Until I had my own daughter, I don’t think I ever truly understood the complex nature of the relationships between mothers and children, especially daughters. Before K, and even for a while afterward, my mother was a very vague notion to me. I don’t mean that in the sense that she wasn’t around, because she was, often. We just weren’t close. I didn’t really understand her as a person, and I didn’t ever give much thought to how she felt about me. I felt like there were expectations of me I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) live up to, and I felt like a disappointment. Because of this, I purposely kept a distance between us. It wasn’t hard – I just didn’t bring up a whole lot of personal matters with her, didn’t tell her much about what I was doing. It was protection for both of us – to keep her from being more disappointed, to keep me from being hurt by her disappointment. She didn’t seem to notice or mind the distance too much – after all, there are four of us, and I’m sure she assumed I was busy with my life.
But now that I’m older, and as my mother gets wiser to the ways of the world (this is what going back to college in mid-life will do to you), the distance is getting narrower. Even if I don’t agree with her, I understand her better now. Even if I let my kids get away with things she’d never have let us (like burping loudly and talking openly about poop and watching The Simpsons), I see where she’s coming from.
As my daughter grows more independent and becomes more her own person, the more I feel an intense need to protect her. I don’t mean necessarily protect her from physical danger – I’ll let the kid jump on the couch and climb on the kitchen counters – but more from the danger of the world, the danger of growing up. I know how mean kids can be if you don’t fit in. But I also know how hollow and vapid a culture has been created for them. Just as my mom hated me watching Beavis & Butthead, I don’t want K to watch Hannah Montana. I don’t want that influence on her. I toss any High School Musical or Bratz toys she gets as gifts (she’s never noticed). I loathe the current pop culture for kids, and I want to think that by outlawing it, I’m doing her a favor.
But what about the eventual backlash? It’ll only get worse as she’s older, as she’s wanting a cell phone and horrible, trendy clothing. She’ll likely turn on me thinking I’m making her into a social pariah… just like I thought the same of my mom for not letting me wear black nail polish when I was twelve. It’s a dilemma I’m sure that almost all parents face – your innocent baby creeps toward prepubescence and all you want to do is try to spare them from the horror you remember. All you want is a strong, confident kid who can be impervious to the pressure that kids put on each other, that society only makes heavier.
But I’m realistic and I know I can’t protect her completely from that. That makes me sad, but at least I know it’s something my mother and I share. Even though I didn’t end up exactly as she planned, I think I’ve come out good enough. I can only hold on and hope that by loving K however she is, even if she goes through horrible phases of listening to bad music or wearing things I don’t like, she’ll do the same.