I have written before about Mimi’s oscillating affections towards me. First, she clung to me in India, then she rejected me when we got back and decided Tita J was her numero uno, then she fell sick and decided on me after all. I’ve realised Mimi is like an Alsatian, in that she’s a one-person dog and can only invest all her attention and affection in one and only one person, and unfortunately, that reminds me of myself. So I can’t entirely complain.
But the problem is that I am just not made for this kind of attention. My whole life has been spent avoiding anyone that tries to attach themselves to me too firmly. I got married, yes, but that was an aberration. And then, I had children, and obviously, in infancy they were like limpets, but I expected they would detach slowly.
If anything, I thought Mimi would attach to Tita J who is her primary caregiver, or V, because Daddy’s Little Girl. But Mimi is exclusively mummy mummy mummy, which took me by surprise, because I never expected to be that person to anyone. Which is obviously a surprising thing, since most people’s ideas of mothers is that they are indeed that person, but I never expected it, mainly because Benji distributes his affections quite evenly among three adults in the house which gives us all space to breathe.
I’ve been reading up on feminist psychologists, and one of the things they point out is that Freud erred in centering his Oedipus and very faulty Electra complex on the relations with the father, when the prior relationship with the mother is more crucial in personality formation. So (very simplistically) boys develop by separating from the mother relatively early, and thus, become people who are somewhat emotionally aloof, while girls don’t really see the boundary between themselves and the mother till much later and thus become relationally orientated in adult life. This is due to the family structure where mothers are the primarcy caregiver and not something inborn.
And I do observe this with my children. Ironically, Benji is the one more naturally inclined to cuddle, but he is able to detach too, while Mimi literally wants to dissolve into me I think. Since she recovered from the flu and got settled into school, she is better at giving me some space, but if she catches sight of me, it’s very hard for her to settle for anyone else doing anything for her.
The other thing is that she’s such a drama queen that it’s quite trying being the person she’s emotionally invested in. If I shout at her, she will be mortally offended and inconsolable by anyone until I make up with her. She will get deeply angry with me, but can’t let go of me either so she’ll alternate between trying to hit me (and succeeding sometimes) and hugging me. It’s all very intense. Poor Benji doesn’t know what to make of it.
V laughs and says: “You wanted a daughter didn’t you?” The thing is, though, I naively imagined my daughter would be like Benji, only female. But Mimi is an entirely different cup of tea. First of all, she looks completely different which is another funny thing that surprised me. With Benji, I had no expectations of how he would look. But after him, I expected the second child to look like a variation of him, which is stupid because my sister and I look completely different. Benji and Mimi also look so different , people would be hard pressed to figure out they’re siblings. And they are like chalk and cheese personality wise. Benji is dreamy and easygoing. Mimi is basically a virago – she is quick as a button and her emotions are extremely close to the surface. Basically she personifies the rhyme:
There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good, she was very very goodBut when she was bad, she was horrid.
What Mimi needs is a mother who is calm, patient and all-giving. Instead, she got me. At some level, I know that Mimi is going to be fucked up by me because I just cannot be the mother she needs. I cannot be her24/7 Siamese twin as she would like. I need to detach for my own sanity.
But the force of her demands has had me cave in . I can run but I can’t hide from my daughter and so I must accept her as my shadow for as long as she needs. Because of my own personality, I do this imperfectly, but I do my best.
One day, I asked her, who do you love best? She thought and fairly quickly said, Mummy, as I knew she would. This is not a trick question for her. The answer is obvious. But why do you love me so much? I asked. She thought longer. Finally, she said: “That’s just … how it is.” And there you have it.