This article was originally published in DIVA Magazine August 2019.
‘Now, Olivia, if you want me to help you buy some nice clothes to take away on holiday then just let me know’ says Mum. We're chatting on Facetime. ‘I think I’ll be alright, thanks’. She sensed my tone. ‘I only offer because you know what your Grandmother says about what I wear’.
We are two weeks out from the trip of a lifetime; nan, mum and me on a river cruise in Germany. It came about because nan said she wanted to go on a river cruise and she can’t make that happen for herself. Don’t get me wrong, my nan was widowed young and has always been a badass. But, she also doesn’t have the internet. Mum was too nervous to go with her alone and so I stepped up. Now the three of us are spending a week in a confined space with lots of time to talk, and I am terrified at how quickly we will wind each other up.
Problem is, we often see our parents through the same lens as we did during our biggest years of development. I find the relationship between me and my mum hasn’t changed much since I was a teenager and I often catch mum talking to nan in a similarly terse way. That’s not to say it’s an unhealthy relationship, it just needs to be managed.
Mum has given me personality traits to be proud of. She’s silly, she’s good with diplomacy and she’s got great taste in alcohol. I have also picked up some personality traits from her that I am trying to control better, like imagining the worst-possible-case scenario. For example, the other day I was walking to the shops and I wanted to cross the road. But, before I did, I imagined myself running over the road and tripping, then flying into the path of an oncoming vehicle. So I waited at the lights, like a big old grown-up. That’s a bit of my mum, that.
In order for our relationship to thrive, especially on this trip, I need to preserve who I believe I am today rather than slip back into the habits of my teenage years. That means taking time for myself and doing things that I like to do - alone if needs be. I also need to give my mum and my nan space to be themselves, even if that does mean letting a comment drop that makes me wince. Let’s not forget, I am primarily there to carry the bags and deploy my GCSE German when I need to tell the man at the bakery what my favourite hobbies are.
And if I’m honest, while I'm nervous about the holiday, I’m glad we have different identities and personality traits that need navigating. It means we are somewhere between being entirely estranged and a sickly sweet von Trapp family wearing matching lederhosen.
Anyway, my mum just called to list all the recent cruise boat accidents that have happened recently, so I'd better go. Wish me luck.