The Complexity Of A Mother-Daughter Relationship Is Real

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Scary Mommy and Denis De Marney/Getty

When I went for my 20-week ultrasound to find out the sex of of my second child, I left without an answer. Apparently, my baby wasn’t in the mood for such nonsense and refused to show their parts. I was lying in different positions for an hour with no luck and ended up rescheduling for several weeks later.

Six weeks had never felt so long, and when I found out I’d be having a girl, and I was giving my son a sister, I announced it to anyone who would listen.

Most people were elated for me and told me how wonderful it was. But, there were a few honest and brave ones who took a hold of my shoulders, looked deep into my eyes, and wished me luck. I was being warned that the mother/daughter relationship could be dicey and I better buckle up and hang on because there was sure to be turbulence ahead.

When I brought her home and watched her sleep in her pink pajamas, and when she’d stare at me with intent as I nursed her, I thought about those unnecessary wishes of luck and hope.

That will never be us, I thought. Not her, not me, not us. It’s just not possible.

When she got a bit older and I’d walk her around my bedroom twice before laying her down in her crib (our twice a day ritual), she looked at me in a way her brothers never did — long stares with smiling lips and eyes that wouldn’t get distracted.

It was a kind of love I’d never felt before.

I think about that kind of love a lot these days. Like, when she wants to go off with her young teen friends and I say “no” because there’s no solid plan in place. She knows how to argue and doesn’t like to let up when she wants something. I’d like to think I’ve taught her that and I’m proud of her when she stands up for herself. But when she uses those skills on me, I’m not so keen on them. In fact, they make me want to tear my hair out.

Courtesy of Katie Smith

These days, instead of gazing at me with intent, she pushes every last button I have with intent.

I think about that kind of love when we’re in the car and she’s sitting next to me telling me she wants a nose job with a pouty face and won’t listen to me when I tell her how beautiful she is.

I want to take every bad feeling she has about herself off the table, forever. I want my love for her to be enough so it can prevent every single negative thought that attempts to enter her mind.

It’s not enough, of course. It’s as if my opinion doesn’t count, which is a pretty big change coming from the little girl who used to want to dress like me every day. Those are the times I wonder how I can ever be mad at her or think she’s difficult.

At least once a day, I stare at her in awe. Take this morning, for example: she came downstairs in a great mood all ready for school. Her hair was adorned with braids and a few curls. I hugged her and told her how pretty she looked and how good she smelled. She accepted my compliments and hugs, and I felt like the luckiest mother in the world.

Then I picked her up from school and she was quiet and wouldn’t answer any of my questions. When we got home, she was so rude to me I had to remind her who she talking to because surely, she’d forgotten I was the person who gave her life and just bought her a new pair of jeans.

The tide began to change between us long ago. First, I noticed it in small moments– the pulling away when I’d give her a hug, the rolling of the eyes, the not wanting to hang out with me on a Friday night.

But my girl, she always came back and could hang with me for a while before I’d see her inner-sass come out again.

Now I need the well wishes and all the luck I can get. Our relationship is finicky. One moment we are all in love and shopping for a new highlighter and I’m the best person in the world. The next, I apparently suck and she has to walk away from me because I am “chewing and breathing too loud.”

Our relationship is like a teeter-totter, constantly moving up and down. She pushes against me trying to get as far away as she can. There are times that is really hard to take, and honestly, times where it isn’t and I’m happy to have her bedroom door separating us for hours at a time.

Oh, I know this is normal — this gap that lies between a mother and her daughter as she gains her independence and I try really hard to let it happen without stepping in too much.

Lord knows when I do, I’m “too strict” and “too controlling” and “sooooo annoying.” But, I’m still the mom and have work to do, so I do it regardless of how it makes her feel about me.

I love her wholly. Not just as a daughter, but as a person. And right now, she’s not able to return that love. To her, I am someone who is stunting her growth. I’m in her way. I’m a fun-sponge who doesn’t get her life. But, she still needs me and that confuses the hell out of her.

After all, how do you ask someone for help when you just told them to leave you alone? How do you let someone know you want to spend time with them on a Saturday afternoon after you’ve denied their last ten requests to do something with you?

How do you turn off the sass which is really code for, “Mom, I kind of need your help but I really want you to leave me alone and I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work.”

The complexity of a mother/daughter relationship is real and raw and makes you feel like screaming. In order to make it through, you tell yourself one day they will get it and realize how much you love them.

But also, you kind of hope they have a child who puts them through the same thing so they can come over, sit on your sofa, tell you what a good job you did, and ask how you got through it.

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