Tag Archive for: mother-daughter relationships

There, I said it. It occurred to me yesterday that this is what that feeling is, but it took a while to say it. I tried to couch it in different terms like “intimidated” or “nervous,” but it turns out I’m afraid of her.

She isn’t violent or mean, physically abusive or bullying in any way. And even if she were, she’s petite, so I could totally take her.
She is … well, certain.
Fiercely independent.
This child taught herself to walk. Bit by bit, methodically and with a decided refusal of assistance from any other human being, she pulled herself to standing, shimmied along the couch on her own, practiced standing in the middle of the room to catch her balance. For days she seemed on the verge of walking, but made certain she could do it without incident by standing and clapping one day, standing and waving her arms another. It is the same when I’m in a yoga class working on eagle pose, starting with the arms and then lifting one leg to wrap around the other. Once I’ve got that steady, I center myself and lift my gaze molecule by molecule to ensure I won’t fall. Eve did that with walking. Two weeks after she had begun standing and perfecting her balance, she took a few steps. She practiced sitting down slowly so she wouldn’t topple over. She never fell. She was not one of those toddlers you see with bruises on her face and arms because she was overconfident. She didn’t have that drunken gait most eighteen-month-olds do. She took it slowly, step by step on her own and worked it out.
She also potty-trained herself and refused all offers of help. When she was learning to read, she was adamant about not letting me look at the book with her. We had to sit cross-legged on the floor, facing each other so that I could only see the cover of the book and she read out loud to me if I was lucky.
The day she noticed that the neighbor kids all rode their bikes without training wheels, she banished me to the house after asking me to remove hers. She put her helmet on, pushed her bike out to the cul-de-sac, and fought that thing for 30 minutes. I know because I was hiding under the living room window stealing glances every once in a while. She fell, got up and tried again. I knew enough to not go outside and offer assistance. Even then I was afraid. Not that she would get hurt, but that she would be angry with me. From the day she was born, Eve has known somewhere deep in her soul that asking for help means she can’t do something herself. That she isn’t capable. God I hope I didn’t somehow instill that in to her DNA. That’s what I was taught by my parents. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
She did it. And the entire neighborhood heard about it when she began whooping with joy as she rode that tiny bicycle back and forth like it was Seabiscuit in the Kentucky Derby. The smile on her face was absolutely the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life. Pure pride. Joy of accomplishment. Triumph.
And so we come to middle school. Where she struggles to convince Bubba and me that she is an adult. She can handle it. She understands more sophisticated inside jokes now and reads more adult books and is certain she knows how to deal with anything that comes her way. But she isn’t. She’s twelve. And offering to help her with anything is throwing down the gauntlet. It infuriates her despite the fact that I spend hours crafting my speeches to her in order to not make her feel ‘stupid’ or ‘juvenile.’ Trying to tell her that I am here to support her in any way she deems fit, not show her how superior my intellect or experience is. It doesn’t matter. She’s not buying it.
I have set up a cozy place in the kitchen for her to do homework while I cook dinner. Bought scented candles to light while she does it. Offered to put on any music she likes and ban Lola and her boundless energy from the room so we can have a peaceful place to work together. None of it works. She prefers to head straight up to her room and blast Taylor Swift and reappear fifteen minutes later to announce, “I’m done. Can I play on the computer now?” Occasionally, she will admit she is struggling with a particular assignment and, in the same breath, say that she’ll save it and ask the teacher the following day at lunch. Rather than have me sit with her for five minutes to figure it out.
And therein lies the rub. I want her to feel successful. I want her to know that there are many people in her life that she can reach out to. But I want one of them to be me. And it isn’t. And that hurts. And I wish I could say that this is a tween-girl phase, but it isn’t. Eve has always been fiercely independent and stubbornly refused my assistance. I have been rebuffed so many times I am afraid to offer, but I know that this isn’t about me and my feelings. There are times when I am the only person available to her and she is only twelve. We have to find a way to work together without anger or resentment, but I’ll be darned if I know how to do that.
I suppose if I’m being ‘enlightened’ about all of this, the first step is admitting that I’m afraid of her. Okay, did that. Now what?

As I sit here writing this, I have a splitting headache that has so far not responded to twice the recommended dose of Advil and I am sporting a grin a mile wide. Yes, you read that right.

