Have you ever noticed that all moms seem to do certain things? You might think that they all go to Mommy School to learn to do these things, but that is not the case. In the absence of formal training, I speculate that these mommy-actions are instinctual, flowing down through thousands of years, multitudes of generations, of mommies. What I find fascinating is that these mommy-behaviors continue long after the need for them has grown and left the nest.
For instance, I have been known to throw my arm across the front of a passenger (even a full-grown adult) who is riding in the front seat to keep the passenger from flying through the windshield when I have had to step on the brakes a teensy little bit too hard. It is an embarrassing moment, but the response is completely beyond my control.
I have also noticed myself, more than once, swaying gently back and forth when someone in my presence is trying to placate a fussy baby, just as I did many years ago when I was trying to pacify my own crying infants. My swaying efforts are of no help whatsoever in calming the whimpering infant in someone else's arms (and I'm sure I look a little silly), but still I sway. I may even hum a tiny bit.
Remember when your children were small, and you licked your fingertip to wipe something off their faces? I would guess that you continued doing that long after they were capable of cleaning messes off their own skin, and that they did not tolerate it well. Even worse, have you ever unthinkingly wetted the tip of your finger and without thinking it through, extended it toward the face of a person who was not even your own child, just to wipe off that little something on the chin? How embarrassing!
I have also noticed that we moms often bus the tables for everyone in our group when we dine out at casual restaurants. We automatically grab each other's used napkins and empty plates to take them to the trash. If someone spills at the table, we all simultaneously jump up to go get more napkins. I guess we develop the habit of taking care of our own families at the dinner table (because no one else does it), but the instinct persists even when it isn't needed.
We moms also tend to carry everything that anyone might possibly need in our bags. Notice what happens when someone sneezes or begins to cry. We all reach into our purses and pull out tissue. Does someone need a button sewn back on? Let me pull out my emergency sewing kit. Going out into the sun? Here is some sunscreen I just happen to be carrying with me. Have a splinter? I have some tweezers right here, just for such an occasion. Bandaid, anyone?
Sometimes we have to stifle our mommy-ness. Many, many, many times, I have wanted to correct the behavior of someone else's child, even when the parent is in close proximity. On such occasions I have to remember that my opinion of what is proper is not shared by everyone. It is very difficult to bite my tongue when screaming and tantrums erupt or uncontrolled whirling dervishes run circles around me, but I try. I'm usually successful.
We might also want to stifle our mommy urge when we are preparing for a car trip. It is okay, and probably wise, to ask your own small children if they have used the restroom before they get into the car. It is not acceptable, and not well-received, to ask your husband, grown child, parent, sibling, or friend the same question!
I am a little worried that when I have grandchildren, I will be overcome by those instinctual mommy actions, and try to do too much. I will try to restrain myself and leave the mommy-ing up to my daughters-in-law, but I suspect it will be very difficult. Keep a close eye on me, and remind me that I don't have to be the mommy - I get to be the grandmother instead!