Do you look at your child and wonder what he or she will talk about in therapy? What you are doing that will swing them this way or that? Then do you try to redress the balance? For a day. Do you glance into shop windows as you walk past and see your mother, same sticky-out chin/determined gait/beginnings of a… surely not… Jesus, it’s a hump.
The thing is, we are going to mess up in our marriages, our parenting, our careers and our friendships. That is the nature of us. And who wants to be in a room – let alone a relationship – with someone who has no notion of vulnerablilty and mistakes.
So if winning, to you, is perfection, then you should probably be reading something else in your weird greige house and your sinister ironed jeans. But if you don’t really know what winning looks like then we have a theory to share: winning is making different mistakes to your parents. Not necessarily fewer. Just different. It shows you have seen and learnt and actually – however eventually – grown up. It is the most powerful kind of self-possession; the most profound way to take responsibility.
Sometimes ‘I am not my mother’ is a mantra. Sometimes it is genuinely the only way to calm yourself down. It doesn’t matter who looks at you and sees your mother: your father, brother, society, the vicar. Genes need not equal identity. We have evolved way past that. Nurture is the tough thing to address and correct. But you can do it. Because you are, in fact, not your mother.