I distinctly remember the day the ground shifted beneath me.
It was last Christmas. My family was visiting from Texas and Arizona. One evening, out of the blue, my nieces, whom I (used to) adore, subtly asked me, “Aunt Shelly, have you ever seen the show ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8’?”
“Oh, I think I’ve seen a part of one show one time.” And it was true—I had seen it once when my girls were watching, and I distinctly remember thinking ‘that woman is SOOOO obnoxious.’
“Why?” I asked.
“We think the mom on that show reminds us of you.”
Wait. Did anyone else feel that? The ground beneath us? It just shifted.
“What?! That woman is obnoxious! I’m not like her. Am I?”
So I asked my girls, who also count among the cult following that the show currently has. “Girls, I don’t remind you of Kate, do I?”
“Actually, Mom, you do.”
Then, last May, while walking across a street in Washington D.C. with my sister. . . I’ll never forget it, standing on the corner of M and Wisconsin . . . leaned over and said, “Hey, Shell, have you ever seen that show ‘Jon and Kate Plus 8?’”
“Yes, and I know what’s coming. I remind you of her. Kate, right?”
“Yeah! Every time we watch that show, we say, ‘She reminds us of Shelly!’”
So, of course, I set out to figure out this . . . paradigm shift . . . and I started to watch. Just a peek here and there, always wondering, ‘what is it about HER that reminds them about ME?’
Pretty soon I wasn’t peeking. I was sitting in the family room with my daughters, laughing at the funny antics of a very large family with very young children and two parents just trying to cope.
“Girls, really, tell me, what is it about her that reminds everyone of me?”
“We don’t know, Mom. Maybe it’s her hair.”
Her hair?! My hair looks nothing like her hair.
“Girls,” I chime in, “it can’t be her hair. My hair isn’t that short, and it isn’t that blonde. There must be something else.”
“We don’t know, Mom. It’s just something about her.”
And then, Abby, drops the bomb. “She’s just intense, Mom. Like you.”
Me?! Intense?! When?! Really, I mean it. When?!
So I’ve been watching the show for a few months now, trying to figure out what about Kate reminds everyone of me, and I’ve decided a couple of things about all of this.
First, I guess I am intense. I’m a down-to-business, no-nonsense, I-want-answers-and-I-want-them-NOW kind of person. Heck, I’ve been known to yell at toll booth collectors, much to my shame.
But then, my intensity can be a good thing, too. I have great kids, somewhat attributed to the fact, I think, that whenever they would throw temper tantrums when they were little, my attitude was, “I’m WAY more stubborn than you are, honey, so tantrum all you want. You’re not getting your way.”
One thing I’ve noticed about Kate, with all her idiosyncrasies, is that she intensely loves every single one of her eight children. She knows their strengths and how to use them. She knows their weaknesses and how to work with them. She really knows and loves those kids.
I hope that’s one thing my family knows about me—that I, too, intensely love every one of them (nieces included).
The second thing I’ve decided is that just because I remind people of someone, I am not that someone. I might be worse than her in a lot of ways. I might be better. Sure, we may share a lot (and there might be a lot) of the same mannerisms, but we’re still individuals. I don’t need to worry so much about her making me look bad. I don’t even know her!
I guess there’s a third thing I’ve decided. Even though Kate can be obnoxious, she’s my new hero because in tonight’s episode she admitted that she, just like me, hates camping. But she was a trooper and gave it a try (in the back yard, of course) for the kids.
So there’s a fourth thing: she’s a much better mom than I am.