Boxing With My Daughter


There are no fights like the ones between a mother and a daughter. They are like verbal and emotional boxing matches with no referee ensuring that the hits don’t land below the belt.

And, for me, the worst sparring seems to start when I try to offer what I consider good advice.

I listen to good advice all the time.

My podcast, “Keep it Juicy,” features tips for and interviews with over-50s who know how to squeeze every bit of juice out of life. One of the advantages of talking to smart, older people who aren’t related to me is that I get my share of “mothering” without the baggage. They aren’t offering advice to me personally, just chatting about lessons they’ve discovered the hard way and, if I (or my audience) am smart enough to listen in on their musings, I might save myself a few bumps. Way different from having your actual mother wave an admonishing finger.

These women put themselves out there, push themselves past comfort zones.

Too often, as we get older, we shrug our lives closer around us like boxers cinching our fighting robes tighter, unwilling to leave the warmth and comfort of the familiar to step into the ring with a new champion.

Our daughters, on the other hand, are just stepping out into that ring, stripping off conventions as they go. There’s a reason experts say the rational part of the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. Try telling someone before that age that maybe they should take a second and think something over, and you find out how immortal they think they are, and how much smarter than old, conservative you. Cautionary tales are met with eye-rolling.

I recently had an argument with my daughter, who is a just couple of years past that rational-brain-development thing. We argue much less frequently since she’s aged out of the irrational brain age, but much more frequently than we probably should. But then, mothers and daughters are known for epic arguments, and we are no exception.

This argument was by text, as one does these days. I can always tell whether the argument is going to be a not-speaking-for-days kind, not by the use of capital letters to shout, but by the length of the text. When arguing, my daughter has texting thumbs of steel and sends text novellas.

In this particular argument, she wanted to add small farm animals to the backyard as one of her first acts as a homeowner. Chickens, specifically. Since that argument, I have read that even the trendy Silicon Valley hipsters are raising chickens. They apparently make great pets, and eating eggs from your very own chicken is next-level great.

But I didn’t know that at the time. And I was full of cautionary, pull-your-robe-tight kinds of advice. Expressed quite vehemently, in a few novella-length texts of my own.

My daughter sent a well-reasoned argument for raising chickens. Her arguments struck my intellect. She explained that she wanted to try out new hobbies and experience as much of life as she had the time and money for.

But then, she followed up with an uppercut to my heart.

“Mom, I guess you could say I’m keeping it juicy,” she texted.

Ouch. Knockout. Fight over.

Helen Mitternight is a former AP reporter and current freelancer living in downtown Charleston. She headed up public relations for the Humane Society of the...

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