Living In Fear Of My Daughter

by Harmony Smith
mother daughter relationship
IvanJekic / iStock

I remember her first cries in the hospital, the higher pitch, a more-feminine sound as compared to her brother. The sound surprised me, and I was caught off-guard by the realization that this time was going to be different. Then, I saw her. She was so beautiful, a perfect porcelain doll, so easily shattered by any mistake. Ever since that day, there has been a pervasive sense of unease associated with being a mother to this little girl. I am afraid of her and the idea that so much of her future hinges on me.

I treated her differently than my son from the very beginning. While he was allowed to co-sleep for an extended period of time, I was committed to doing “better” with my second child. I would fight sleep while rocking her, but she was always returned to the crib. We never spent the night, cuddled up, breathing and dreaming in unison. I justified this forced detachment by remembering our struggle to get her brother to sleep in his own bed. But there was so much more to it.

My mother and I disagreed about everything and always fought with each other. I resented her for the choices she made and for favoring my siblings. She existed on the periphery of my life. I did not confide in her or seek advice. She was not there in the delivery room when I gave birth to my children, by my choice. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother-daughter relationship.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

I have always been brave, fairly reckless, and independent. I was the one who took friends up on dares and climbed out of my window at night. During high school, I used a fake ID to get into bars and visit the tattoo parlor. I ran away from home several times. I can already see the same tendencies in my daughter, at only 3 years old. She is fearless, intense and stubborn. These similarities make me worry about her making the same mistakes.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

I broke my father’s heart during my teenage years. We were so close. We were “buddies.” We were there for each other during extremely difficult family struggles. He confided in me and trusted me, implicitly. But then, I rebelled. I committed the utmost betrayal, in lying to him, over and over again. I did all the things that he told me not to do. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must have felt for him.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

When she’s angry, her little temper has a force of its own. She can’t speak. All she can do is scream and cry. There’s nothing you can say or do, even hugs won’t quiet the storm. All you can do is wait. For several months in between her second and third birthdays, she screamed every single night at bedtime. We considered scheduling an exorcism when she started taking off all of her clothes during the tantrums. I joke about how much trouble she is going to be as a teenager, but don’t let the chuckle fool you, there is real fear behind that statement.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

She’s always watching me. My daughter concentrates so hard on little things like how I put on lip gloss, before she steals it and imitates me. She wants to do “girly things” together and wear matching outfits. The pressure is terrifying. She’s modeling herself after me. I cannot mess this up.

Maybe that has something to do with it.

The past three years are a blur, and sometimes I wonder whether or not it’s too late. Have we missed our chance to forge a deep and meaningful bond?

I love her with an intensity that matches her wild personality, and yearn for that special connection which only exists between mothers and daughters—the one I didn’t have with my own mother. I dream about the little things, like conversations about a first crush. And I wonder about momentous occasions, like whether or not she will ask for me when she gives birth to her children.

My fear is the product of overwhelming insecurity, based on an assumption that I cannot possibly know how to be a mother, so there is no hope, and I am doomed to fail. There is also a belief that any closeness we achieve will only be temporary, until she breaks my own heart.

Ultimately, the fact is that I cannot achieve any type of relationship with my daughter by retreating and conceding defeat. Time is passing so quickly. There is too much to lose. I must jump off the cliff and dive, headfirst, into loving her.

The only way to combat my fear is to love bravely, as much as I can, and hope for the best. She needs me, her one and only mother.