FLOCK OF SEAGULLS
Avery! Avery! AVERY! The impatient mom stood there, primary color buckets and shovels in hand, bathing suit tucked under army green shorts and a tank top. Her voice sounded breathless, loaded, followed by a pause with a capital P. Avery with her super emphasis on the A, was being called out by a voice gaining crescendo as Avery’s mom tried to somewhat patiently lure her no more than three year old daughter away from the area where less than a minute ago had encouraged her to go.
Avery, Bradley! Go see the seagulls! The lone mom voiced happily to her little ones as they made their way to the beach this early morning. The two little ones tip toed at first towards the semi resting flock of seagulls until the birds caught wind of the little cherubs acting like lioness and immediately went into flight. This caused Avery and Bradley to storm into them running like all children at the beach do. The seagulls of course flew away likely annoyed as their morning peace was disrupted promptly, but they were used to this cat and mouse game. Chasing seagulls is one of the oldest childhood beach pastimes. Children are fascinated with trying to catch them thinking they may be lucky to actually touch one.
Avery! Avery! Avery! Bradley! Three times for the girl, one time for the older brother who was likely about six, Come this way! The mom likely didn’t realize that less then three minutes ago she just instructed her children to head the opposite way and they are not on grown up time. Trying to distract them back towards her so she could finally sit down on the beach on this not really a beach day after all. Trying again, she squealed in a voice that didn’t sound normal to me, “Look at the white seashell I found!” Avery was not taking the bait. She was in the midst of a flock of flying and agitated seagulls- a white seashell was too tame for little Miss Avery who at almost three clearly had a will of her own. Mom, starting to sound a little impatient with a tone that was easily recognizable to all who were in close proximity was thinking that she was in charge by her incessant shout outs. She wasn’t and anyone listening could clearly hear that Avery was never going to be the obedient and rule following daughter like her older brother.
The observation took me about three minutes. I am a self proclaimed untrained expert in mother and daughter interactions especially at the beach because this is where the family dynamic unfolds. This was where my family dynamic with my own mother started in 1968, right out in the open for the world to see when you think no one is watching. The beach experience has so much expectation in families especially here on the white sands of the “most beautiful beach in America” Siesta Key. This former lovely old school styled beach has turned into Disney World with its contrived picnic spots and signage directing beachgoers everywhere, but it is still magnificent once you make your way. Florida has become one giant Disney experience from the moment you step into their airport and take the tram to the main area. It is like we need to be told everything and can’t possibly figure out how to get from here to there without some happy sign pointing us there. The only semi advantage of the beach metamorphosis is the gargantuan parking area that has plenty of spots now. But I love this beach and I love Florida especially in March when New England is expecting eighteen inches of snow this week.
This mom today calling Avery about twenty times and watching Avery tune her out was like a study in a childhood behavior class. Avery has already learned that it is not her name she will choose or not choose to respond to but the tone of which her name is projected. This is so obvious to this quiet female observer getting to spy on this early budding relationship from the vantage point of the ghost of Christmas Future.
Mother Daughter relationships are a precarious balance of emotion. Love, we hope, is always the underlying energy, but that is for the mature and calm mothers who perhaps learned this from their own mom examples. Often the emotion of love is laced with a rickety balance of power, control and sometimes jealousy and this is when those relationships go awry. What constitutes a healthy mother and daughter relationship from my viewpoint is the release of those three dynamics of power, control and jealousy that frequently come out on autopilot. The healthy relationship is instead when love prevails, unconditional love where children feel safe and able to make mistakes as well as rebel knowing they will still be loved. If moms can offer this up on a sliver platter, it makes for a stronger mama and ultimately a way better mother daughter connection. This is all easy for me to say. My personal experience is based on my own challenging one with my mother where love was used as control and was a meager piece of the quadrant. The other three- control, jealousy and power had a much larger piece of the pie. Love in my world was demonstrated by material things as well as food, so it is no wonder I have struggled with money and food issues for the first part of my life. Seldom were the feelings of affection and trust used as the base of support that builds the foundation of a healthy connection. This base of support creates the foundation that ultimately allows for the literal stories to be built above.
Does this mom even know that a complete stranger already feels sympathy for her tiny daughter? She would likely be horrified to know that this is my observation. Maybe none of it is accurate; after all I am making a sweeping judgment in less than five minutes and maybe they actually have a really loving connection that will blossom. My experience with my own mother and our tumultuous and mostly irreparable relationship is my guide on the beach always. I will never know what will become of the dynamics of Avery and her mom and their future that lies ahead. There is something that I identify with though every time I see a mom have a less than patient tone at the beach. It definitely is a trigger that reminds me of my own past with Ann and as much as I have a positive beach memory with my mother from my childhood, I also know that our relationship was never to be the one that most daughters hope for. The only satisfaction I have though is my deep awareness of what went wrong so I could be sure that my mothering of my son would be what went right. This I am sure of.
As Avery finally made her way to the lame seashell, I could see her looking back at the lure of the wild seagulls flying, the wind in her hair and the sparkle in her eye and I knew at that moment as I watched her that just like me, Avery would be more than just fine.