The relationship between mother and daughter is a complicated one. It can be as strong and as heart-warming as between kindred spirits, or as full of anxiety and jealousy as between long-suffering neighbors. Or it can be both on the same day. Mothers and daughters compete, cry, share, love, and laugh. Daughters carry the burden of expectations, and mothers carry the guilt of every choice they make. Daughters test boundaries and think that they know everything, until they don't. Mothers create drama and pretend to know everything, until they can't. The love is always there, but the relationship can be difficult. As my mother used to say sometimes, "I will always love you, but I don't particularly like you right now."
My Mom is beautiful. She is strong and loving. She adores my children, supports me no matter what, and respects my husband as her own son. I love her. But even though I see more and more of my mother in myself the further I go in this parenting journey, there is still one aspect of our relationship that needs some work. We can talk, we can laugh, but we cannot watch TV together.
Mom enjoys crime dramas, British mini-series from the 70's, and black-and-white movies. I enjoy "cynical" comedies (according to Netflix), aliens, and anything by the Coen brothers or Quentin Tarantino. She watches CSI. I watch culinary competition shows. She loves Westerns and Olivia de Havilland. I fell off my seat laughing when I saw "Ted". We are complete opposites. There's always a bit of tension when Mom is visiting, the Little Badgers are in bed, and we're sitting downstairs trying to decide what to watch. I can't help looking bored at her choices, and she looks tragically disappointed in my suggestions. I sit there stewing that she doesn't "get" me, and she seems annoyed when I say that Loretta Young reminds me of Angelina Jolie. Does my inability to relate to her in this way mean that I don't understand a fundamental part of who she is? And vice versa?
From the perspective of a child, so much of a mother's life lies beneath the surface. We "know" our mothers from the moment of our conception, but what about the decades before? This really hit home the other day as I was cleaning out some old boxes. I found mementos, books, writings, pictures, all from my life before I had my children. That life was both fundamentally different from who I am now, but also the foundation of who I've become, the mother my children know. How can I tell them of my journey, of the evolution of my likes and dislikes, of successes and failures and my own inside jokes if we don't share some common ground? Sharing a bowl of popcorn and relaxing while watching something funny, or joyful, or sad, and talking is something I look forward to with my own daughter. It's a way in, an ice-breaker. What do I do if she rolls her eyes every time I have the remote?
I wonder how much of this is both of us, my mother and I, being stubborn. Or maybe this is a last stand, decades of mother-daughter battles condensing into a single issue. I want to find common ground with my Mom. I want her to understand why I find movies hilarious, or touching, or scary. They speak to my sense of humor now, to where I've been in my life. They speak to how I've changed from childhood. I've found my own voice, my own likes, and I want her to acknowledge that. I want her to acknowledge the part of me that I've discovered all on my own. And as I write this, I consider that perhaps she feels the same way. Perhaps she wants me to know why she loves "The Enemy Down Below", or "The Heiress". Maybe these movies speak to a part of her that I've never acknowledged; a part that she discovered on her own. Maybe she wants me to understand her life, her voice, in a similar way.
Such a seemingly silly, and inevitable, argument may, in fact, be an important catalyst. But it may not be as simple as just watching something new. I think that the real sharing will be found in the conversations that should be had, will be had, while sharing that bowl of popcorn. We just need to open up.
What a beautiful post and picture! Thanks, Laura! You can read more of her wonderful thoughts on her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.