In the name of improving mother-daughter relations, I find myself sitting across the table from my daughter, our hands covered in a viscous Crisco based icing. It has oozed out of the back of the silver-tipped pipping bags and is making its way down our arms. We have signed up for a cake decorating class, and today we are learning to make shag-muffin flowers. Ours look like some disemboweled fluorescent Muppets.
I am intent to have a better relationship with my daughter than my mother had with me. Or I had with my mother. We have thus far navigated the mother daughter relationship somewhat successfully. My daughter, her own force of nature, is a bright and driven, a tomboy who prefers dirt to bathing and obsessively watches the Food Network and Animal Planet. The second child, however, she believes she is second in her parent’s affections and brings this up whenever she wants to steer the familial ship in her direction. This fierceness I recognize from my own mother, and I realize it will serve her well in the world. No one will ever walk over her, pity the fool who does as she once studied Kung Fu.
She is the oral historian of the family. She knows every detail of the Venn Diagram of our lives. She mimics me in both deeds and speech. I’m flattered by this and when I watch her sleep my heart yearns for her. I want that happiness and peace for her always.
We have adopted the exchange of “I love you,” “I love you more,” which I did with my mother. As the mother, I’m not sure I like this as it dredges up the maternal guilt. Am I not loving her enough? What am I doing wrong? No such guilt seems to leaden her little brow. She is forceful in her declarations. She loves me more because she loves me so much is her explanation. There is no either or. Comparisons between her and her brother can exist, comparisons between mother and son and daughter can exist, but not between her and I. The paradox is strange, and as the teen years loom on the horizon, I’m sure it will become even stranger.
Did I want a lover only to receive fighter? Perhaps. But maybe there is a cosmic equilibrium to all of this. We get what we need, not necessarily what we want. Right now, I am content to decorate my cupcake and let her decorate hers. I may tell her to slow down and work on each design, but she will not listen – at least not right away.