My mom tells me that girls are supposed to hate. We are supposed to hate our mothers when we go through puberty, because if we never did, our mothers would never, ever let us go. We would live under their roofs until the end of time, never venturing into this great big world to make the mistakes we are meant to. To explore the beauty we are supposed to. To learn and love and conquer and fail and grow. If we never turned into these monsters, these sneering, cynical beasts clothed in tight t-shirts and nightclub eyeliner, our mouths reeking of Juicy Fruit gum as we screamed at our mothers and slammed our doors, we would stay young forever. Our menses and the raging hormonal changes we experience set us free. They distance us a few seconds from our mother’s hearts so we don’t wrench them from her chest when we grow up and away.
You can buy your daughters the books. The guides to changes in their bodies, the entire Judy Blume library. You can speak to them about what to expect when their bodies start to go through puberty, you can teach them how to change a tampon, or to shave their legs or the correct dosage of Midol to take to ward off menstrual cramps. But you can never teach them the sheer insanity their bodies will be subjected to during the onslaught of hormones that accompany getting older.
Not every girl will hate her mother. Some girls will hate their mothers because of other issues, abusive or negligent mothers, mothers who can be hated for a million other reasons, other than the majority of us who just fall under the “normal mother” classification. Not every girl will experience mood swings, or PMS, or even menstrual cramps. But many will. And I can remember how it felt, the end-of-the-world heartbreak over a snide remark from a classmate, the vicious joy over a boy I liked saying “Hi” to me in the hall, the almost-drunk experience of staying up past midnight, hiding under my blankets as I gossiped with my friends, my voice hushed and secret as we unraveled all the mysteries of the universe: bra sizes and pop songs and our stupid, stupid mothers.
I always loved my mother even when I hated her, and I know my own daughter will feel the same. She will lie to me and break my heart in a million different ways, and think I know nothing about being young, about boys and clothes and school and lip gloss.
I prepare myself for this. I spend my days studying the gentle curve of her shoulder as she flops down on me, wrapping her tiny arms around my neck and breathing quiet against my face as she tells me a secret about her stuffed cat. I read an extra bedtime story, luxuriating in the moments between princesses and puberty, the clock ticking at a terrifying pace because I know these moments will soon be over. I prepare her for this and confide to her as we play dolls that one day she won’t like me very much, and that it won’t be the fault of anything other than hormonal changes in her body, biology and science. My daughter laughs and suggests we bake cookies.