Tuesday, April 5, 2011


What little I have read on mother-daughter relationships, I have made up for with eleven years of signature observational techniques at the school I founded, STONE TABLE. A policy I employed over a decade ago gives each new student of mine a nine-week grace period to showcase his natural skill-sets and character weaknesses without too much interference from me. That is to say, I do not and will not personally develop an official opinion about a student’s character, her habits, or his intentions until after one quarter of familiarity. Yoga employs a similar technique. Muscles tend to resist the first several sessions of stretching, because they perceive the contortion to “feel” wrong. The longer the muscles are stretched, the more they give in until they reach their maximum comfort level.

Because my expertise largely lies in helping parents identify the seeds of dysfunction that lie germinating in the deepest part of their child’s being (only to suddenly manifest itself at the ripe, old age of twelve), withholding judgment for several weeks about that child’s “being” allows the child to reach a maximum comfort level in which those seedlings will naturally unfold themselves in normal ways without much provocation from me (besides the apparent environment of “ease” with which that child initially finds my school). Through this method I have observed a hundred sides of passive-aggression, have battled the galvanized ego of compliant behavior, have stared in the face of the sinister side of shyness, and have filled up dozens of notebooks on the many deceptions of artificial maturity. I have watched students suffer uncontrollable breakdowns at the drop of a hat, fits of rage that came out of “no where,” and while I do not know what the devil looks like, I have actually had a child manifest what many would consider to be a demon by speaking to me in what I can only describe as a “filthy” tone at a decibel much deeper than his own and one that seemed to be generated apart from the natural work of the diaphragm and vocal cords.

For many years, however, the Matriarchling was a puzzle to me. I knew there was something “wrong” with these dominating, doting, sheep-herding types, but I wasn’t able to put my finger on it until late. The Matriarchling can be simply defined as the alpha female. While she is not necessarily a “mean girl” who determines what is popular to wear, what is popular to discuss, and who is popular to hate, she has the potential to become one. She also has the potential to become the quiet, faithful confidant who knows way too much information about way too many things about way too many people for her own spiritual good. She is the “little mother” upon whom too much responsibility or privilege has been thrust at such a young age that she is treated as an exception wherever she goes, never experiencing the baseline of corporate femininity. She is simply lost. 

I have drafted up the following four signs of a Matriarchling in relationship to her mother. See if you recognize any of these traits in your daughters (or your own mothers):

1.  A MATRIARCHLING IS EXPECTED TO MAKE HER OWN DECISIONS. Matriarchlings are expected to perform at a “mature” level so that mothers will tend to have a hands-off policy that allows the daughter to develop at her own pace and on her own. This is because Mother thinks the daughter knows herself well enough and sometimes even better than the mother does. So mothers will be careful not to give orders. Instead, they will suggest while simultaneously affirming (“I think it would be fun for you to join gymnastics, but it’s up to you.”), or she will inquire of the daughter while simultaneously affirming her (“Would you like to do gymnastics? You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, but I thought you might be interested.”), or she will leave it up to the daughter entirely (“What would you like to do?”). In cases where one or several of these techniques is dominant, the mother as matriarch of the family concedes matriarchal status to the daughter by not insisting that she knows what her daughter should be or will do. Occasionally when Mother becomes aware that the daughter is in charge, the mother will assert her matriarchal status by arbitrarily imposing some stupid dictate upon the daughter with such aggressive intensity that it is threatening. In that case, the daughter’s position as Matriarchling is further galvanized because now she must be the mature one.

