Wednesday, March 22, 2006


In 17 years of parenting, my most constant companion has been doubt--guilt often runs a close second, but doubt is the undisputed winner. The is-this-the-right-thing-to-do's and the will-this-or-that-decision-be-the-one-that-scars-them-for-life's have buzzed in my brain from morning until night for years on end and sometimes caused nightmares that woke me from what little sleep I managed to get.

I'm happy to report that when it comes to mothering an almost-twelve-year-old daughter, all doubt has been removed. There is no doubt whatsoever that absolutely everything I do, say, and am is completely, unequivocally, totally, one-hundred-percent wrong.

The certainty has its comforting moments--of course, I'd rather be right than wrong, but I have to admit there's a certain sense of freedom in knowing I can't win--it's a lot easier to throw up my hands, flip a coin, just wing it when I know I can't possibly be right. Just by being, I am already wrong. I've got nothing to lose.

I'm exaggerating, but only a little and if you have an adolescent daughter or, for that matter, can remember being an adolescent daughter, you know exactly how little I am exaggerating.

A short list of recent infractions: I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that's too early. Next day, I woke her at 7:45 (as she'd asked) and was informed that it was too late. I bought her an alarm clock to eliminate this issue. The alarm is too loud and it's not loud enough and it's too hard to set and I didn't remind her to set it and WHY do I keep reminding her to set it? She's not a baby! She says we don't spend enough time together, but when we do, she can't stand the sight of me, the sound of my voice, the activities I pick for us to do together...

OK. I'm exaggerating again. But, again, just a little.

I may be in danger of being disloyal to my gender but I have to say, in my experience, the drama of living with a girl on the cusp of adolescence is wholly different and much more, uh, dramatic than seeing a boy through the same passage. All three of my boys have had their surly, door-slamming, I-wish-I'd-never-been-born moments, but they seemed to come less often--and less loudly--than Daughter-Only's you-can't-do-anything-right-moments. Not only that, but the boys seem--have always seemed--less inclined to take my failures as a mom and human being personally and, conversely, less likely to make personal attacks when they're in a bad mood.

Do the early stirrings of womanly hormones account for some of the mood swings? Most likely, but that's of little comfort, considering the fact that we have to spend (at minimum) another six-plus years under the same roof. And, honestly, Daughter-Only has always been more drama-prone than her brothers. She has been so high maintenance at times that I have joked that if she had been my first child, she would be an only child.

Every time that joke comes out of my mouth, I feel the sharp pinch of guilt. I hate catching myself comparing my children to one another. I know from personal experience the way accidental, offhand comparisons can breed years of resentment between siblings and cause all sorts of self-image issues. But, really, I don't mean it in a bad way.

My relationship with Daughter-Only just seems so much more tangled and complex than mine with her brothers. Sometimes the boys hate me and sometimes they love me and mostly they just ignore me until they need something from me, but I'm always reasonably sure that we'll all get over it. With Daughter-Only, it seems like every single thing (especially lately but, really, since she could talk) is a matter of life or death. Is it that she's a girl or is it just that she's who she is and the girl thing is incidental?

One thing you can be sure of--whatever I think the answer might be, I'm soooooo wrong.


  1. my daughter is only 4, and we have already concluded that for the next 15 years we are going to be complete and total morons. (you should hear the tone of her voice with the way she shakes her head, shrugs her shoulders, and rolls her eyes!)

    but if it's any comfort, sometimes i felt the same way about my mother that yours acts towards you. (and even i never understood WHY.) I'm just so grateful my mother never gave up.

  2. She's a girl and you're her mom...and as my lovely friend, Nita, says...if she is acting this way towards you, it is because she feels secure enough in the relationship that you won't abandon her because of it. My daughter is 12 - and she is amazing and awful by turns. And yes, my son is a lot easier...BUT the great moments with my daughter are so great, that I try to hang onto them when the next wave of "you couldn't possibly understand me" rolls around. You're not're just her mom.


    um, yeah, that's just what i said to amena and just what i wanted to say to you. that, and will you take Rio off my hands in about 10 years?!


  4. You need to rush out to your nearest book store or get...."Get out of my life, but first take me and Cheryl to the Mall!" It is a great read...for such a time as this!


  5. Thanks everyone for the words of encouragement--I put the book on my "list" (an ever-growing list of things I want desperately to read!).

    Amena--about the great moments--I know just what you mean. I almost put something about that in this post, but I was just WAY too cranky.

    Nita--I have a feeling my daughter will have completely worn me out WAY before then!

    And Mandi--One of the only things that gets me through the day is remembering how I was with my mom and how it all eventually evened itself out.

  6. Dang it!!! Nita, I wanted to send Sydney to MM at age 12!!!

    My Mother always told me that whatever I dished out to her you got it back 10 folds from your own child. For YEARS I refused to have a child because I knew it would be born with horns on its head.

    I am so afraid of what the hormonal years have in store for us. By that time she will be going through her hormonal times and I should be going through the change myself, my poor poor husband!

  7. This is so timely because I am going through things with my just turned 16 year old stepdaughter. We don't have the normal step-family relationship in that we are very close. Which leads us to have a more mother/daughter type of relationship.

    For the last couple of weeks she has been doing anything and everything to get in trouble it seems. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to make it through all of this. I also have a 2 1/2 year old son. I ask my husband every day to assure me that in 13 years, our son will be easier to raise than our daughter. (please let it be so).

    I had someone tell me the other day to expect a major shift around 13, 16 and 18 for teens. We definitely saw it at 13, here is the 16. Two down, 1 to go. She is actually a really good kid, but lately has just been doing things outside of the boundaries.

    She actually told me yesterday that she was glad she got into trouble because she realizes now that she was out of control. I wouldn't have called out of control (which to me is sneaking out, drinking, very rebellous etc...) but I'll leave her with that impression.

    Thankfully I think we have all gotten back on a good path with this shift....but only time will tell.

  8. Stumbled on this one -- gotta say, I have 7 brothers - my mother never ceased reminding me that one of me was more difficult than all seven of them ....... I would agree that our one daughter was more challenging than our one son....

  9. Thanks for commenting on this—I still struggle with the feelings I have about the difficulty of my daughter vs my sons, and probably a lot of my own issues go into making it so much harder, but harder it remains.