Today, a good friend of mine lamented over Facebook about the seemingly loveless reactions she sometimes gets from her teenage daughter. I feel such angst, the mom’s that is.
I’m terrified when I hear these stories and, I suppose, like most not-so-easy daughters, I’m desperate to do whatever it takes to make the relationship I have with Ziya different from the one I have with my own mother. It’s not that our relationship is bad. It’s actually reached a point of mutual agreement and it works as long as I maintain the boundaries that are important to me. But, I know what it took to get here and I’d like Ziya to be able to chart a different path. Like most mothers, I’d like to both appreciate my mother and do things differently as a mother myself, in an attempt to change patterns or establish greater honesty or recognise in myself the things that Ziya will both recognise and wish were different in me.
There are things I try to do with Ziya even now that I hope will begin to create a healthy foundation between us. I don’t know if they will make a difference, but they are little options I’ve chosen to attempt. I try to let her feel and express whatever she wants when I’m with her and I spend time with her without trying to overly determine our interaction. I think it’s oppressive when parents need a lot of validation from their children. I don’t try to make her perform for people. I hate when parents make their kids prove what they can say or do or spell. And I don’t invest a lot of control in her emotional reactions to me. That just feels like it leads to dramas born from hyper-sensitivity. Sometimes, I’m leaving for work and manically waving goodbye, and she’s basically concerned with other things like the oats stuck to her fingers. I let it go. I’m going to love her more than she loves me, I think that’s the case for most mothers, and letting her do her thing without taking it personally is going to be key to our sanity. I might as well practice from now.
But its early days yet and I know this all sounds theoretical – even to me. How can you love someone with all your being and not be hurt when they don’t reciprocally and unequivocally recognise you as the most wonderful person in the world too? For all its power, motherhood is rife with vulnerability and, in fact, there are few things that mothers want more than love, affirmation and acceptance from their children. That’s why for children, especially teenagers and sometimes especially daughters, withholding that reciprocity is their most inalienable weapon.
Friends and even Stone tell me to be prepared. There will be things I do that Ziya considers intolerable, and perhaps unforgiveable, even if I do my best. There may just be that period between 12 and 37 when she avoids some of my calls, shuts me out of aspects of her life, quarrels about my idiosyncracies, gets impatient about my flaws, rants about my reactions, rolls her eyes at my concerns, sighs about my stories, shrugs off my affections, and defines whole parts of herself in incomprehensible opposition to me. Even if I do my best, it won’t be perfect and I can’t control who and how she decides to be. Children revere their parents and hold them, mothers more than fathers I think, to virtually impossible standards. It’s easy for them to be disappointed, to see hypocracies, to resent failures, to think worry is a lack of trust in their judgement, and to find the demands of love too intense and overwhelming for them to balance with their own individuation and establishment of self to the world.
I’m as good a daughter as I can be. I’m extremely responsible and conscientous, but I’m also protective of my emotional self and I’m sure my mother wishes from me more openness and intimacy than I give. That’s the trade off and it’s taken me until now to figure out the balance I can sustain. Because I know the status of where we are in all its nuance, I know exactly what it will mean for Ziya to decide she is making the same choices in relation to me. I don’t want her to give what I give, but refuse what I do. I don’t want to be my mother, wondering but unwilling to ask and possibly to hear why she won’t give more. I know exactly how I’d like our relationship to be different even while I recognise that we will have our differences. I can only hope that, somehow, in the midst of career, money, family, mortgage and other craziness, I manage – with her willing cooperation – to get us there.
But, first, clearly I’m going to have to survive teenagehood. Not mine, but hers. I’m going to have to survive both her emotional sophistication and her naive callousness. I’m going to have to remember that she loves me no matter what, it’s just that there are stages and phases and lessons for us all to learn. Sometimes love sends you tumbling, caught off guard, like a Maracas wave. Sometimes, it gives you everything you need to feel full. Sometimes it teaches patience and reminds us that the heart can ache. Sometimes it makes karma seem too real to be just mystical philosophy. Sometimes, it toughens up the spirit and forces the mind to formulate an amended way. Sometimes, it leaves us unfulfilled, but that too is part of the story of loving.
My friend is someone I consider to be an amazing, inspiring, creative, caring, all too human mom. She’s raised two powerful daughters and I only hope I can emulate what she’s achieved. I understand how she’s feeling even though I’m light years away from those moments myself. I’ve been that teenage daughter. I see my own strong-willed offspring and I know it’s coming. But I also know that love heals, saving us from turning to guilt and obligation as a basis for gaining children’s understanding. Mother-daughter relationships can be intense, complex and rocky. Amidst the frustrating moments, I’m learning from my sistren to remember that love’s foremost quality is that it almost eternally endures.
Meanwhile, teenagehood eventually, sometimes thankfully for all, ultimately ends! 🙂