Daughter, Don’t Be Like Your Mother


Sally Mann

If you’re like me, you obsess about raising your child “right.” You are so hopeful that your child will feel a deep sense of worth, and if you facilitate that, this foundation will allow them to build morals and values that might be different from your own, but will keep them anchored, happy, and safe.


If you’re like me, you’ve also done a bunch of crap that you would never want your child to do. Some of it might not even be past tense yet. So trying to raise them up right is a bit of a dance between hypocrisy and hope. (For example, in our house we eat things straight out of the containers… which is gross, I’m going to tell my kid not to do this. It’s too late for me though.)


I don’t know what I believe in, so everyday I send prayers, and vibes, and energy (just to cover all the bases) to God, the Gods, and the great unknown asking for wisdom, guidance, and strength so that I don’t fail as a parent. And then everyday I fail. Which is either how this works, or the universes’ way of telling me to pick one deity; I’ll let you know when I’m blogging from mommy hell.


For me failure is full of fear; teen pregnancy and Chlamydia are popular story lines. Which I would welcome over her being a bully. There is nothing worse than a bully; you can’t fix being an asshole with amoxicillin.


Right now my husband and I still refer to our daughter as a “baby.” For example, I get out of doing a lot of things by saying, “No one to watch the baby” – which I plan on saying until she’s 13. We have a while until our baby will be getting into any of these shenanigans, but I’m one of those worriers… so I’ve been preparing myself for the inevitable. The unspoken cornerstones of parenthood are anxiety and doubt, conveniently left out of every parenting book, but present in every parent. Every fun, risky, salacious memory of my past has now been stained, the ending rewritten with a plea for the future: Daughter, don’t be like your mother. Don’t do what I did.


I had sex in cars and cornfields. And a GNC once. You know, the supplement store. I’m being proactive about this one though, I’m not gonna live anywhere near a damn cornfield, she’s not getting in any cars, period. And GNC has 18 years to go out of business. I have a hunch kids find a way around the limits and boundaries parents work so hard to outfit them with. Personally, I have no experience with that… I had zero parental oversight. I just know I was always having to sneak out of my friends second story windows, which was annoying when I could just walk out my own front door. And guess what, Sally was still having sex in a cornfield, so why make her risk a broken ankle to do it?


I’m seriously uncomfortable putting the word sex and my daughter’s name in the same sentence, and I don’t see that changing, ever. But I am the mother of a daughter and to ignore sex would be saying that power, safety, control, politics, and currency don’t matter either. Because they’re one in the same. Had I have known that when I was 17, I might not have slinked away into a field. (Definitely would have still.) The implications of sex for a woman are so complex I would need a Harvard scholar on hand and a childhood’s amount of time to unpack them for my daughter in a way that I felt was sufficient; I’d like to outsource this parenting duty.


I stole make up. Apparently I’m white trash? Getting this all down is pretty revelatory. We all hear those adorable stories about how a child takes a candy bar, parent discovers it in the parking lot, and the child has to go in and return it. Finishes up with a heartwarming lesson about thievery, good vs. evil, etc. I never got caught, so I missed that moment. I guess I just realized that if I was going to be risking my freedom it shouldn’t be over Rite Aide nail polish.


I did shots of cheap vodka, and Southern Comfort, and Jagermeister. When people order any of those from me at the bar I immediately card them; I don’t care if you look 55, there’s a whole world of spirits out there and you haven’t moved passed rural town Friday night? Suspect.


I got pass out and puke drunk. My husband asked me how I was going to discourage my daughter from drinking and I said, “Well I’ll tell her how sick I got and how it wasn’t worth it.” Too simple really. He told me I sounded old; he then reminded me that I was leaving out the part about it being fun. Good point. It was fun, had I have been puking less it would have been a lot more fun. I don’t want to teach my daughter how to drink better than I did? How do I make appealing things, unappealing? Especially to a person who doesn’t have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex and who will undoubtedly be skeptical of everything I say. Does being a parent mean being a liar?


The first time I did cocaine I was a freshman in college, I stopped by a friend’s dorm room, did a few lines and went home. I’m not addicted, I’m not a hooker, and it didn’t ruin my life. It did affect my ability to fall asleep and I spent way too much time thinking about my ex-boyfriend, but other than that, life kept going.


I’d rather my daughter doesn’t use drugs, I’d prefer her not to even experiment with them. But I think scare tactics are ineffective, so I’ll provide a real picture with the good, the bad, and the worst-case scenarios. This might not be the best method, but I’m sure it’ll be as effective as an abstinence campaign… which is the opposite of effective, and pointless. For sex and drugs, abstinence should be an option, not the program. Only thing that D.A.R.E. provided for me was a really ironic crop top that I wore during the height of my drug use, and screamed, “search my car” if pulled over.


I’ve sent boys naked pictures. Which actually used to be a reasonably safe endeavor, the Internet was way less scary back in my day. I received unsolicited dick pics to my e-mail, before dick pics were a thing (you know who you are, and I’m still grossed out… I hope you stopped doing that.) As far as this goes, scare tactics will be implemented. Your life will be over, etc.


She’s going to like a whole bunch of stuff that I think is awful. Like the color pink and bands that are worse than Nickelback. She’ll want to shop at stores like Justice. I’ll have to continually remind myself that it’s my job to raise a good person, not raise a miniature version of myself. And then there’ll be all the ways that she is like me, that I was hoping would get lost in the genetic lottery. I hope she doesn’t get tattoos (like me), and I hope she doesn’t let boys treat her like crap (like I did). I hope she has a deep sense of her worth and chases after her dreams (like I didn’t).


Maybe your mistakes aren’t as bad as mine, or maybe they’re worse… you did the cocaine and did end up a hooker. That’s cool too. We are not the sum of our mistakes. Our sons and daughters won’t be the sum of theirs. I used to think it was my responsibility to keep my daughter from the bad, now I know it’s my job to be there through it. And love her through it; that’s my charge as a parent. Not to build a fortress around her, but to make her feel safe and capable without one.


The world can be as big and scary as you allow it to be, the only thing I have control over when it comes to my family, is creating our small world. Making our home a diorama of what her large-scale reality can be; by modeling grace, forgiveness, and respect. And generously doling it out, starting with myself. So when the news is ugly or her friends’ homes are scary, she’ll have a concrete example of another way.



You can follow Scarlett on Instagram @scarlettlongstreet & @spilledmilkclub.



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