Eight years ago, I was blessed with a daughter after two boys.
It was a wondrous, thrilling surprise, and my heart nearly burst when I took in her soft, feminine features for the first time. I was exhilarated and, well, terrified. I had absolutely no clue what I was up against.
The nurse in the delivery room, an elderly Sephardic woman who looked like she belonged to a previous century, whispered some Kabbalistic prayers as she swaddled my screaming infant in a pink blanket, and then pressed the baby’s still wet cheeks up against mine.
“She will be your heart and your joy,” the nurse chanted to us both in her hushed tone. “There is nothing like a daughter to her mother – she will be your very best friend and an extension of your soul.”
Those were the sweetest words, offered by the sweetest woman, in the sweetest of moments. I touched my lips to my baby’s damp forehead, and in my postpartum daze, I believed those words fully and unquestioningly.
Fast forward eight years? Let’s just say that sweet nurse only got some of it right.
Tehilla is definitely my heart and joy. Every day, I fall more in love with her enthusiasm for life, her imaginative mind, and her indomitable spirit. Her smile makes me melt, and her giggle is like music to my ears.
But I doubt she’d describe me as her best friend. I’m more like the thorn in her side.
In defiance of any genetic logic, my daughter is everything that I’m not.
If I were any good at sports, I might be described as a tomboy: shopping gives me anxiety, frills give me heartburn, and I am more prone to hashing out a good argument than having a good cry.
Tehilla is a girl’s girl. She can spend hours picking out what she’s going to wear, and she relishes a good tantrum the way I savor a good book.
In almost all areas of my life, I consider myself to be a reasonable and mature adult. But then I find myself arguing with my eight-year-old like we are both teenagers. I hear myself saying nonsensical things like, “I don’t care if we sit here for the rest of the day, but there is no way you are going to school in mismatched, polka-dot socks!”
And she’ll answer, “Ma, I know you have to go to work. There is no way you’re going to sit here all day. So just let me wear the socks or I’m going to miss the bus, and then you’re going to have to drive me.”
I’m left speechless. Stumped. By a child nearly three decades younger than I am.
So we compromise – she can wear a matching pair of polka dot socks and we can both get on with our day. But I don’t miss the gloating gleam in her eye as she marches out of the house to wait for her school bus.
And this scene repeats itself. Over and over again.
Day in and day out.
We’re constantly quibbling.
I don’t get it.
I can deal with my sons’ endless wrestling matches. I can navigate my boys’ messy rooms, their inability to find their shoes in the morning, and their desire to use my most valuable possessions as footballs or hockey pucks. I can stay calm and reasonable as I remind them to keep their hands to themselves, and their fingers out of their food.
But when my daughter begins to whine about absolutely needing a new headband to match her knapsack, my defenses go up and my brain turns to mush.
In a wonderful bit of irony, my mother gets a kick out of my befuddlement in trying to raise my daughter. It might just be because, in many ways, my mother and I are opposites too. And many of the battles I am waging with my daughter now were waged in the reverse, back when I was a kid and a thorn in my mother’s side.
My mother was a girl’s girl, and I was the daughter who didn’t want to wear the pretty headband.
Maybe genetics aren’t so strange after all. Maaseh avos siman l’banim – maybe I was the one who paved the path Tehilla so gleefully walks today.
The one consolation I have is that my mother and I get along quite well now, baruch Hashem. We can laugh about how different we are and accept that we don’t need be the same to love and respect each other.
So there’s hope.
All I can do is ask for the siyata d’shmaya to get some of this parenting stuff right, even if my daughter tells me I’m doing it all wrong.
I can only daven that one day Tehilla will be a mother herself and know, beyond any doubt, that every mistake I ever made was made out of love for her – the wonderfully independent, adorable, and exasperating girl she is.