Saturday, June 11

My adolescent daughter and the mirroring of myself – Marina Benjamin | Aeon Essays

This is a long article but I thought I'll share with you. You're now growing up rapidly. I can see you changing in front of my eyes. Your tastes are changing. Your humour is changing and is a total delight. I love your jokes and puns. I love how hard you work and your expressions when you're focussing on your studies. How you wear your clothes. I just love it. 
And I'm seeing how your relationship with mum is changing. I don't think it's changed that much with me but with mum, it's definitely changing. Nothing wrong with this change. It's the natural order of things and is for the better. But it's so fascinating to hear that. Like how mum reacted yesterday with the sunflower seeds. That was so cute :) 
Anyway this article may tell you a bit more. Very interesting and I've copied mum into this email :) 
And do you know why your relationship with me isn't going to change? Because you'll remain that tiny gorgeous adorable baby girl that I first saw who stole my heart and wrapped me around her tiny finger. 

My adolescent daughter and the mirroring of myself – Marina Benjamin | Aeon Essays
(via Instapaper)

Every few weeks my daughter and I stand back-to-back in the kitchen, socks off, our bare feet cooling on the tiled floor, and we measure up. I can feel her body elongate itself against mine, squaring pre-teen shoulders on my sloping ones, our bottoms taut with tension. We look like a totem pole – bodies melded together, stony faces pointing outward, chins up and arms pressed against our sides. My husband circles us, bending his knees to get all the angles and squinting like a surveyor. 'Not quite there yet,' he says. 'There's about two inches in it.' Later he confesses to being spooked. 'Looking at the two of you is like witnessing time travel,' he tells me.
My daughter, who initiated this household ritual, has already dispensed with one yardstick: a month ago, just before turning 12, she overtook my mother. In her stride now, she is visibly delighted to be gaining on me. Standing on tiptoe and flinging an arm round my shoulders, she tries out equality and likes it. Soon enough there'll be no need for any artificial elevation; we will be peers, in the matter of height, if nothing else.
My husband has already lost his way with the laundry. My daughter's knickers, candy-striped and tartan-checked, regularly turn up in my drawers, while my tights have begun disappearing into hers. She wears them in the new fashion – opaque black legs under cut-off denim shorts. All the girls dress this way, come rain or shine, their toenails poking holes into their mothers' tights.
I've begun to see my husband's category errors as a way of re-drawing the boundaries of parenting. Having shared the job with me in a genuinely egalitarian, straight-down-the-middle sort of way for the first 11 years of our daughter's life, he now, however unconsciously, seems to see our concerns forking into he-matters and she-matters. Underwear has become my domain, and now he need not think too hard about it. My own need to recalibrate my relationship to our daughter is just as pressing. But it is of a different order.
Every mother meets the paradox that the more their daughters are drawn into womanhood, the more they pull away. It is a confusing social induction that appears to obey strange magnetic rules: daughters are attracted to the adult world of women, but repelled by their actual mothers. Their resistance is primal, and fundamentally self-protective; how is a girl to acquire a distinct sense of her identity when every pubescent change in her body threatens to blend her into a confusing mélange with the woman who birthed her?
It is little wonder the father-daughter bond is often so strong – another thing that mothers must contend with. In my household, watching Star Trek re-runs and end-to-end episodes of The Simpsons are both folies à deux: as are American pancake feasts, not caring that the dog stinks, loafing in baggy T-shirts, confecting new-fangled desserts late at night, ice-skating, camping, and more. I'd be lying if I said I didn't mind being excluded, even if this all sets a reassuringly high bar for the men who might come into our daughter's life later. But I take her affinity for difference to be largely unavoidable. If a daughter is to separate properly from her mother, it stands to reason that she will cement that opposition by forging closer ties with her father.

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