“The fight we remember most,” Floyd says, “is the one where we ended up in the ER.”
Heather was 11, and after trying, and failing, to get her to help around the house, Lori took away her cell phone. While storming out of the room, Heather kicked the door facing and broke her toe. While it was a painful, Heather learned an important lesson — “You don’t kick things when you are mad.”
Lori and Heather Floyd have a typical mother-daughter or teenager-parent relationship. On good days they like shopping together, baking together and watching “chick flicks” on Lifetime. But on bad days, “we argue about every little thing,” Heather says. “It makes me nuts when she tells me to calm down and breathe.”
Those little things are just the daily chores of life — what’s for dinner, homework, picking up around the house, making sure that Heather, whose diabetic has checked her blood sugar — but for reasons neither can pinpoint, tempers flare.
When they argue, a tense stillness enshrouds their Jacksonville home.
“When we are not getting along our relationship is very quiet,” Floyd says. “She will just go to her room and not have much to do with me. We can seem to go a very long time being mad at each other. We try to resolve it by both of us cooling down and talking about it after we are not so mad.
“It also helps that neither one of us likes to go to sleep without saying we are sorry.”
All relationships have tension — friends, married couples, parents and children — but there is something different about the relationship between mothers and daughters.
“I think that is different with girls,” Floyd says, “because there is more drama with girls — both mother and daughter.” Or, as Heater puts it, “it’s a girl thing.”
There’s no doubt that mother-daughter relationships have an extra layer of complexity and friction, explains Pamela Thompson, an Atlanta-based clinical psychologist and author of Surviving Mama: Overcoming Strained Mother-Daughter Relationships.
“It’s perfectly normal … practically natural,” Thompson says with a knowing laugh. “Women tend to be more outspoken, more emotionally centered, so mother-daughter issues are played out more visibly.”
Thompson has seen these issues play themselves out in ways great and small. As part of her 15 years in mental health, Thompson works in women’s prisons and group homes throughout Georgia.
“So on one end of the spectrum, I’ve talked with women who’ve literally murdered their mothers,” she says. “And I’ve seen it in my daily practice, where it’s mostly upper-middle to middle class women. So socioeconomic status, race, religion, ethnicity — none of it matters. This issue of mother-daughter relationships comes up constantly in every kind of family.”
Thompson adds that mothers and daughters aren’t the only ones with issues.
“In same-sex parent-child relationships there’s always a thing,” she says. “It’s easier to project yourself onto someone that’s like you; to want to live vicariously, to want them to fulfill their potential and avoid the mistakes that you made at their age.”
Fathers and sons have “the whole passing of the torch into manhood,” but men — and thus the boys they raise — tend to get over their anger and move on easily.
“Women, just don’t let go so easily, which can allow a little thing to grow into a big thing.”
Baylee Snider and her mother, Heather, have invented are rather unique way of dealing with one another without tempers flaring. They call it Text Fighting, and it’s pretty self-explanatory.
“Basically, rather than yelling at one another, we just smart-off via text message,” Heather Snider explains. “It gives us more of a chance to think about what we want to say … a little less heat of the moment.”
Both 14-year-old Baylee and Heather describe their relationship as “pretty good.” They “talk and laugh a lot together,” Baylee says, “going out to eat and we like to listen to music while we ride in the car.”
Baylee’s friends — from the outside looking in — think that she and her mother are just alike. “But I don t really see that,” she says. “We both love music, just not the same kind.”
What placed Baylee at odds with her mother are often issues with school, housework and trust.
“It drives me up the wall when she calls me selfish,” Baylee says. “I feel like when I do do things, it’s not good enough. We also argue about some of my friends because she thinks I won’t do the right thing if I’m allowed to hang out with them.”
In her defense, Heather Snider disagrees, saying that she trusts Baylee, but as a single mother, Snider’s greatest challenge is defining that line between mother and friend.
“Because we are so much alike, our relationship sometimes seems sisterly,” she says. “I want her to know that I am here for her, but that it is my responsibility as her parent is to be in her business and make sure that she is making good decisions that could affect her life.”
Their own thing
Chances are, after surviving their teen years; mothers may again find themselves at odds with their adult daughters. It happened to Thompson. While she was “radically different” from her mother growing up, when Thompson turned 30 she found their once close relationship was being torn apart by an “insurmountable tension.”
Over time, they came around. It was their relationship, as well as conversations among patients and friends that brought the universal issues between mothers and daughters to light.
“And the goal is not to bash Mama’s because where would we be without them?” she says. “But to really look at this dynamic head on and learn how to deal with this is to treat each other with respect.”
The best way to deal with conflict is to empathize, listen, walk away and stick to your guns.
“Don’t engage in any foolish, back-and-fourth because that only escalates things,” she says. “Nobody has the right to hold you hostage to their emotions and that goes for mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers.”
As for Lori and her daughter Heather, there haven’t been any more trips to the ER and very little silence in the Floyd home.
“I have found that girls between the ages of 11-13 lose their mind,” she says. “Heather went through this and I will say it was a hard time to deal with. She is coming out of it now, and I am able to enjoy the time we spend together.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.