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Kerry Lyons Headshot

The Mother-Daughter Relationship: Complex at Age 5?

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Courtesy of Kerry Lyons
Courtesy of Kerry Lyons

Our firstborn was a boy. Our second was a girl. We were thrilled. And then we went for no. 3 and got three more -- I naturally conceived identical triplet boys. Making that sweet baby girl (for she was still a baby, she turned 2 just four days before our triplets were born) a true princess. That's what people tell her, anyway.

"Aren't you a lucky girl?" they remark, going on to say "All those brothers! You'll be well looked after!" Or perhaps, "Ah, the only girl among four brothers. Your mom is so lucky to have you! You girls need to stick together!"

Here's the thing though. She's only 5 and we're already far more prone to fight it out than stick together. In fact, when she was only 3, she told me quite assertively: "I will never like what you want me to wear. Never ever in my whole life!" Really? Never ever in her whole life? Geez, what's a mom to do?

I didn't have the best relationship with my Mom while growing up. It would be diplomatic to call it turbulent. Charged. Tense. Thankfully, things have changed. But since we had a lot of rough years, my relationship with my daughter has been a concern since day one. And that concern grew when she found her voice -- an authoritative little voice that confidently said "NO!" or "Do it self!" This little lady was born with a strong-willed streak that is both familiar and frightening; this little lady is no wallflower. She is vocal. She is opinionated. She is strong. Just as we want our daughters to be. Except, of course, when they disagree with us. Which, of course, is often.

If I suggest this, she wants that. If I zig, she zags. All of which leaves me to wonder: How am I supposed to "stick together" with a little girl who is determined to go the other way -- both literally and figuratively?

We have already spent far too much time arguing over the silliest of things. Things like, "wear those shoes" or "not that shirt" and, much to my horror, "you're not going out in that, are you?!" During a recent such exchange, it dawned on me that my daughter is her own little woman; she is not a mini-me. She is not all matchy-matchy or girly-girly. She has opinions of her own and simply does not like the same things I do -- which perhaps isn't all that surprising, given that I am 40 and she is 5!

On a recent "girls day out," I hoped to take her to an old-fashioned ice cream parlor so we could sit side-by-side licking mint-chip cones with sprinkles -- perhaps as bluebirds sang and butterflies floated by. What a fantasy. She had something else in mind; she wanted a processed, frozen pink sundae from the deli around the corner. No bluebirds, no butterflies, no sprinkles. After a heated debate, I succumbed -- and sulked as my mint-chip dreams melted away.

We then went to get our nails done. I handed her a few shades of pink, which she instantly dismissed and reached instead for bright blue and neon green -- a different color for each hand, topped off with a coat of glitter polish. I could feel my own mom cringing in another state as my little lady flaunted her nightclub-ready nails. And that's when it hit me again. This time, it stuck.

My little girl has a mind of her own. And she plans to use it. And I may not always like it. Just as my own mother didn't always like the choices I made. We fought. We battled. We cried. I screamed hurtful words. "I hate you!" I said, thinking I meant it at the time.

My wish -- my dream -- for my daughter is that we will do a better job navigating the rocky road of the mother-daughter relationship. That even if she hates the clothes I choose, that she will never actually hate me. And if -- or perhaps more realistically, when -- that day of teen-fueled angst and hatred should eventually come, that it will pass quickly. Very quickly.

I hope that as my daughter grows, I will be wise enough to hold my tongue and strong enough to let her go; that I will support her, not stifle her; that I will trust her and have faith in her. Most of all, I hope I will be smart enough to recognize that any young lady with a strong sense of self at the tender age of 5 is bound to one day be a wise, confident young woman. If only her mother will let her true colors shine through -- bright blue, neon green or otherwise!