Best Friends, Occasional Enemies

The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter

Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

St. Martin's Press

BEST FRIENDS, OCCASIONAL ENEMIES (Chapter 1)

The Occasional Enemies Part

By Lisa

Daughter Francesca and I are very close, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fight.

On the contrary, it means we do.

So if you’re currently fighting with your daughter, or merely fussing from time to time, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s start with the notion that the no-fighting model isn’t the best for mother-daughter relations. I know so many women who feel bad, guilty, or inferior because they fight with their daughters, and they needn’t. To them, and to you, I say, flip it.

What?

Flip that notion on its head. If you fight with your daughter, you raised her to think independently from you, and to voice her own views.

Yay!

You’re a great mother. Know why?

Because the world doesn’t reward the timid. Especially if they have ovaries.

In my opinion, conflict between mother and daughter is normal and good. Not only that, it’s love. I say this not as a social scientist, which I’m not, but as a real-life mother, which I so am. So if your daughter is fighting with you, here’s the good and bad news:

The good news is you raised her right.

The bad is you have a headache.

Forever.

Just kidding.

Francesca and I are best friends, but at times, we’re at odds. Enemies, only momentarily. Like most mothers and daughters, we’re so attuned to each other’s words and gestures that even the arching of an eyebrow can convey deep meaning.

If somebody plucks, we’re in trouble.

We never have really huge fights, but we have car rides to New York that can feel as if they last cross-country.

Wars of words.

We go on and on, each replying to the other, swept along in a girl vortex of words, during which we parse every nuance of every syllable, with special attention to tone.

Tone is the kryptonite of mother-daughter relationships.

As in, “I don’t like your tone.”

Also, “Don’t use that tone with me.”

And the ever-popular, “It wasn’t what you said, it was your tone.”

It was ever thus. Francesca and I got along great from the time she came out of the egg, and I used to tell her that she wasn’t allowed to whine, but she could argue with me. In other words, make her case for whatever she wanted.

Never mind that she was three at the time.

Oddly, this turned out great. She was the Perry Mason of toddlers, and more often than not, she was right. Or she felt completely heard, which was often enough for kiddie satisfaction. She argued for punch balls from the gift shop at the zoo, dessert before dinner if she ate all her dinner, and the wearing of Cinderella outfits on an almost daily basis, complete with tiara.

What girl doesn’t want a tiara?

Another thing I did when she was little was to let her vent. I had no idea how I came upon this idea, but I used to give her the chance to say anything she wanted to me, without interruption, for a full minute.

And I mean, anything.

She was even permitted to curse at me, though she didn’t know any profanity at that age. It got only as rude as “butt face.”

Ouch?

She’s still permitted to argue with me and vent her anger. And she accords me the same permission. Even though we’re writing books together and we adore each other, we can still get mad at each other. And that valve releases the pressure from the combustible engine that is the mother-daughter relationship.

It’s just hot air, anyway.

Bottom line, we’re close, so we fight, and the converse is also true. The conflict strengthens us, because it’s honesty, hard-earned.

And the more honest we are with each other, the closer we are. You’ll see exactly what I mean, in the pages that follow.

So enjoy.

And watch your tone.

BEST FRIENDS, OCCASIONAL ENEMIES. Copyright 2011 by Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella.