in on my phone calls… Or fighting with sisters for the bathroom… Or trying to get out of doing housework… Or still scared – in a healthy way, mind you – of my mother.
Hello. My name is Laura, and my mom still rules the roost.
Anyone who says they can go home, and not revert, in some way or form, to their most innately immature self is just selling you a story, because we all do it, and we all love to think that we don’t. There’s just something about being in your mother’s home (or your parents’ home) that brings out your core personality – all those things that make you ‘you’, and which, as an adult, you try to handle so you can be a functioning part of society, the kind of person people want to be around.
I don’t know how it works for you, but this is what that reversion/time travel thing looks like for me:
Plop me in my mom’s house and I forget where ANYTHING goes. Never mind that the woman has lived in that house since 1997, or that I lived in that house for four years as an adult, or that I should – as a matter of nurture and genetics – have her organizational systems down to a science. I can’t find a towel. I can’t find the big salad bowl. I have no idea where the hammer is. I don’t know why she moved the silverware to another drawer.
What’s worse is that I forget that I have two eyes and a pair of hands to look for these things; it’s much easier to whine out loud, and ask her (and then get miffed if she gets miffed at me for being 100% lazy. So typical).
At my mom’s house, I also turn into the deference machine. I may think I know how to do something well, but am I about to mess with her way? Not if I value the peace of the house, and that’s not because my mother is an ogre (which she isn’t; she’s a wonderful lady). It’s because I turn all… “Yes, mom, of course”. If she were to tell me to set the table with only knives, I’d do it. If she says we’re going to the hardware and plant store for two flower pots, and we end up spending three hours and looking at lawnmowers, I don’t dare make a pouty face – even if I know the enterprise is gonna set dinner and our evening plans back.
That is because, in her house, what she says GOES. End of story.
And then, there’s the pecking order.
I’m not a martyr. I don’t feel the need to suffer for the sake of others while on my own, but throw my sisters into the mix and all of a sudden I want – no, wait, I need – to tell them how to stand, and how to put away the laundry and to get their shoes off the stairs already. I internalize all the things I think my mother wants done, dutiful-older-child style, and turn into a mini-mom. I can’t even listen to myself when that starts (and I wonder how others can, either).
And finally, there’s the matter of rest. When I’m in my own home – my sometimes dusty, often messy, not always showhouse-looking home – I am the queen of looking the other way. I don’t have a need to fill my every minute with something I should be doing. My mom, on the other hand… DOES NOT REST.
She falls asleep with her computer in her lap, and will sweep the stairs at 6 a.m.
So when I go home, I emulate her – sometimes badly, sometimes unproductively, but always shamelessly and usually without much joy – because really, I’d much rather be scrubbing the bottom of her dish draining tray than liming on the couch with the rest of the household, who have no such older-child guilt, and are sitting with their feet up on the table (for which I will seriously lambast their a$es, as soon as I finish drying off those dishes).
I can’t say that this reversion is a bad thing. I’m accepting it. It just is… because it’s so obvious, I know when I’m doing it, and I’ve tried to do something about it.
The ‘cluelessly looking for things before asking’ issue? Still working on that one.
The pecking order? Meh. I’m giving it up. In fact, I see it as a good thing. I get to relinquish responsibility and just ‘go with the flow’.
At least I’m not the only one, with this ‘problem’; you should see my mom and grandmother together. Maybe it’s like the saying goes, “once a child, always a child”. How do you behave in your parents’ home? Do you ‘play big man or woman’, or do you dutifully revert to the role of young child?
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