My daughter likes to refer to me as “weird”. That is her favorite word among the onslaught of verbal slaughter aimed at me. Her other favorite explosions are: “Mean” and “Unfair”. Personally, I prefer the adjectives, “different”, “extravagant”, “rebellious”-even slightly confused to describe me.
“Mommy’s do not wear high heels.”
I can’t help arching my eyebrows, wondering how it is that she came to that conclusion. That, mothers are somehow exempt from exuding sexuality. That is what heels represent, isn’t it? Still I remain poised, waiting for the slur of other insults that will surely follow. Trying to portray an aura of calm, my body betrays me; I am tense, gritting my teeth and without realizing, clenching my fists. Immediately, I am on the defensive.
“Mommy’s do not have a tattoo!”
This one I didn’t expect.
My tattoo, a recent rebellion of sorts was tucked under my thick auburn mane, hidden-specifically to avoid such a scenario. My weak voice squeaks, “It’s a henna tattoo”-as though I owe her an explanation. “When you are thirty eight and in the mode of dishevelment, you can get one too!”
I am talking to her as if I was a wilted child, allowing her to think she is an equal. Or worse, that I am less than equal.
She is right to some extent. The mothers she is acquainted with are hidden in the sanctuary of sweat pants and running shoes, with barely enough time or vanity to curl lashes and apply mascara. Content in their blankets of routine. I find myself having to apologize for being outside of the box. Outside, the realm of what others may consider “normal” or “acceptable” behavior. Meanwhile, I am a role model and feel like a hypocrite in a puddle of confusion, choosing to explore myself, simultaneously as my daughter is finding herself.
As far as morality, here’s my theory: No robbing, no lying, no cheating, and no murder. Please, no murder. The ubiquitous scriptures sing in unison with those basic principles.
I have been apologizing since the day I was born. Apologizing, for the defiant curls that betrayed my Middle Eastern heritage, my parent’s foreign tongue, an odd name (that now is considered exotic-spare me!); meanwhile for the purpose of sanity, negotiating with myself that it’s okay to be different. Now, I am looking squarely at a miniature reflection of myself, apologizing. For, what?
Torn between lashing out to reprimand her and kneeling to comfort her, I am defeated by my eleven year old. Her face mangled with contempt. The words themselves are not the daggers. It is the hurt brimming in her eyes that pierces with precision, opening old wounds. It is a déjà vu of sorts forcing me to recall in my formative years, the attacks I waged against my own mother. In a disturbing time warp of sorts, I am standing in the dim lit foyer revisiting the hostility of my own youth. It is only now in adulthood, with remorse and having fallen from the throne-imposed with rigid rules and expectations, that I am humble. Less Judgmental. Still angry.
As, angry as she.
For her, it is simple: she wants a mother like everyone else’s. A mother, restrained, bound, and satisfied by the title. MOTHERHOOD. Though I proudly serve my children, I am not content with the title to complete or define me. Not all of me.
I thought that giving her silk carpets of possibility and self expression were gifts. She does not see them. She does not recognize them. She sees her mother’s recent decision to end a perfectly fine marriage as a threat to her own domain. Her sanctuary has been disturbed. Her stability. Not understanding that fine is temporary. Fine, is not necessarily good enough. Nor is it her duty to comprehend the mind of a mother who is battling turbulent times while trying to emerge as a person.
In that fragile moment, I see her.
I see my daughter as a timid child behind the façade of bravery and sassy comments. She is threatened. She is seeing her mother distance herself from the others and is afraid that all of this newness will leave her estranged, forgetting that she and her siblings are intricate, vital clots of my own soul. They are the gusts of wind that give me temporary solace.
“You are so weird, Mommy!”
I suppose I am. I want to desperately explain myself. Explain that there are days where my own shadow disturbs me because I feel unaccomplished, having merged with the rapid tides of tradition. There are hours where the even the warmth of the sun’s rays hurt me. In the minutes that tick menacingly, I feel that time has robbed me of my youth. Discovery.
Surrounded with the heat from her fury, I realize there is no way to ease her pain, other than to provide her with security. She, like me had no choice in the matter of being born. I owe her during these moments, these cracks of time, to allow her continue to believe in fairy tales-for the time being. Even as I sense the impeding hysteria of wanting to be reborn, it is not my time.
I will take off those heels. I will hide that tattoo. Not in defeat, but as a silent truce. A commitment to her to delay my own self exploration. Abandon my selfish desires. For my daughter’s sake, I will endure her next few adolescent years where I will continue to be her nemesis. I will assist her during her blossoming, at the risk of shedding a little bit of myself along the way.