My daughter recently informed me that she is moving out next year. Apparently, she and her boyfriend (they have been together since high school) are finally building their house. Yippee! Happy dance and all that, because it’s time. It’s been time for the last 12 months.
Christmas last year was a particularly turbulent time, and while we have recovered our relationship somewhat, I still feel that she has no idea who I am and what makes me tick and therefore treats me with a certain amount of dismissive disdain. I’m that nagging person with the annoying, raised voice who is not much fun to live with.
But she’s not much fun to live with either.
Picture this: I’m in bed, cuddled up with Bella Kitteh, engrossed in watching Mad Men or Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones. Daughter arrives home, and for some reason, she can’t enter our apartment quietly. She bangs and crashes, and then goes up to her room and bangs and crashes some more in there. She might decide that she wants something to eat and bangs and crashes her way around the kitchen. Of course, I yell out: Shush! and she gets all cranky and outraged because How Dare I Interrupt The Very Serious Business Of Banging And Crashing Around The Apartment? Don’t I know who she is?
Of course, I realise that I haven’t had to deal with crazy shit like other parents. I am lucky in that regard. No drug or alcohol abuse, no smoking, no teen pregnancy. The things that get up my nose aren’t really major things. They are minor and niggling and really quite trivial. But they get up my nose, none the less. And get up my nose they do.
Things I won’t miss when my daughter moves out
- Having to restack the dishwasher because she didn’t stack it properly in the first place
- Having to ask her to unstack it after its gone through its cycle
- The piles and piles of her plastic and cooking stuff on the dish rack
- A smelly house for 24 hours after she cooked and burned (although she swears she didn’t) salmon or chicken or steak
- The amount of noise she makes when she gets home (and I’m trying to watch TV)
- Reminding her that I’ve paid a bill and she needs to pay her share, and checking my account because it’s not there and I’ve had to chase it up
- Clothes left for days in the washing machine/on the washing line/on the clothes horse in front of the heater
- Shoes left for days in the lounge room
- Cleaning out the refrigerator because a) her milk leaked everywhere and b) her food has gone off
- An overcrowded pantry (from all her cooking stuff)
- A messy saucepans/plastic cupboard (from all her cooking stuff)
- A messy utensils drawer (from all her cooking stuff)
- A messy kitchen counter (from all her coffee stuff and recipe books)
- Having to tell her to turn her TV down because she has it up so freaking LOUD!
- Her hair blocking the drains in the bathroom
- A huge grease blob on the driveway from oil leaking from her car
- Blindness to things that need cleaning or dusting or sweeping
- Having to nag her to contribute to cleaning chores
- Blindness to the kitchen bin that needs emptying
- Having to nag her to empty the kitchen bin
- Empty bottles or containers that are too big or bulky to go in the kitchen bin that she leaves on the counter
- The big bin not being put out for rubbish day
- The big bin not brought in after it’s been emptied on rubbish day.
Things I will miss when my daughter moves out
- Having a housesitter on tap to look after Bella and my garden when I go overseas
- Her grumpy demeanour in the morning, which is slightly hilarious (but also slightly annoying)
- The “show and tell” when she buys new clothes and shoes
- The Nutella Rocky Road and other various goodies that she makes
- Going out for impromptu breakfasts
- Her company, not that she’s home much, and not that we talk about that much either
- Her late night texts (which I often get in the morning) telling me she’s sleeping at her boyfriend’s
- Her early evening texts telling me to leave the light on because she’ll be home soon
- Her fashion parades when she’s working out what to wear somewhere
- Her asking for my advice on what she should wear somewhere, which she often ignores
- Her taking me to the airport (and often just dropping me off) when I go overseas
- The hip hop/gangsta music she plays in her car whenever she takes me anywhere
- Her beautiful eyes and lovely smile
- Her teasing, joking, crazy sense of humour
- Birthday and Christmas mornings, where we swap presents and Easter morning, when we give each other chocolate
- Her hugs, not that I get many of those these days.
I have heard it said that once daughters get to a certain age, their relationship with their mother becomes quite volatile and tense. It’s like it’s a fight to death over territory. I don’t know about that. I moved out of my family home at 17, moved back again briefly at 19, then moved to a different town at 21. My relationship with my mother was always fraught. I battled to be noticed, accepted and loved by her. In the end it was a battle that I lost, and I haven’t spoken to my mother for many years.
I wanted my relationship with my own daughter to be different to the one I had with my own mother. Where I experienced instability and violence growing up, my daughter has had stability and peace. She hasn’t had to deal with fathers and step-fathers ebbing and flowing in her life, nor having to move house every few years as fathers and step-fathers ebbed rather than flowed. I wanted my daughter to know that she was loved, and to be told by me regularly that she was loved. It was something that I didn’t feel and rarely, if ever, heard from my mother.
Our relationship is very different from the one I imagined we would have. From an early age, she found other people more interesting than me. She enjoyed time spent with others more than time spent with me, and this has continued into her adult life and to a greater extent. Her boyfriend’s family, and his extended family are her priority. At times I feel sad and a little jealous about this reality. At other times, I am grateful that she has surrounded herself with lovely people (and her boyfriend and his family are lovely people) who adore her. And she adores them. While she doesn’t say it, I get the feeling that she doesn’t adore me quite so much.
Because the sad truth is: I would have killed to have a mother like me. Someone who was interested in what I was doing and who wanted to spend time with me and wanted me around (yes, I realise the irony of this sentence in the context of this post). Someone who cared about what I was up to, but gave me the freedom to explore life on my own terms. Someone who recognised my talents, and encouraged me to achieve and follow my passions. I think I did this for my daughter, not perfectly mind you, but well enough. I don’t think she understands the effort required on my part to break our unfortunately family pattern, and that her life could have turned out quite differently.
So I think The things I won’t miss when my daughter moves out is a statement about our relationship overall. I feel, in many respects, taken for granted and invisible, that she hasn’t invested in our relationship the way she’s invested in the relationship she has with her boyfriend and his family, who have become her de facto family. That she doesn’t really care about me and my feelings that much. That I am just an inconvenient obstacle that she’s had to endure while she is waiting for the rest of her life to unfold.
I hope this changes, and I am assured by younger females I know that it will. That moving out is necessary for her growth, for understanding, for empathy. That she will view me differently when she is older and has her own children.
I can wait.