Her and me and we

By Mir
August 10, 2010

It’s a funny thing, having a daughter, when your relationship with your own mother is kind of complicated. I never doubted my ability to care for a child; I had years of babysitting and even nannying under my belt by the time Chickadee came along. But I doubted my ability to be a good mother to a girl. Because girls are complicated and touchy and easily wounded. I know this because I am complicated and touchy and easily wounded, and even now I can remember with cutting clarity certain events and statements not meant to cause harm, of course, but that nevertheless sliced jagged tracks through my self-esteem.

You might think it’d be easy to be All Things Awesome and avoid any mistakes in this realm, and if you think that, I’m guessing you don’t have kids. Too often I open my mouth and something comes out that makes me cringe. There are things I understand all too well, which she is sure I do not. There are things that baffle me where she is impatient with my confusion. And the daily push-pull of one foot in childhood and one in adulthood is making us both dizzy.

It’s funny the way things happen all at once.

Yesterday brought a few different events altogether. First, with all of the related bulletin-board hubbub over this post about Mandy Elliot’s custody battle, it turned out that an old friend of mine—who had shared the post with her online community—found herself defending the story, or (more specifically) defending knowing me as a good and credible source. This made me giggle just a little, as we are both, now, fine and upstanding members of society, good worker bees and excellent moms, etc., but when we met I never would’ve pictured the lives we now lead. Back In The Day we spent a lot of time skipping classes and bemoaning our stupid school, impossible parents, and fair-weather friends. What classes we bothered to attend were spent penning comics for one another about all of the different ways we could feed people we didn’t like to rabid dogs and other monsters.

You know, the usual sorts of things. Ahem.

I often tell Chickadee that friends come and go, and that’s true, but here’s someone I’ve known since I was just about Chickie’s age and not only are we still in touch, we’ve somehow weathered the transformation into reasonable adults. Huh.

So. Second, yesterday was the first day of school, and there were still some scheduling issues to be worked out, though Chickadee opted to handle that on her own. She came home and reported that no, she hadn’t managed to get into more of her BFF’s classes, but she had at least one friend in every class, and she had a good day.

Third, her only piece of homework yesterday was to write about how she was named. I’d told her the story before, but I told it again, and this time she asked a lot of questions, wanting to get every detail right. And I fully expected her to roll her eyes (as she has before), but it was as though she was actually HEARING the whole story for the first time, really GETTING that yeah, we not only put a lot of thought into her name, but that she was a very wanted and long-awaited baby. She even went over the details with her father, later, and seemed shocked that the story checked out.

Now; the situation with my old friend had nothing to do with my daughter, and she’d had a good day at school and seemed to feel buoyed by her assignment, so all should’ve been idyllic, yesterday afternoon/evening.

Except that she is a pubescent girl, and actually, all was somewhat weepy. I even got one of those “I don’t know what’s wrooooong with me!” admissions, and lo, I was filled with sympathy and the urge to MAKE WITH THE WORDS.

I wanted to explain to her about hormone poisoning and mood swings and how being a woman is sometimes, you know, not quite as wondrous as the books would like you to believe. I wanted to tell her stories about me and my friend and how it didn’t matter that most of the time we didn’t have any classes together, and how we’ve each come and gone and changed over the years and live a thousand miles apart but she still helps me to remember who I am and how far I’ve come. I wanted to tell her not to be scared of feeling bad, but not to let it take her over, either. I wanted to tell her that I prayed for a baby for years before she came along, and I’ve prayed every day since she arrived that I can be the mother she needs. And I really, really wanted to make her understand that she has so much more than I did at her age—more friends, more self-awareness, more confidence—and she is going to be fine.

Instead I pulled her onto my lap and hugged her tight, and only said, “Poor Chickie. Today is tragical, huh?” She nodded into my shoulder and we sat there for a bit, until she was ready to get up.

Good lord, growing up is HARD. I barely got out alive the first time, and even from the sidelines, now, I’m not sure I can handle it again. How does anyone ever survive it?


  1. midj

    Wow, Mir, just sending you hugs. You do get through, though. My daughter is 20 (will be twenty one in 2 1/2 months) and you do survive. Hugs for you both.

  2. Melinda

    I hope this school year is a good one for both of your kiddos. (And you and Otto too!) From where I sit, I think you are just exactly the momma your girl needs. Happy second day of school!

  3. Megan

    Oh those tragical days. I had a mum who MADE WITH THE WORDS all the time. Over and over. Ad nauseum. And what I got out of it was a really impressive ability to look like I was listening to something while managing to not hear a single word – literally, not a word. Even more impressive I could maintain ‘I’m listening but I’m still terribly angry and hurt and isolated and it’s all HORRIBLE and nothing you’re saying matters because you are my parent and therefore an idiot but hey, I’m here and I’m listening so let’s get through this quickly and then I’ll crawl back into my dark, dank hole of a bedroom and listen to that music you hate’ and STILL not hear a word.

    Sorry mum, really I am.

    What I probably needed but would never, ever have accepted, was a hug on a lap. (okay, what I probably needed even more was a thwack on the back of the head!)

    Your Chickie is doing pretty darn well if she can still not only accept a hug but can put it to the best possible use. You go, mama, cause you’re doing just fine.

