I look at my daughter and a feeling gushes up inside of me, a little emotional oxymoron that I’ve felt so many times before but always surprises me nonetheless. I marvel at my creation, this complicated soul that is simultaneously so delicate and strong. I marvel, and then I am saddened.
She is laughing now -she was always able to amuse herself- so I know it’s a good day. I can see that twinkle in her eye, I can hear the wit tumbling off her tongue. It’s a good day.
But still I can see the shadows in her eyes. Behind the smile, I know that floods of doubts are waiting to fall. I don’t want this for her. I want her to be free, for happiness to come to her more easily, for her to see what everyone else sees all the time.
Yesterday I said to her, “Why are you always alone?”
And she adopted the casual tone she always adopts when talking about relationships, and she said what she always says, “What’s the point?”
It is scary to hear such resignation from someone so young. Yet, I get it, I do. She is so intense. Too intense for most of them. Men are drawn to her passion but few can match it. She is so stubborn and self-sufficient that men pale next to her, by default, because she doesn’t need them. I raised her to be independent. Perhaps I was too successful.
She was always like that though. I remember when she was five, a precocious, polite, dainty little thing that asked question after question for which we didn’t have answers because they weren’t the usual questions: why is the sky blue? where do babies come from?
We would get phone calls from her kindergarten teachers who said things like, we just thought you might like to know that your daughter was wondering whether Eve, of Adam and Eve, engaged in incestuous activities with her sons seeing as they were the only people around. And invariably someone would shake their head and say: she’s an old soul; this one’s going to be trouble.
And here she is now, twenty years later, trouble, but the good kind, with eyes too innocent and yet too wise for her age. I ache for her, for this daughter of mine that is so fierce and sensitive. For this daughter that is so full of love that she bursts. There is only so much intimacy she can find in family and friends. She doesn’t quite realise this yet. She doesn’t know how much she has to give. She doesn’t realise how scared she is to love. All she knows is that she is always fighting her battles alone. With me, yes, and everybody else that loves her, but ultimately by herself, time and time again, not knowing what it’s like to have someone who is yours and only yours there next to you. Someone who will pick up a sword and fight with you without being asked.
For I know that is what she would do. I see her give herself to everyone else every day. To the world she is soft, full of forgiveness, but when it comes to herself she is harsh. Her standards are relentless. Her ideals are astronomical. Then I guess I know why she is always alone. It makes sense that she should have the same expectations of her partner. If she can expect so much from herself, why not expect it from someone else?
I say, ”Darling, I admire you.”
She stops licking the whipped cream and looks up, suspicion written all over her face: her eyes are squinting in curiousity and pride. She is thinking, What will she say? …Not that I care.
She says, ”What did I do this time?”
I smile. “I know sometimes I go on about wanting you to find someone but, really, I admire the fact that you stand your ground, that you don’t date for the sake of it.”
She shrugs. “Mum, the problem is that I know exactly what I want, and that’s why it’s going to be so much harder to find.”
Twenty years later… still precocious, still proud, still passionate… and that much wiser…