Girl running

My Daughter

I gained my daughter later in life. She is a child of my heart if not my body. We go through periods of adjusting. Frequently. 

We were adapting, until she approached her 13th birthday. Peace is now a timid visitor rushing out the door without notice. 

Then it happened. An epiphany of profound impact. She and I have diametric paradigms in the way we approach the world. It sounds better to say diametric paradigms than we butt heads. 

My approach to the world is “nothing is permissible unless you ask permission first”. Her axiom is “Everything is permissible unless told otherwise; preferably after the fact. All it requires is claiming ignorance and asking forgiveness. Which enables you to do as you please when you please to do it.”

I realize these differences are based on the way we grew up. My parents, especially my father, thrive on rules. When shopping, if he decided not to buy something, the thought of setting it down on a random shelf is equivalent to drowning kittens. Appallingly, morally repugnant. 

My daughter spent her formative years in the care of an older sibling whose parenting comprised of letting her do as she pleased as long as she didn’t bother, irritate or inconvenience her sister. See, diametrically opposed.

All this plays out in many scenarios, none of which end pleasantly for either of us. So how to go about resolving this hormone-induced escalation? Same page?  We weren’t in the same library. 

Same page? We weren’t in the same library.

Then it hit me—a second epiphany, if you will—between those two extremes there is a line. A continuum. Even at the extreme ends of the line, we are still connected by the line, a commonality of recognition of its meaning (ie: world approach—see above). 

Now, how to traverse this common ground? Preferably by both parties. Preferably, without a seismic shift.

I opened negotiations. A give and take. I would ease my expectations in some areas, if she would relent and respect my wishes in others. That lasted for less time than it took to write the sentence. I still needed to police, and she still needed to submit. Add to the issue the unforeseen side effect that loosening the rules emboldened her. She saw the inevitable outcome if she continued–complete parental capitulation. 

Yes, I’m adept at reading her schemes. The issue became grim. Not only did she push harder, I grew weary.

And yet another epiphany struck, the root of the conflict wasn’t really about a line drawn in the sand. It went deeper. The root is to be heard and understood by the other person. The root rests in the soil of value. Do you see me? Am I important?

It dismayed me. I’m an adult, my value isn’t wrapped up in how my child sees me. But that is not true. The thought of a person under my authority flaunting my judgements, well, it got my dander up. My interpretation was she didn’t want to attend to what I, in my infinite adult wisdom, thought would be best for her. 

And there it was, in my mind she didn’t value me. What I said didn’t matter which equated to I didn’t matter. I realized, (a season of epiphanies) perhaps she felt/interpreted/concluded the same thing about me?

I changed my language and started using phrases like: “when you do that I feel….”  It took a few iterations and coaching to get her to understand I was stating my feelings, not my interpretation of the right or wrong of her actions. 

Then a miracle of miracles, she began responding with the same language. And we finally talked. I learned much, she looked at my mothering skills as lacking (a valid point given my other five children are boys). I needed to learn how to be a girl mom — her interpretation involved long talks and painting nails. Oh and shopping, lots and lots of shopping. 

Then a miracle of miracles, she began responding with the same language. And we finally talked.

I pointed out, she needed to learn how to be a daughter. She lost her mother before her second birthday and had a parade of different women come and go in her life. It hadn’t provided the opportunity to fuse with a mom figure. Because for her, bonding wasn’t enough. She needed foundational, unconditional acceptance. To become so entwined with me that separation isn’t possible. 

Have we reached that point? No. But the diametric paradigms are becoming more infrequent.

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