This past week, I showed Greta Gerwig’s coming of age dramedy “Lady Bird” for my college film club. Faculty and students were able to discuss the impact of a female director and delve into the startling dialogue that still plays over in my mind. The movie captures perhaps the most authentic example of a mother/daughter relationship that I have ever seen on screen.
In one such perfect scene, Lady Bird and her mother are shopping for prom dresses. The following conversation happens through the door of a dressing room.
Lady Bird: “I just wish … I wish that you liked me.”
Mom: “Of course I love you.”
Lady Bird: “But do you like me?”
Mom: “I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.”
Lady Bird:“What if this is the best version?”
The tension, love, honesty and pain carried in these few sentences took my breath away. It was like every Brene Brown book I had ever read summed up in one brief moment at a thrift store.
I brought this conversation to my ten-year-old daughter. She didn’t hesitate a moment. “Well, you have to love your family, but you might not like them or want to be with them.” Ouch. In an instant onslaught of motherly love, I looked at her and blurted out, “I really like you. Like a lot. I want to be like you in many ways.”
She flipped her platinum ponytail and changed the subject. She is not one to linger. This daughter of mine lives ever in the present. Last weekend she stood tall on the podium in first place at her state gymnastics meet. A friend texted: “Is Lila still on cloud nine?” I smiled. “She was over it by lunch.” After an entire season of working towards goals and gaining new skills, she was physically ready and mentally prepared for her meet, but it was not the end all be all.
I envy her freedom to move on so lightly— like a beautiful bird poised for flight she floats through life never waiting for the dust to settle. My second born, she is the definition of adaptable. Her ability to bounce back is incomprehensible to every Type A fiber of my being.
I grew up in a world driven by outcomes and accomplishments. Everything was done for a purpose and ended with some evidence of success: a diploma, certificate, trophy, promotion. There was a constant internal drive to earn love, acceptance, credibility, and respect. I knew I was loved by God and others. But, like Lady Bird, I was desperate to be liked.
I do not see this desperation when I look at my daughter. She has not fallen into the trap of believing she is not enough or must somehow work to belong. I would like to think I have played a role in instilling this confidence and sense of security, but mostly, she has her dad’s personality. They excel at confidence and trusting themselves.
A Buddhist proverb teaches that in every situation there are two witnesses: the outside witness (others) and ourselves (the primary witness). Our need to be liked leaves us enslaved to the outer witness, never allowing us to choose ourselves as the trusted source for answers or guidance. My budding “ten-ager” is confident and at home with both witnesses in her life. She has struck a balance in an area that still knocks my 39 year-old self off her feet on a regular basis.
I agree with Lady Bird’s mother. I want my daughter to be the very best version of herself. But like my daughter is teaching me, I want her to enjoy every moment and like what she sees when she looks in the mirror.
I love you, my daughter, but I really like you. And I definitely like spending time with you. Being your momma is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.