Friday, August 20, 2010

"Girls Become Lovers Who Turn Into Mothers"

I've always been keenly aware of how parents treat their children. As a teacher, I've witnessed some pretty amazing parent-child relationships. I've also seen some pretty horrifying ones. The school I worked at used to hold parent-teacher conferences in a large room. Parents and students waited in line to meet with teachers who were sitting at cafeteria tables. I will never forget sitting with a student with a speech impairment while his mom berated him in front of me, the other teachers, and the whole lot of parents and students waiting in the building. It was really sad.

Today, when I was walking into Target, I saw this family walking out carrying a bunch of college dorm room-looking gear. The girl had a pink cushion tucked under her armpit and the dad was hauling something pink and and awkward out to the car. The mother kept yelling "stop arguing with me." At one point the father said, "no one is arguing with you" at which point she turned to her daughter, who was not speaking, and yelled "shut up." She continued yelling "shut up" and taunting the girl to "open her mouth" the the father and daughter loaded the pinkness into the car.

After I passed them, I watched a mother, her two sons, and her little girl leaving the store as well. The little girl was crying because she wanted popcorn. The mother said, "that's not how you ask, ask nicely." 'Good,' I thought, 'I'll witness a positive interaction between a mother and her daughter. "You are being such a brat, stop being such a brat," she yelled.

I know I won't be the perfect mother. In fact today, I imagined a conversation with my daughter some day about how I knew I would let her down. I don't want her to see me as perfect or infallible. I'm not. I do, however, want to be able to have conversations where we tell each other about the expectations we have for each other, we discuss being disappointed by the other. At some point; I want to be her friend, her confidant, her go-to girl.

It makes me very nervous to think about being someone's mother. It makes me even more nervous to be my daughter's mother. Relationships with mothers are tender, complicated, and easily misunderstood. And yet, they can be the most important relationship a woman ever has. The prospect of a relationship with my daughter both scares me and emboldens me. It is such a grave responsibility to raise a young woman today. I just hope I have the courage to do it the right way.

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