Monday, May 14, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

Yeah, so as a caveat, you can tell I completely forgot about the whole Mae West quote I was fairly certain I would. Anything out of the routine doesn't fair well, and it takes a lot to actually become part of the routine. C'est la vie!

Today is Baby E's first day at the Montessori! Hubby and I tag-teamed her drop-off this morning just to make things easier. And, since she has more of a tendency to cry when I do the drop-off, but I couldn't stand to not be there, I left first but Daddy stayed for a bit longer to comfort her in case she got upset after seeing me go. He's really such a fantastic father!

Mother's Day was uneventful - just like I'd hoped! Church was nice, lunch was equally nice, and I even got to watch a movie (Last King of Scotland) - whoohoo! (Note: An aside, great movie, but lots of violence! If I'd known it would be that brutal, I probably wouldn't have put it in the Netflix queue.) Like a total loser, though, I didn't get/take the time to call my OWN mother until 9:00 p.m., by which time she was already in bed. Aside from movie time, I spent the whole day with one child or the other in my arms or in front of my face (I gave H a manicure), so I just kept saying "As soon as I get done with ___, I've gotta call my mom." Yes, I'm sure you see how this works.

Speaking of H, I see the Hurricane coming. I mean, she is the Hurricane - Hurricane H. Somehow, I've managed to reproduce what is almost the exact same dynamic between her and myself as what existed between my mother and I. People say H is just like me, and that I'm just like my mother, so this should come as no surprise. And many of the ways my mother parented, I've also adopted (because, hey, I think she did alright for the most part). Hurricane H is more sensitive than I ever was as a young child, more social, and not nearly as sneaky and manipulative, but she has my head-strong nature, a mouth that won't stop, and a reason, excuse, and/or explanation for everything (especially why she should get what she wants or isn't doing something she's been asked). This creates a storm effect, and I foresee it getting worse as she gets older.

This weekend, in preparation for going with a friend and the friend's family to a local outdoor & family-friendly concert, I caught the Hurricane trying to "sneak" clothes out the door!! GASP!! Yes, she had on a black tank top and jeans, but was trying to sneak out the door with a denim skirt, which I'd already told her wouldn't be appropriate because she'd be outside playing (skirts are not play-friendly). Then, she came out in the same black tank top and a long black peasant skirt!??? It was like 90 degrees outside?!! She didn't care...The only thing she cared about was looking "a certain way" (my emphasis). I don't know what "way" this is, but I'm pretty certain it has something to do with boys, and I'm absolutely sure that I don't like the idea of this already. Her third outfit - the same black tank and some denim shorts - was approved, and off she went.

Is this inevitable? Are mothers and daughters just born to do this Dance of Emerging Identity and Independence? Or is this something I can chalk completely up to the early onset of "tweenness?" Not that it's an either/or scenario, but I want her to value herself (and others) outside of appearances. I want her to not be interested in looking "cute," especially if she's just trying to look "cute" for boys damn it! Should I be worried? Frantic? I'm bordering on frantic thinking about this... I don't want to be an over-reactionary mom, or a Puritanical, Carrie-esque mom either, but this is way too freaking young!! Isn't it?

I'm fairly radical when it comes to my own feminist beliefs, especially in terms of recognizing and respecting my daughter's body and her right to control it. I have no issue with her piercing, coloring, tattooing anything on her body - those are battles I have no intention of picking. And generally, she goes to school in mismatched outfits (usually just a t-shirt and jeans) that she chooses for herself. So how do I explain the ugly fact that in this culture, in today's world, if a girl dresses "a certain way" people (especially boys) will think "certain things?" They will assume "certain things" about her, and whether or not those "things" are true, she will be treated differently. Differently in a way that may even appear good or positive, but is not so in reality. How do I explain this to an 8-yr old girl?


wwwmama said...

Well, I don't think you can explain it all to her yet. But it's still good that you're thinking about it all. The only thing I can relate it to is what my two nieces are going through at 13--the same sorts of testing and playing up to boys and peers' notions of what they should be and how they should look. Both girls, I should add, are very intelligent and strong and have been brought up to have close relationships with their mothers and believe in themselves in many ways--not just in terms of how they look.
So I think it's sort of inevitable and part of the process of figuring out how to be in this world and who they are in it. It probably isn't a big deal or permanent. We all went through it too. At least I did. I remember rolling my eyes when my mother told me my cut-off denim shorts wree too short. I thought I knew exactly where she was coming from, but I know now that I didn't have a clue.
I think your instinct to think about it but also to sort of let her go through it and not fight every battle is good. It's what I hope to do when I get to that stage.

wwwmama said...

P.S. tried to leave a comment 3 times on the previous post, but got error messages each time. I just wanted to thank you for writing it. I appreciate your honesty and agree with you.