My friends warned me. My mom said it would happen. I’ve even read about it for years. My daughter is growing up, and she doesn’t want to spend time with me like she used to. And to make matters worse, when she does want to spend time with me these days, it involves watching pointless videos on Instagram or driving her to a school or extracurricular activity—although there is less of that now. She and I don’t play Barbies or American Girl dolls together anymore; she’s even retired from the slime game. Recently, it hit me that I needed to find a new common ground for us, and fast.
Timing is everything, and around this time, my friend approached me about joining a mother/daughter philanthropy organization that encourages volunteerism together. We attend the monthly meetings separately, but complete volunteer hours together. The moms at these meetings are accomplished, polished, and appear to really like being there. During one meeting, the moms were divided into groups and each of us drew random “get to know you” questions.
My answers to these questions quickly established my place in the “Hall of Lame.“ What is your biggest accomplishment? Breastfeeding. What is an experience you recently had that you can’t explain? I attended a spiritual reading at a cemetery (true story). If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be? Don’t party so much!
Then came the big question, if you could be anyone for one day, who would you be? I was the first one to answer and had no shame in saying that if I could be anyone for a day I would be my daughter. <crickets> If I thought I’d received blank stares at the answers to my other questions, I was wrong. I’m not sure if the other moms wanted to be their own daughters for a day, but if they did, they at least had the sense to not say it out loud.
I tried to explain to my new friends that my daughter navigates middle school, and really everyday life, so much better than I ever did. I spent most of my teenage years being worried about fitting in and what others thought about me. Truthfully, I still struggle with that worry as an adult. But my daughter is different. She marches to her own drummer, she looks out for others, and she laughs like no one is watching just like all those inspirational signs tell us to.
I left that meeting of the moms feeling defeated. Did I have a complex? Was I trying to relive my middle school years through my daughter? When I got home, I told my husband and daughter what happened at the meeting. More blank stares, and then a cool thing happened. My daughter burst into tears. Through a snotty mess of tissues, she told me that was the most special thing anyone had ever said to her, and that she hoped that she continues to be someone who I will always look up to.
So, I probably have a complex, and I am definitely living through my daughter’s experiences most days. But if by letting her know how very much I admire her and that I want to learn how she navigates her life means that she has more confidence and strength to get through these next few years, then I will shout it from a rooftop and accept those blank stares because I admit it, I want to be my daughter.