I sat down to write this piece many months ago, after my daughter and I were coming off a particularly nasty and heated exchange from the night before. I think it all started over a pair of pants. Why do we argue about pants so often in my house? It quickly escalated and left me exhausted and in tears. I cried myself to sleep that night as I replayed every terrible moment. I had handled it well in front of her, but I was left feeling broken and saddened by this new type of interaction that was starting to become familiar.
I assumed this future blog entry would be funny like most of the others. It was going to involve tequila shots, ideas for posting embarrassing baby photos, and suggestions as to what you might yell out the window in the carpool line at drop off. What came out instead took me by complete surprise. Instead of the jokes and playful humor I was so comfortable with sharing, I found I had listed things I had actually done over the last year to regroup and to don my armor for the next battle.
Thirteen Things To Do When Your Daughter Hates You
“Mom, I have mixed feelings about your personality.” I’ll never forget the day my then twelve-year-old daughter dropped that statement on me in a light-hearted moment. That short sentence described precisely how I had felt about her as she began to regularly test the boundaries of the mother/daughter bond.
Raising a girl who is becoming a teenager is completely new territory for me. It is one of my greatest joys, and it also breaks me on a regular basis. Untangled, in my opinion, one of the best guides to supporting girls through their adolescence journey, describes one of my jobs as being the safety wall she can push off of from time to time as she swims into new waters. As her wall, she can even grab onto me for a moment while she catches her breath after a long swim out in her world. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I am actually the floor and not the wall. I am the thing she stomps on when everything seems unfair or too much to bear. I also provide balance when her footing isn’t completely stable. The floor is always beneath her for support, and, although she doesn’t appreciate the floor, she knows it is always there.
This girl of mine has fire. The fire of a young lady finding her way burns with an incredible heat. This fire is a wonderful gift, and I will never attempt to extinguish it completely. There is such beauty in the power of fire. It can protect you from the cold world around you. It can also help you find your way in darkness. Sometimes fire can signal to others exactly where you can be found. I like that kind of self-protection for her. Internal fire is indeed a great thing for every girl to have. The frightening thing about fire is that, when you don’t understand it, or when you use it carelessly, it can spread out of control. Without boundaries, it can destroy everything in its sight and cause great pain. The fire of a girl finding her way can do all of these things, too.
My dear child, you can show me your fire. Sometimes it is so beautiful that I secretly admire it; other times, it hurts me deeply. But I can promise you this: No matter how many times I feel the burn of your powerful flames, I will never stop loving you. My love for you will always heal the temporary wounds from your careless words and is stronger than any inferno that you have inside. When the pain is starting to overtake me, I will find healthy ways to recover and get back to you so we can heal, learn, and move forward together. I’ve embraced my role as your fire marshal, but I’ve had to create ways to take care of myself to keep both of us emotionally safe. Prayer is a given in my parenting world. I always place you there. I’ve also found several options for the self-care that’s needed for my new role. Maybe someone else needs some encouragement and a little help with this, too. You and I are not alone in these exchanges. From what I understand, we are but two among many.
Here are thirteen things to do when your daughter hates you:
- When she is away from home, go into her room and lay in her bed. Hug her pillow the way you wish she would let you hug her. Take in her scent and surroundings and know it will get better.
- Walk outside, close your eyes, and let the sun shine on your face and brighten you from the outside in. Breathe deeply and slowly until you feel yourself coming down from the pain of a negative interaction. If it is cloudy or raining, say a cuss word of your choosing, go back in, and try it again tomorrow. At least you got a little fresh air.
- Listen closely to her cranky words filled with whine and woe. While the feelings now have words, realize she expressed these same emotions as a sobbing toddler who hopefully got a hug and some reassurance with your kind and patient ways. Can you offer that again?
- Go into the shower and cry harder than Meryl Streep on the big screen. Let the tears running down your face serve as the cathartic release of the pain you feel in your heart. Catch your breath and center yourself knowing you might have to go right back into battle, but you’ve got this.
- Look at old photos of her that bring back memories of some of your most loving and joyful moments. Keep looking until you come across the one that makes you smile or laugh out loud.
- Talk to someone who has already been through this and can handle seeing the worst version of your ugly, snot-filled cry face. She will understand. If for some reason she doesn’t, keep looking for that someone. She is out there, and she will help.
- Picture your daughter as a professional, adult woman using all this fight and fire in a boardroom or courtroom. Imagine how unstoppable she will be.
- Make her favorite dinner or dessert without a reason or an announcement. Make sure it is her – and only her – undeniable, absolute favorite and that it required some effort on your part. Perhaps she will say she isn’t hungry and sneak a bite later. Be prepared for her to say nothing, but know she will enjoy every bite made from your loving hands.
- Quickly kiss her on the head as you walk by her, knowing there is a good chance she will wipe it off or say “Gross!” and that those words don’t matter.
- Pretend you are her raising your granddaughter. What would you hope she would do in this interaction with your future grandchild? Surely you have a new approach when thinking of it this way.
- Allow her to see your struggles, fears, and stress. Also let her see you work your way through it healthily. Share the vulnerable side of your life.
- What is your guilty pleasure? Chocolate? Doughnuts? A good red wine? Treat yourself to two, and don’t feel guilty about it!
- Leave a note on her bed that says, “I love you with all my heart.” These are simple but powerful words you save for a precious few. Prepare yourself to find it on the floor or in the trashcan, and leave it on the bed anyway.
Being her fire marshal is a thankless job, but it is one of the most important I will ever have. I’ll complete my term and then hand my badge, my empathy, and my time to another parent who takes on the same position. Thank you to all the women who are doing the same for me. When I retire from my fire marshal role, I’ll find other ways to spend my time. I hope much of it is time spent in joyful moments with the fabulous young woman whom I will always be proud to call daughter.