My Daughter And I Are So Different. Sometimes I Don't Know How To Relate.

by Meredith Ethington
Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock

I know she wants to spend time with me, and I say a little prayer of thanks on the rare occasions when she still asks me to snuggle with her. But I fear my daughter and I are so different that we’ll never quite understand each other. She’s almost 11, and I desperately want to build my relationship with her, and yet so often, I feel like it’s not happening because we simply don’t know how to relate.

Like most moms and daughters, we do things together, like shopping or visiting our favorite froyo place, but we’ll often sit in silence. When I ask questions to try to get an idea of how she’s feeling, she’ll shrug or give me short answers. She’ll offer me smiles so I at least know she’s happy, but there is a wall between us that I just can’t seem to break through. I wonder if I’m even supposed to though. Maybe the role of best friend isn’t the one I’m meant to have in my daughter’s life. Right now, it’s hard to figure out what she needs from me.

Thankfully, she has my husband. The two of them clearly share the same genes when it comes to their tastes in food, what really makes them laugh, and their love for wearing comfy clothes 24/7. I guess it’s no wonder that since I married my complete opposite, I also birthed one. However, sometimes I desperately wish it wasn’t my daughter who was so different from me, and that it was one of my boys instead. Then I’d know how to deal with the feelings of distance.

When I found out I was having a girl, I assumed she would be like me, and in some ways she is. We both have an affinity for large quantities of chocolate, and she could spend hours reading books just like I used to do as a little girl. She loves to write too, which makes me so proud since writing is my passion and go-to form of communication. So it’s not like we’re nothing alike, but we are different enough that sometimes we can’t connect with each other no matter how hard I try.

I thought I’d have a girl who would come home and ramble nonstop about her day. Instead, she keeps most of her thoughts and feelings to herself — until they all come bubbling out, one way or another, in a fit of emotions. It’s because of this that we often struggle to get along.

I was sure we’d talk about boys when she started to show an interest in them and that she’d come to me first whenever she was upset or frustrated by life. Instead, she seems horrified to have to talk to me about pretty much anything related to boys or friends, and I’m left wanting to know more so I can understand her better and tap into what I need to be doing to support her.

A while ago, we started journaling together and both loved it. I figured since we shared a passion for writing, it was a great place to start to get to know each other better. I’d write down questions and get honest, thoughtful answers from her sometimes. But somewhere along the way, I stopped writing because after long days with my never-ending to-do list, I was often too tired.

Even though I want to know every thought that crosses her mind, things are always smoother between us when I give her space. I constantly question myself as a mother because she isn’t one to communicate with a lot of words — at least with me. She’s so quiet when we’re together, but seems to be a silly, wild, fun kid around her friends. I often wonder if it’s something I’m doing wrong, but then she’ll ask me to read to her, or spend time with her in some way, and I know that she wants me around, even if she doesn’t know how to say that to my face.

Recently, my dad was visiting, and he remarked at how similar my daughter was to me as a kid. I was shocked. “Really?” I responded. “I don’t see it. She’s just so quiet and keeps everything inside.”

“You used to be like that too,” he said. And I felt a glimmer of hope that one day she’ll come out of that shell and I won’t be able to get her to shut up. I was so glad he shared that insight with me.

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about how it took me a long time to find my own confidence, and sometimes, I think my overbearing personality is just too much for her gentle personality to deal with. But I’m prepared to wait patiently as she sees that I can be a safe place to land, and I’m working hard to learn how to be more sensitive to what she needs so that we don’t clash so much. For now, it’s a daily battle.

After a particularly hard day with her last week, I found a note on my pillow that night. It said, “Mommy- Thank you so so much for cooking me dinner, buying me stuff, and just being my mom. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

I thought to myself, I need to start journaling with her again. There is a lot that needs to be said. And I know that despite our opposite personalities, and the frequent silences between us, we’ll get through this the way we are supposed to, and I’m exactly the mom she needs.