Mother of a Daughter

Please note how I'm gripping her hand, willing her to keep smiling and not pitch a fit. That smile is actually me threatening her through clenched teeth. Photo: jillcaren.com

Why is this relationship between mothers and daughters like a landmine for some of us? And so la-tee-da for others? Ever since Cori Jo was born, I've been eyeing her suspiciously for signs of early onset teenage angst (EOTA) with designs on causing an irreparable rift between us. Just today I held her for a nap and when her daddy came home it was all about him.  She rejected my open arms of comfort, not once but twice as she ran over to her father. Chopped. Liver. Most of me thinks it's adorable but there's another part that wonders "am I losing her already?" You know, at 19 months old. 

Here's the thing, I have no amazing insights into this particular relationship. I'm still navigating my role as daughter with much to be processed and explored. Isn't it a little nuts that, as daughters, we enter into the mother role and have to simultaneously navigate the two, having neither figured out completely? Who successfully processes all their mommy issues before embarking on their own journey into motherhood? I bet it's the same people who wait to be financially stable before they have kids.  

Newborn photoshoot - she was a monster that day! Photocredit: jillcaren.com

Depending on your relationship with your own mother, having a daughter can elicit different feelings. If you are a la-tee-da-er you may not even give having a daughter a second thought. You will obviously just emulate the way your awesome mom raised you - easy peasy! To be fair, that could put a lot of pressure on a daughter to be the kind of amazing mother she had - I don't doubt some of you feel that way. Then there are the daughters of the landmine relationships. Maybe you are so determined to give your daughter a better experience than you had that you are actually looking forward to having a baby girl. Or, perhaps you are crippled by the fear of perpetuating a tumultuous relationship. For some of us, this dynamic plays out almost daily. Each interaction ripe with very real anxiety.
 
I wanted to be a grandma the way some women want to be mothers. (More on this weirdness some other time but it's because that's where my first experience of true, unconditional love came from). After some quick math, I realized I needed to go through a crucial step. If I had to be a mother then I would be a boy mom and I wanted 4 of them. They would be easy-going, tough but sweet, fiercely protective of their mother, drama-free, mama's boys.  I would even love the high grocery bills, the loads of gross, boy-smelling laundry, and the destructive but playful rough-housing. Yes, sons would be great. Sons would be easier. Surely. 
Baby Nia already hating her picture taken and already sporting a double chin!

I like to watch TV shows and movies. I say this as proudly as I say I like to read*. It is a way I observe the world, how I process certain things and one of the ways I make myself a more well-rounded person while wearing PJs.  Yes, even shows like Shameless have their place in my personal development as much as a TED Talk. During different stages of my life, I watch and read things differently. Teenage Nia was all about the boy-girl dynamic. Current Nia is also now acutely aware of mother-daughter relationships. Perhaps I should re-watch Gilmore Girls and Parenthood...

There are things in my mother-daughter relationship I do not care to repeat and words I never want Cori Jo to hear from my mouth. On the other hand, there are positive things I hope to pass down to her that I hold close from my own mother. Take the good, get rid of the bad. Sounds simple enough but oh how naive I would be to think it will be that easy.

 All I know is that I don't know how this will play out and I'm taking comfort in that blissful ignorance and lack of total control. I don't have to know the future to do my best present-day work. Each day will be new. There's One who holds and knows the future! I don't want to beat myself up when I fail - because I don't want her to do that either. I am less terrified than I used to be about having a daughter. I'm looking forward to trying my hand at not just not ruining her, but bolstering who she is. She is already so different from me - she's outgoing, dramatic on a level that blows my mind and she is fearless. I am so pleased by our differences already. I don't doubt those differences could become less cute as she grows, but I am trying to remind myself that my goal is not another me or my ideal version of an offspring. I don't want to fall into that trap. I want her to be who God has created her to be. I'm not very creative anyway and she's massively strong-willed and stubborn so...this arrangement is for the best.
Grandma, mommy and baby Coco Puff


I have to accept that she will not know the full extent of my feelings and decisions until she is in the mother role. Who came up with that design, anyway? "You'll understand when you have children of your own," they say. Some things have been illuminated for me, it's true.  But other things? I understand less than ever. I am just going to do the best I can but make sure that best is more than just not repeating the things I do/did not like about my own mother-daughter relationship. It has to be more than that. I just don't know what that looks like quite yet. I have some ideas but only time will truly tell.

On the hard days, I remember I am not alone in this  (blessed) struggle to be a mother to a daughter. I hear it in the stories others share. I see it play out on screen and between pages. This is nothing new. There's comfort in not being unique, isn't there? If you're the momma wondering how this relationship with her daughter is going to play out, I see you. Look up and see me seeing you and see me, too. Let's share exasperated looks, Bible verses, victories, WTF moments, tears, hysterical and maniacal laughter, therapists info...
I really think we are going to be okay and our daughters will be, too. 
She had to be bribed with throwing rocks into the water to even sit with me. I was probably threatening her here. Photo:jillcaren.com


* The last book I read that gave me a glimpse into mother/daughter relationships is Celeste Ng's "Little Fires Everywhere." 

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