by Leslie Morgan Steiner
You’re Grounded Forever, But First…Let’s Go Shopping .
Do you understand the gist of this book simply by reading the title?
I assumed I did. And then, if there was any doubt, the subtitle cleared it all up: The Challenges Mothers Face With Their Daughters.
The author, Susan Shapiro Barash, writes smart, insightful books exclusively about women. She’s got a knack for apt titles: Tripping the Prom Queen (inter-female jealousy), Toxic Friends (abusive female friendships), and others exploring sisters, female infidelity, and marriage. She also teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College. I recently had the pleasure of being on Michel Martin’s National Public Radio show, Tell Me More, to discuss mothers and daughters  with Susan Shapiro Barash.
I like Susan’s work tremendously. Almost as much as I like her catchy titles. So I didn’t expect to be surprised by her book.
But I was.
Here’s the revelation that up-ended me: her research showed that women are afraid of their daughters. At first I thought sure – me too – I’m afraid of my daughter every day.
She’s a great kid, but one of those that embodies Plutarch’s quote, “The wildest colts make the best horses.” I’m afraid that my daughter will scream and pout in the morning because I might have woken her up “wrong.” I’m afraid that at 7:08 she will start bugging me because I’m taking too long grinding my coffee and I’m going to make her late for school (school is 10 minutes away and doesn’t start until 8:10). I worry she is going to yell at me, slam doors, tell me she hates me, and that she’s getting her own apartment in Manhattan (she’s eleven and we live in Washington, DC). My daughter has threatened, pushed and bossed me since she learned to talk nine years ago. She regularly raises her palm inches from my face and says things like, “Mom, calm down. YOU need to listen to ME.” I’m used to her attitude, her vociferous volume, and the hand gestures that make me grind me teeth in frustration that occasionally verges on rage.
Frankly I don’t pay attention to any of it. If a day passes that she’s not screaming at me, it’s probably because she has food poisoning or I’m on a business trip 500 miles out of range.
But no, Susan’s book was not about THAT kind of afraid.
Turns out that other women are afraid every day – of their teenage daughters not liking them.
Hence the need to take them shopping after grounding them.
I get it now.
However, having lived for 11 years with a daughter who hates me, I have some advice for these moms. Don’t take your daughter shopping, buy her a new cell phone, take her out for hair extensions or a pedicure, unground her, or whatever you are tempted to do when she can’t stand you.
As moms, we are our daughter’s worst nightmare. This is the natural world order. We are also her interpreter, guide, mentor and role model into the complex world of womanhood, female sexuality, love/hate relationships, date rape, tampons, female friendships, ambition, the gender pay gap, hormones and motherhood. It’s hard enough to be all that, while also being her friend.
My daughter doesn’t like me. I am at utterly at peace with this. Some days it feels like a COMPLIMENT that she doesn’t like me. Since when are daughters supposed to like their mothers? I didn’t like mine, on many days, for many years, for the better part of a decade from age 11 to 21 when I came to my senses.
As a teenager, I hated the gray hair that she refused to dye black like the other moms. I hated the folksy peasant skirts she wore to teach her special education students. I hated that she had special education students. I didn’t like the look or feel of her skin or how she smelled. I couldn’t stand it when I answered the phone and people thought my voice was….ugghhh…HERS. Most of all, I hated it when she had too much to drink, which was too often.
Now that she is dead, she’s much easier to take. But even so, some days I still don’t like her.
However, even when I hated her, I loved her. My life would have been ruined if she’d died when I was 13. It was far better that she died earlier this year when I was 45, safely ensconced in adulthood.
My 11-going-on-29-year-old daughter loves me in exactly the same way. Even when she hates me. I’m the only mom she’s got. I’m not replaceable. Neither are you – and herein lies our power. So sure, some days I’m afraid my plane will crash. Or that nutty old man across the alley will squish me against my garage door with his Oldsmobile. I’m afraid, because what would my daughter do THEN? Who would she have to hate then?
But I’m never afraid of her not liking me. Because she doesn’t. And that’s fine. She can go shopping with someone else.
Purchase You’re Grounded Forever, But First…Let’s Go Shopping .