She was 12 years old, and we were locked in a heated battle over something so unimportant, I don’t even recall the topic. But what is seared into my memory are the words that followed the argument. My husband said to my daughter, “Stop it, you have an amazing Mom who loves you very much.” To which she replied, “No, she doesn’t!”
We had spent countless days in the previous year in similar scenarios. Arguments that were over nothing, but words that were like daggers slicing away at my heart, and I am sure hers.
I am not exactly sure when I began to see a shift in my daughter’s attitude towards me. I believe it occurred right around the age of 11 and lasted roughly through age 13. The lovely, big blue eyes that once looked up at me with such adoration slowly began to feel like eyes of judgement and disgust. No matter what I did, I upset her. I could say the exact same phrase as her dad and somehow become hated, while he was unscathed.
Friends, it was rooouuugh. I stood in showers crying, so she couldn’t hear she had hurt my feelings. I sat with her and told her she was hurting me, so she could hear that I, too, had feelings. I hid my true feelings, or I talked about them until I was blue in the face. I tried everything I could think of to bridge the gap. But she made it clear that I better not go and catch myself on fire, because she wouldn’t spit on me to put me out.
Don’t get me wrong, every day wasn’t an all-out war, but many were, and they all made me question myself. They also came as a surprise. I didn’t know what prompted such anger, and why it was directed at just me. My husband would say, “So, this is it, huh? The whole dreaded Mom vs. Daughter thing”? I guess he was right. We were in it. And I wanted out! I was sad for me, and sad for her.
I wanted to handle it with grace. While my heart was hurt, I also knew she was hurting, too. She was in the midst of emotional changes and just struggling to make sense of it all. I knew she loved me. I knew how important I was to her. But it took a lot of conversations with God to remind me that grace is shown when love is unconditional.
We held on through those middle school years. We laughed some, we cried some, we hid all the knives (kidding, kind of). But we made it. And folks, I am happy to say, there is a rainbow after the shower of middle school insanity.
I am not naive enough to think there still won’t be times of battles, times of heartache. But I write this to tell you dear readers, that if you are in the midst of a storm and you didn’t even know the forecast called for rain … hang on! Because right now? I am in such a sweet spot with my girl. I loved her with every part of me then, and I love her with every part of me still. She is now 14 and oh, be still my heart, she is so amazing. I see her watching me to mimic the way I put on my eyeliner. I see her throw the same punchline to a joke that I would say. I see her smile as she sees me coming. I see her! And she sees me! We like each other (most of the time).
I have read that mothers and daughters battle because kids are closest to the same-sex parent. That daughters feel safest with their mom and because that is their safe place, and that is where they feel ok to let out their anger. I am not skilled enough to give the reasons or theories as to why this is a thing. But what I do want to emphasize is that if you are in the middle of it, you aren’t doing anything wrong. Your teenager isn’t doing anything wrong. We are all just trying to figure it out, in a world with a ton of mixed-up emotions. Don’t give up on each other. Show the love that is real and sometimes hidden by hurt feelings. Pass along the grace that I am sure our mothers had to pass along to us (sorry, Mom!). These years may be hard, and I probably have a lot of harder years ahead. However, as I look up and see my sweet, red-haired baby girl that is now a little woman, walking towards me, I no longer cower in fear of what awaits. Now I try to hold back the extreme desire to run to her and kiss her face off. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough to embarrass her in front of her friends. Duhhhh, Mom!