Friday, December 14, 2007

Of Mothers And Daughters

Although I'm in the thick of it, for obvious reasons, the whole divorce situation is also a mammoth learning experience for me and those around me. Not a learning experience that I have any desire to repeat but one that exists nonetheless.

I've got two daughters, most of the regulars here will know that. They're scary, young and I love them to bits and I know that they find things trying and hard at times. If I ever feel sorry for myself, which does happen quite a bit, I think of how it must feel for them and that always knocks me back to Earth and helps to put things in perspective.

The dynamics of a nuclear family is something I've never paid a whole lot of attention to until this year. I've just accepted it and got on with life. But this year I've been thinking and trying to learn about the relationships and the interactions, mostly to try to help the girls through this difficult time. I've always been a fan of all those self help books and this year the Rhythmic bookshelf has not only moved to a different house but also been swelled by the addition of about three hundred and forty seven books on how to be a divorced Dad and all sorts of related topics.

One of the biggest discoveries is the way in which I, and their mother, have to try and play the roles of both parents when we have time with the girls. Although I get far less time with them than I used to I now have to try and cram much more into that time. No longer am I the father figure in a household where there's a mother figure too. Instead I'm a bit of both.

Yet, as I've tried to evolve into this new way of behaving I've observed that I can do many of the functional things. I can try to cook, not that I'm saying it's a mother's role, just that's how the things used to be. I've even tried to talk about periods and "women's" things. Admittedly that was possibly the most squirm inducing conversation I've ever had, probably for all parties too, but I tried and can still remember the looks on the girls' faces. But there are some motherly roles that I find very hard to fill. Dustin Hoffman may have been able to do it but we all have different skills. I bet he's pretty crap on the drums for a start.

I've realised in a short space of time that the relationship between a mother and a daughter is a unique and special one. Out of all the combinations of parent and child I think the mother / daughter one is the most fluid and seamless, maybe even the one with the strongest bond.

I've got two brothers, both of whom you know; Academic and Music Biz, we have no sisters, thank god. The dynamics of my nuclear family there are very man centred for obvious reasons. But the relationship between a father and his sons is wholly different to the mother / daughter one. We joke, we talk about cars, about music and often very flippant things. It's not that we're not close, we're just differently programmed.

Over the years I've noticed that mother / daughter relationships (let's call them MDRs) are a combination of friendship and sistership as well as parent/child.

I was in Kingston on Saturday taking the girls Christmas shopping MDRs were bombarding me from every direction. At each corner there was a MD out doing Christmas shopping. Me and the girls were happy as Larry but our conversation was largely built around

"What time shall we meet?" "what did you buy?" and "Dad can I have some more money?"

Yet each MDR was laughing and joking and chatting quite happily as if the shopping was merely a minor distraction that had to be done whilst talking and hanging. I was standing outside New Look, a girl's clothing shop that has become our regular meeting place, waiting for the girls who were late as usual.

As I stood there and watched pass by I saw a MD come out of the shop laden with bags. They were clearly enjoying the moment but, as they got out of the shop, they stoppped in their tracks. They both lifted their feet and took off their shoes, then swapped so that each was wearing the pair that the other was wearing, then walked off without a care in the world.

I was amazed and puzzled. Puzzled because I couldn't figure out why they had done. Amazed because if it had been my Dad suggesting it to me I would have first looked at him in total bewilderment, then asked him what the hell he was doing in women's shoes.

It just wouldn't have happened between a father and a son but, although puzzling, it looked very natural for an MD and they evidently didn't care what anyone else might have thought. To be fair they may have thought differently had they known that their behaviour would be splattered over the Sri Lankan blogosphere a few days later.

Us men don't talk to our parents in the way that girls communicate with their mothers. Ravana's post here on telling his mother about his blog made me laugh heartily. His description of his mother talking "at" him was not just a perfect narrative of a Sri Lankan mother and son relationship. No, it described every mother and son relationship that has ever existed.

If Ravana was a girl his mother, or her mother, would talk to him rather than at him. He (she) would go there every Sunday and they would have joyous conversations about everything that's happening in their lives. They'd laugh and bond and joke and listen.

Father and sons just exist in a happy state of equilibrium really. We get on, we joke and laugh but it's so different to an MDR. The father and daughter situation, one which I know well, is special in another different way.

We're almost like some sort of father figure to a daughter. We sort of hang around in the background and do a lot of watching from the sidelines, ever ready to run onto the pitch and sort things out but usually not until we're asked. We're often fixers and facilitators more than everyday operators.

Now I'm rapidly finding out more about the everyday operator's role, though not everyday.

It's an intriguing and steep learning curve.


Supun said...

Its so great to hear your interpretation of being divorced. How did you relationship break? Where there any things that occurred which made it end? Couldnt you remember the reason why both of you married each other in the first place? Why not try for the girls' sake?

confab said...

my family structure is much like urs. i've got 2 bros. between father and son or brothers we may joke, laugh and stuff. but i wouldn't say we have a seamless bond as u describe MDRs. ur right, MDRs are on another level. For some reason it can never be achieved when there's a man involved.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Supun - Thanks for the compliment. With regards to your questions they're things that I prefer to remain private to be honest. I'm happy to talk about that sort of stuff with friends and family but not comfortable with putting it out on the blogosphere for all to see.

Whenever I mention my divorce related stuff on this blog I try to only talk about my own thoughts, those that the girls wouldn't be offended about if they saw them in years to come. I hope you understand.

Darwin said...

I think that's a smart choice because if you start wearing your heart on your sleeve publicly on a blog, especially a blog that lotsa SL folk read, you're only going to end up regretting it. Not only would you be airing dirty laundry in public, you'd also have to justify your personal choices to morons who have no clue about the situation but yet pass their judgment on your choices i.e. 'divorce is wrong why not try to stay together for the kids sake' school-of-thought types.

