His hand moves down the back of my neck.
I feel his caress linger in places that make my skin jump as his palm trails down my side.
Momentarily, I’m more inside of my body—feeling the rhythm of my heartbeat and breath—than I’m typically capable of during even my best days on my yoga mat.
I feel my breath catch when he takes his hand away from me—so that he can catch her as she’s about to fall.
I watch the steadiness come back into her own breath once she realizes that her daddy is there—by her side—making her feel safe again.
I let out the slow exhale that has temporarily stalled, both at my instant reaction to her near thud and to my own disappointment at our brief—but warm—touching.
I’m moved by his dedication to her.
I’m also reminded of when it was me who housed the majority of this attention, and I recognize that the difficulty of such a critical transition is most likely what leads to mother-daughter jealousy and unnecessary but bitter—and often subconscious—mother-daughter battles.
I’m glad that I’m not envious of my daughter.
Surely, I admire her.
I admire her easy charm and her winning smiles. I admire, too, the assertiveness with which she reminds me that I have to share this man I’ve married, and then generously gifted to her.
She lets me know that we do, indeed share him, when she comes up and wraps her arms around his neck while I’m hugging his waist.
She suggests this, also, when she climbs in between us on the couch—or, rather, up onto his lap where my head had been resting.
More, she tells me—sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly—that part of this bargain of the joys of motherhood—especially when mothering a female child—is to never insist on being number one or, at the very least, his only number one, when you’re parenting a daughter with a man.
A daughter whispers—albeit silently—things like this:
Yes, don’t forget that you’re his wife.
Please continue wearing pretty clothing for him and, for the love of God, change out of your yoga pants before he comes home from work.
Please kiss him, tenderly, lovingly—brazenly—but be mindful that I’m watching too.
Hold his hand when you’re walking with him or driving side-by-side in the car—but turn and smile back at me or hold my hand as well.
Be kind to him so that I know you love him—and so that I see what love should look like and what I can aim for myself.
Go out with him—be a couple—but come home to me and always kiss me goodnight.
Encourage him to be patient with me and to talk with me, even if it’s an uncomfortable subject for him to address. This helps me learn how to open up and share my thoughts and needs with others.
Be sexy and womanly. Wear things that make you feel special and sassy, but don’t degrade yourself and do things that make you uncomfortable in order to please someone else. I want to know that sex is a positive experience and something meant for me to enjoy too.
Don’t treat me like I’m your equal when I’m young. I’m not. I’m your child and I need a mommy. However, remind daddy as I grow older that I might always be his little girl, but that it’s okay for me to also be a woman. This will help me be proud of—and comfortable with—my developing body and, further, this shows me that I can lean on you when I need to (because I will).
Remember these things and, above all else, don’t forget, Mommy, that I am not you. Please try your hardest to avoid caring for me through the experiences of your own youth. I’m an individual and I want to grow into my best self, not yours or your ideal version of me.
On the other hand, sharing your own experiences with me let’s me know that I can share mine with you as my life unfolds.
So, Mom, help my daddy understand my wants and wishes because I need you to be on my side—but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also be on his. Because that’s another thing.
It’s alright for you two to argue, as long as it’s civil and courteous and as long as I see you resolve it healthfully—this helps me see that I can expect bumps on a relationship’s road, but that this doesn’t mean things won’t and can’t work out. Still, I don’t want to see you fight—I’ll think it’s my fault and this hurts me more than you know. (Remember that some things should be done behind closed doors, when I can’t see.)
Oh—and one more thing—I love you.
Love, Your Daughter
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: juleeln via Flickr, author’s own.