Monday, August 07, 2006


First appeared on December 2000

My 5-year-old daughter is my little clone. We have the same fair complexion, the same brown eyes, the same super-short haircut (her suggestion, not mine), and I'm told, the same temperament. Last summer we wore matching sundresses to a barbeque and some drunk was following us around and calling us twins. I call her my mini-me and she just beams.

Mini-me gets mad at me. A lot. Yesterday, for example, as she was in her room getting dressed, I heard her familiar wail. "What's wrong, honey?" I called up the stairs, bracing myself for some new doppleganger confrontation.

She appeared at the top of the stairs, hands on hips, brow furrowed. "Mom," she spat at me, pausing between words to gain steam and emphasize her disgust, ""

As usual, I hadn't a clue where they were, but that was irrelevant. In the laundry, under her bed, it didn't matter. Nor did it matter that she has about 23 other pairs of pants she could wear. Grace wanted those green sweat pants, and the fact that they were not there was clearly the fault of the mega-me, me.

It's my daughter's role in life to yell at me on a regular basis. Knowing this after all these years, I remained calm, cool, and mature in the face of attack. Certainly, I am the grown-up. In my most mature voice I yelled back, "How in the world can everything that goes wrong with you be MY fault?" And then I sulked.

Later that day I ran into my friend Julie. She too has a mini-her. She and her 7-year-old have matching, long, thick black hair, olive skin, and exotic brown eyes. They both talk a mile a minute without taking a breath. I confided in her my latest mini-me battle. Julie sighed, "Jillian yells at me from morning to night. Everything that is wrong in her life is my fault."

I burst out laughing, relishing a sudden and clear vision of every mother-daughter pair in our town having a shouting match, the younger twin yelling at the older one over some egregious transgression, real or imagined. The two of them looking like some sort of time-machine altered mirror image. Somewhere in India, I thought, an 8-year-old is yelling at her mom in Bengali because her mega-me forgot to wash her favorite sari.

This scenario is not merely one of my generation. Last year at Christmas I was peeling potatoes in my 67-year-old mother's kitchen while she and her 86-year-old mother prepared the rest of the meal. My mom was unpacking a bag of goodies that my grandma had brought over. "Mom," she said in a sharp voice, "Why do you bring all this candy when you know we cannot possibly eat it all?"

My response? Naturally, I yelled at her, "You can't talk to your mother that way!"

And so it goes, from one generation to another.

Maybe we talk to our moms this way because--well, because we can. You can pretty much say what you want to your mom and she's still going to love you unconditionally. That's part of the motherhood contract. I mean, my son doesn't talk to me this way. I've never heard my brothers talk to my mom the way my sister and I do. Maybe all this yelling is part of what makes moms and daughters so close, a sort of secret, high-strung code we share with each other, the subtitles of which really read, "I love you. We have a much stronger bond than a polite and genteel relationship would foster." The proof seems to be there: my sister-in-law (a yeller) and my mother-in-law (a yellee) talk daily and see each other a couple of times a week. In contrast, my husband talks to his mom monthly at the most.

My mini-me is the first to yell at me, but she's also the first to give me a hug and a kiss. Aboslutely, our yelling makes us closer. Otherwise, why would she be the first, and sometimes only, one to notice when I'm feeling sad, and the one who always tries to cheer me up by drawing me a picture or giving me a hug?

We're so much alike that we have to fight to remain separate. But we're so much alike that we'll always be close.

So take heart. The next time your little mini-you puts those hands on those hips and starts to shout just remember you're not alone in this. Nor will this communication phenomenon stop some day. Not in 5, or 10, or even 60 years. You and your mini-you are in this for the long haul. And isn't that nice to know?

by Judy Zimmerman

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