A few weeks ago I was in line for the toilet at a restaurant here in London. In front of me stood a charming lady, one that I'd like to look like when I'm 50 years old, apart from having hair down to the middle of her back, something I would not even forgive a 50-year-old Beyoncé. A twentyish-year-old girl comes out of the toilet and announces, with the apocalyptic tone of Thom Yorke in Idioteque: "Oh mom, I put a roll of toilet paper in my bag! And guess what? I used the toilet paper that was in there!" "Hmmm ok, and?" my 50-year-old self would have answered. However, her mother remained silent and gave me a stuttering, "I swear I do not know why she came out with that, I've tried my best with her!" look. It was a bit like the gaze my mother gives me when she talks about a book and says: "You read it right? Or did your sister read it?" And I always answer: "My sister."
Before becoming a mother I used to notice unlikely couples: How can he be with her (and vice versa)? Now I notice unlikely children. The children that have nothing in common with their parents. Like my daughter, who always wants to put on her pajamas whenever we go out, despite having an auntie who bought her a wardrobe, the likes of which I have not managed to put together in 37 years. What do you, little girl always in pajamas, have in common with me who has never worn pajamas, not even to sleep in? You who have already earned the nickname "the terrorist," while I, as a child, was so good that people used to say that I was "born old"? What do you share with me if I smile at everyone, while you refuse to kiss the adults? If you devour lamb chops to the bone, whereas I am always told, "You've left meat on the bone that you haven't eaten!"? If you bully other children, while if I had been a bit overbearing in life, it would not have been so bad? What do you share with me if you hang off subway bars while screaming "Monkeyyyyy," when my childhood nickname was "Prudence"?
Nothing, or we might share very little. Because as Kahlil Gibran wrote: "Your children are not your children... And though they are with you, they do not belong to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you can not visit, not even in your dreams. "
So while I look for similarities and belonging in my daughter, I find differences and independence. Even more now that Mia puts her own shoes on (on the wrong feet -- on purpose), chooses clothes (pajamas) by herself, and pees in the potty by herself (only once a day, we are going for the "gradual" approach). Now that she will not let me do everything for her, now that she begins to keep things to herself. Now that she says, "My turn" and does things in her own way. Now that she has the chance (and the right) to make mistakes. "Mommy stay, stay," she tells me if I try to intervene.
I know, my fat little ball once, now a muscly little girl with the smoothest back, here we go. I think our symbiosis is over. I hated it, I loved it, I will never forget it. Now it's your turn. Surprise me, make me feel a bit ashamed like that mother at the toilet did if you need to. For now I love all that you have become.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Italy.