I love my kids. I love my son for his zombie humor and his older-than-eight-years introspection and thoughtfulness. I love my three year old daughter for her complete and utter belief in the empowerment of little girls and in her superhero awesomeness. They are fascinating creatures to watch – better than television. At this stage of the parenthood game I have a few tricks up my sleeve and a well of patience I’ve dug from the multitude of traumatizing experiences of being a parent: public tantrums, pale yellow torrents of diarrhea that signal impending vomiting, horrific embarrassment after your child ‘truths’ you out to your friends (yes, I think your kid plays too many video games), and of course the epic fail of realizing the movie you watched was totally inappropriate for your 3 year old and she tells everyone she meets about the “monster sucking out the man’s eyeballs and eating them.” When you’ve committed $60 to the movie tickets and the snacks, your moral compass gets hocked.
For all my procreating hubris, there is one challenge that I have yet to meet eye to eye – that of the petulant daughter. Our family doesn’t have the best track record of mother-daughter relationships. They are fraught with narcissism and in some instances, mental illness. Sons seems better adept at rolling with the punches – thank you Oedipus and the simplified social gratification of men. Women’s brains are hardwired for mapping out the circuitous routes of hierarchy and alliance. We are by nature striving for the perfection of give and take and so we are incredibly perceptive of imbalance. It only took several thousand years to begin balancing the scales of housework and career with our spouses because as you know, women have the ability to hold a grudge for a very, very long time. It drives us to betterment. Or at least pushes us to take a step upwards on the ladder of whatever social contrivance we are trying to best. I suppose it is no small wonder our daughters’ first rung in on the backs of their mothers.
My daughter wants power to do as she pleases. My job is to temper her enthusiasm with facts. Yes, you must wear a winter coat, it is -10C outside and you will catch a cold if you don’t. Yes, you must be kind and gentle to other children because no one will play with you if you yell at them. Yes, you must hold my hand while we cross the street because the odds of being hit by a car climb substantially if you run out on your own. I have to remind her daily it is my job to keep her safe and teach her the social customs that will allow her to get along with the world. I have had the same conversations with my son and he accepts these truths wholeheartedly. My daughter begrudges my interference.
What is a Mom to do? Alas, I have been a petulant daughter, myself. Inevitably, daughters will cast off what they will and accept what they wish. It is a process as old as fermentation. Sometimes you get a wonderful byproduct such as bread and beer and sometimes it is a rotting mess of a science project gone awry. There is a certain comfort in knowing you are raising the next matriarch. She will take over the planning and preparation of family feasts and will ensure the connectivity of her brethren. It is innate. I must remind myself to step back, step back and watch. My daughter needs the freedom to explore her superhero awesomeness. Today she will leap from her bed onto a pile of stuffies, gaining mementos of confidence and tomorrow she will argue and provide counterattack to perceived parental injustice. She must do this because in the future she will battle greater foe than I. In the meantime, I will provide her with the best memories I can (sorry about the eyeballs), keep her safe and love her with every ounce of my soul and heart.