My family structure is just me, my mom, my dad. Needless to say that makes us all very very close to each other:) said...

Dustin Hoffman plays the bongo drums.

Indyana said...

Despite being in a MDR ,as you put it, I'm sadly not doing it too well! I think it's a result of trying so hard to change myself to be a mother of boys,when my daughter finally came along I had already unlearned the delicate skills of mothering a girl!So don't beat yourself about it!I'm sure the fact that you will always be there for your girls will send them the right signals, and they will see you as a pillar of strength for life...I hope!That's what dad's are really!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Ravana - Damn, I didn't know that.

Indyana - I'm really not beating myself up about it, just observing how the relationships are different. Drawing that line between trying to play both roles when the girls are with me and accepting that there are things a Dad just won't be able to do is interesting and trying though.

Undivine Intervention said...

Divorces are tough! Hang in there! Anyway I stumbled upon this blog by chance...and you write very well :) an entertaining blog at last. Err...that's not to say I find your life funny or anything. Just entertaining. Bloody hell...Why do my my compliments always sound so insulting!?

Undivine Intervention said...

Divorces are tough! Hang in there! Anyhoo, moving on, I stumbled upon this blog by chance and I must say it's nice to find one that's entertaining, for a change! Er..that's not to say I find your life funny or anything. Just entertaining.Bloody hell. Why do my compliments always sound like insults?
Either way, coming from a "family" and being very much in the same position that your kids are now, all I can say is good luck, I suppose. To your kids, I mean.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Undivine Intervention - Thanks for the compliments, feel free to pop in here and look around, I like some of your poetry too.

Mia said...

“his mother talking "at" him was not just a perfect narrative of a Sri Lankan mother and son relationship. No, it described every mother and son relationship that has ever existed”

What generalisation!

I have a son with whom I can sit and have a conversation. I never talk ‘at’ him because there is no need to do that. When we sit down to have a conversation he shows interest, listens and asks questions. I am not in a position to relate how other mother/son relationships are but mine definitely isn’t as you claimed all relationships to be.

My daughter on the other hand does not care what I do nor does she listen when I tell about my days' events. She is fully absorbed in her life and when we do have a conversation I can see from her facial expressions that she is tolerantly waiting for me to stop so she can tell about her doings.

I travelled to SL by myself once and every time I called them, my son asked things like “how is SL, mum?” “How are you mum?” “Don’t go to Tiger areas, mum” “You stay safe, mum” and such. I had to drag out how his day was and what he has been up to etc.
When my daughter came on line she never, I mean never asked how I was. Conversations with her went something like “mum, N is having a “black parade party, and I am painting a black shirt to wear”
"A’s B’day is next Monday and I bought a beautiful pair of earring for her but I don’t know what I should wear. Do you think I should wear that skirt with that top and boots?” and things like that.

And I don’t believe in your claim of father son relationships existing in a happy equilibrium either. In some instances this can’t be more wrong and you wish it was the case.
I am sorry if I came out strong but you didn’t just talk about your personal life rather made sweeping statements which are not wholly true.
Sorry for the long post too

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Mia - Thanks for the comment and the insight into your relationships with your children.

I think that the things you say about your daughter talking to you about the things she had been up to and the things going on in her life are actually great examples of some of the types of behaviour I was writing about.

"I had to drag out how his day was and what he had been up to" kind of backs up what I think about the way sons interract with their mothers.

But Mia, please don't take anything that I write too seriously. I meant this as a slightly tongue in cheek look at some of the differences between parent and child relationships, not as a serious commentary.

I'm sure that what Ravana said about his relationship with his mother wasn't meant to portray how they behave all the time as well.

Thanks for the reading and the long comment.

Yellow suddi said...

The fact that you're so incredibly introspective and insightful about the whole thing means that you're going to do fine.

Really, I admire how you are putting so much love, effort and dedication into being a good dad to your daughters.

Supun said...

Rhythmic- I understand that you dont want to convey how your marriage broke, but I can say that your daughters may understand how you feel and the divorce (a disaster that it is) will not have such a huge impact on them. The truth to the matter is that a nuclear family ( a mom and a dad) is necessary for children's upbringing. It gives them equilibrium and stability. As a lankan girl born in Western country, I see how easy "white" people take divorce. It is merely signing of a few papers.Women and men here just have such high egos and never want to compromise. A marriage is something you have to work takes patience, trust, sacrifice and commitment.

Anyways,hope your girls grow up with no bitterness and hope you can move on with your life. Why dont you start dating again/look for a suitable partner? What is your age?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Yellow Suddi - Thanks so much, that's very nice of you to say.

Supun - I wasn't saying that I don't or won't talk to my daughters about it, just that there are things I don't want to discuss on my blog.

I don't actually agree with you on the nuclear family thing. I think a happily married mother and father can be a great basis for a happy nuclear family which can also be beneficial for the kids. But, I believe there are many children who are very happy and haven't been brought up by a mother and father as well.

In my own case both myself and the girls' mother have been keen to get the message across that we are still their Mum and Dad even when we're still not married.

The divorce thing is always hard but I think sometimes we all have to take a step back in order to go forwards.

sach said...

interesting post and inspired me to write something because in my case the father-daughter relationship is the more functional and closer one. It's my dad I talk to about anything before I talk to my mother. Definitely going to write something about this :)

Julesonline said...

Phew - well done for generating so many comments, some of which I like more than others for obvious reasons. All I wanted to add is that not all MDRs are equal and some are rather dysfunctional!