  4. silly me

    A hug is about 2,300 times better than all the words. I know from experience that even if she pushes your hug away rudely. She’ll still feel better and be more centered because you tried. (sometimes, I was a little shit at that age. If my mom was still around I would apologize)

  5. Suzie

    Hugs. Yum.

    My older daughter is just about 14, and there is nothing I love more than the times that she’ll still accept a hug. It makes ME think everything will be okay, maybe moreso than it does her.

  6. Dawn

    My 21-year old sent me a text last night that read thusly:

    “I’d go insane if I didn’t have you, to be honest.”

    This is the child who was adolescence on crack up until recently. We BATTLED.

    Everything will be okay and what Chickie will take away from this period in her life was that you cared and you did your best to understand and be supportive. The cringe-worthy remarks will fade. She may not remember a single word you said, but she will remember the caring.

  7. Scottsdale Girl

    *snorfle* I really enjoy the mother daughter posts…but they always make me ugly cry…at work. Oy.
    Miss you mama

  8. Rachael

    You know, I went to a funeral yesterday, and all I heard was how this mom provided counsel and how wise she was not only to her own children, but towards the friends of her children. So that gave me hope that somehow, I will survive the teenage years. I have a 9 y/o daughter who is already hinting at those emotional swings. God help me now to say the right words and give the kind of comfort she needs when she’s hormonally whacked out!

    Praying for a lot of wisdom and discernment that somehow, you’ll make it through okay too, Mir.

  9. Spinoff

    I’m sending my youngest off to college this week. It doesn’t get easier, but you’ll trust them more.

  10. Beth R

    I’m 40 and sometimes the best thing is STILL a hug on Mom’s lap. I’m proud of you for resisting the urge to make with the words – that’s hard for us logical types.

  11. meghann

    “hormone poisoning” What an apt description. I’m going to have to file that away to use later.

  12. Amy

    Goodness me, don’t I know all about the “hormone poisoning” and the moaning of “I don’t know what’s wrooooong with me!”. Sometimes I think Chickie and I were separated at birth (only about 15 years apart)!!

  13. Karen

    …by putting one foot in front of the other, stepping on a few toes and being stepped on from time to time. And ice cream… yeah, lots of that.

  14. Rachel

    You are such a good mom. It’s encouraging for me- I never had much a relationship with my mom as a girl- she was emotionally distant, and she didn’t know how to handle my outgoing, self-assured personality.

    I’m having a baby in january and I wonder how I’ll be able to be a good mom to a daughter, without having grown up with an example of how it looks. But the fact that you’re doing it- and doing it wonderfully- makes me think maybe I can too.

  15. liz

    Make with the hugging. The words can come later if she wants to talk about it.

  16. Wendy

    Hugging, awww, I so wish I could give my 14 year old daughter a hug, but EVERY TIME I attempt it, I get shoved away. She is as stubborn as her mother, and is so determined to not let me touch her. Breaks my heart every time.

  17. Veronica

    I am not looking forward to that part of parenting, that’s for sure. I remember all too well how being a teenager feels and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ARGGGH.

    I figure, I’ve got a few years yet.

  18. addy

    Hugs are the most important. They are always remembered. She may not hear the words but she will feel the hugs.
    Hang in there – it is so worth it!

  19. Cele

    You made me weepy. Hugs are the best payback for being a good mom.

  20. Brigitte

    I had so many issues myself (still do), that often I really have no clue and the best I can offer is a hug. Luckily, she loves them (even when she tels me to stop it). ;-)

  21. Stephanie

    oh goodness… we are leading parellel lives. i go through the same scenario with my 12 yo daughter at LEAST once a week.

  22. Tracy

    Hugs from Moms are all that matters. I wish I could have a hug from mom even at my age. Take it all in!

  23. s

    HOW do you find the grace and wiseness to minimize your words? I stink at this parenting gig, just stink.

  24. Lulu

    As a parent, I’ve also had to fight myself to not make with all the words. My son had the really strange talent of being able to make his eye balls shudder violently and when he did that once as I was ramping up into full-professorial mode, it made my head explode. For a moment the earth paused, waiting to be caught up in my head explosion. Luckily, the sheer absurdity of the situation caught up to me first & I laughed, then he laughed until I cried & we both felt better. My son knew he’d get *this close* to armageddon there and took the chance anyway. Great thing, too — we both learned important things that day.

    The words that still make me and my grown-up son weepy are, “I love you anyway.” Difficult to say at those hard times, but oh so important for my family! Oddest thing, too, when you do say it at those times, you can feel it’s true!

  25. Catootes

    Thank you!
    My 12 year old is feeling all out of sorts these days and has gotten emotionally clingy and we spent the better part of 2 hours last night just cuddling on the sofa, talking about feelings and brusing away the tears that fell down her face and she didn’t even know why she was crying.

    She’s afraid of growing up, she shaved her legs for the first time this week and there is DEVELOPMENT in places she doesn’t think she’s ready for.

    It will pass right? RIGHT??

  26. Katie in MA

    Wait – we survived? ;-) Okay, okay, we did, but only barely. It is tough being us, the me’s, we’s and she’s.

  27. Saedra Oldham

    I would say that just doing what you’re doing is the perfect answer. You are obviously a great Mom and you two are lucky to have each other. My Mom is still my best friend, because she was there on days I felt like your daughter was feeling this day.

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