I am sporting a grin a mile wide after a Sunday night marathon homework session with Eve. No, she didn’t save all of it for the last minute – just the most complex stuff. And normally, despite the fact that the subject was Science and that is generally my forte, I would have asked Bubba to step in for me, but he is out of town for the next few days, so I was it. Whether we liked it or not.
Eve and I have always had a bit of difficulty doing homework together. I generally chalk it up to the fact that we are two peas in a pod. Twins separated by three decades. Ex-act-ly a-like. Eve starts out with a chip on her shoulder if she is forced to ask me for help with anything. She is fiercely independent, a perfectionist, a control freak and stubborn. She quickly gets defensive and degenerates into high-pitched squeals of indignance if I don’t understand precisely what she needs from me on the first explanation. God forbid I ask to see the directions or her notes from class. Bubba? He can joke with her, sit for hours and puzzle over something, or just tell her to suck it up and dig in and she smiles sweetly and follows his lead. It used to drive me nuts. Until I remembered how I felt about my mother when I was Eve’s age. Until I read The Four Agreements and learned how to not take it personally.
So Eve and I, we are a bit gunshy about doing homework together. But tonight there was no choice. Bubba was away and this assignment is due tomorrow morning. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. But I swore not to let it show.
As Eve began explaining the assignment to me, my inner self let out a colossal groan. She was supposed to draw 3-dimensional schematics for an invention she would craft using pulleys, gears or levers.
Permit me to digress for a moment. There are a few things that I absolutely cannot do. Things I used to struggle with but eventually came to terms with the fact that I am incapable of doing. Things I have “traded” in my own mind for other things that I am oddly accomplished at. Fortunately, I have managed to structure my life in order that I don’t have to do any of these things. They are (in no particular order):
1. Tying a knot in a balloon. I don’t care what you say – you cannot teach me to do it. Been there, tried that, can’t do it. Won’t even try anymore. Not important.
2. Iron an oxford style shirt. You know, with the collar and buttons and plackets and all that. Again, no interest. Tried a million times.
3. Visualize things in three dimensions in my mind. Nope, can’t do it. Took Organic Chemistry in college and had to purchase a set of Tinker Toys in order to put the molecules together and draw them on paper. My brain simply will not wrap around imagining things in 3-D when they are described to me or rendered in 2-D on paper. I can’t manage it. At some point my brain simply shuts down during the process of trying.
And now here, I had to help Eve visualize her invention in 3-D and draw it to scale in each of its different perspectives so that her teacher could fully understand it and so that Eve can build it out of foam core according to those drawings.
I will confess that at one point I had to go get a toilet paper roll and some ribbon to use as props so I could “see” it.
I will also say that about 20 minutes in, Eve was flat on the floor in my closet sobbing and squealing like a pregnant potbellied pig, certain that we couldn’t do this.
Normally this is the point where I call Bubba in.
Instead, I dug deep, stayed calm and came at it from another angle.
Somehow, I managed to get her back on track and she responded.
Somehow, when we thought we were done and checked the assignment sheet only to discover that we needed two more drawings, of the individual components to scale, I was able to remind her of how far we had come and help her see that the finish line wasn’t that far off.
Somehow, I found myself having fun.
As I played cheerleader from across the kitchen where I was putting dinner together and reminding Lola to tuck her completed homework away in her backpack, I suddenly realized I was enjoying this. Far from feeling frantic and unmoored, I was the picture of calm, pureeing ingredients for soup in the food processor while reminding Eve of the scale and fixing her compass when the lead fell out. No yelling. No reprimands. No whining about “too much homework” or “this is too hard.” We were working it out. We had managed to get past the defensiveness and blaming, the intractable positions in our opposite corners, and get it done.
At one point it seemed that all was lost. There was one more component of the project that seemed insurmountable at dinnertime on a Sunday night. And then it happened. I thought outside the box. I lived up to the nickname some of my former co-workers gave me one day: “Queen of the Workaround.” Not cheating. Not even a shortcut. But a way to stick our tongues out at that brick wall, turn on our heels and walk right around the damn thing without even breaking a sweat.
As Eve finished packing her now completed homework away I told her how proud I was that she stuck it out and finished. She walked over to me, wrapped her arms around me and gave me the most genuine hug I’ve had from her since she was a toddler. Resting her head on my heart, she snuggled in tight and murmured, “I love you. Thank you, Mom.”
So, yeah. I’m grinning like a fool. Headache and all.