2. A MARTRIARCHLING DOES NOT PLAY WITH OTHERS: SHE ORGANIZES THEM. Matriarchlings are sheep herders. They enjoy instructing others on what they should be doing or advising others on how they should be doing it. You can spot a Matriarchling at play, because she is typically the one in charge or the one suggesting changes in how playing should be done. You might overhear a Matriarchling say something like “Ok, now you are going to do this and then I will come in and say ‘How are you’—no, you don’t come in like that…and don’t…no, no, no, you are not doing it right.” Or the Matriarchling might be the more compliant of two dominant children at play in which case she suggests changes to the game like “What if we played it this way so that we could each have turns? You can be that for five minutes and then I can be it for five minutes.” In this instance, the compliant child is the Matriarchling because she is counter-organizing. Or the Matriarchling might threaten “If you don’t do it this way or if you don’t share or if you don’t let me have that, I’m not going to play or I’m going to tell on you.” Suffice it to say that girls like this do not really ever get around to playing without some aspect of their egos getting in the way which to the mistakenly proud parent might look like the fumbling beginnings of God-given, organizational skills. Mothers are typically supportive of Matriarchlings, because their daughters' egos appear to be “conscience” upon which a mother can depend to be responsible for the younger children or to be responsible around other people her parents would not typically allow her to be around.

3. A MATRIARCHLING  IS CONFESSIONAL. Nothing sucks a mother into the world of the Matriarchling like confession. The Matriarchling will tell her mother secrets or she will confess to her mother a lesser wrong or she will ask her mother "mother-daughter" questions and advice. However, this is largely to draw the mother into the Matriarchling’s confidence and not the other way around. Matriarchlings intuitively know that you have to give something in order to get something, and Matriarchlings know what they want. So she will render herself vulnerable in order to make her mother that much more vulnerable. I knew of a girl who confided in her mother that she had a little “indiscretion” with a boy. Oh, but it was only handholding for which the mother was so relieved and overjoyed that she confessed to her daughter that she herself actually had sex with several guys during high school ("But you shouldn't."). Months later when the daughter was found out to be having sex, get this, with several guys during high school, her mother tried to browbeat her for irresponsible behavior only to have the daughter laugh in her face. A mother should always ask herself why the daughter is making confessions, especially if the confession is preceded by the promise not to tell dad or if it comes out of no where or if it seems prompted by nothing in particular.

4. A MATRIARCHLING MAKES HERSELF INDISPENSABLE TO GET IMMUNITY. Over the years I have had several female students go over and beyond to help clean up the school, to work with younger students, to attend school functions, to do all of the things a good girl would do only to hear horror stories about the behavior they displayed while attending my school after they left my school. You can imagine how irritated I was. I would talk to these parents about it after the child left my school to find out that the mother typically knew what was going on but did not inform me or dad. One year I had a girl who wanted entry back into my school. She found our teaching style to vibe with her on a level she didn’t find anywhere else (She had been to public school and was currently being homeschooled). I was about to let her back in when I found out through someone else in town about a “chicken party” that had taken place and gotten out of hand, cocaine that had been snorted, chairs that had been thrown, a girl who had been slapped, the police who were called, and this girl had been in the middle of it. I had originally scheduled an appointment to speak with her mother for the very next week. Her mother sat in that meeting crying and telling me how proud she was of her daughter and her decisions and how she had been really “following the Lord.” She was ready to come back to my school and to “further” her character growth. I asked the mother how much Coke-snorting was allowable in the following of the Lord. She was taken back, and tried to tell me that it was another girl who did that. Her daughter was at the party to be a testimony and to stop her best friend from being the life of the chicken party. Sure, it was a wholly unsuccessful attempt, but she was sure her daughter would get a jewel in her crown for “doing the right thing.” I asked the mother how many men her daughter must satisfy to get a jewel in her crown.

Suffice it to say that Matriarchlings are intuitively powerful. The safest way to insure that your daughter does not morph into one is to insure they are involved in age-appropriate behaviors OF YOUR CHOOSING. Never let the conscience of culture have more say than your own conscience in the raising of your girls or boys for that matter. By the way, Matriarchlings are not to be confused with Daughterzillas,  the result of a relationship between a dominating daughter and her subservient father. Yeah, I know it has a bad ring to it, but if I have to create a ridiculous category to get someone to listen, then I will.

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