Allied Forces: The Powerful Force Between Mother and Daughter

In Kiddos, Payton Denney by Lola Magazine

I’m pretty certain that my daughter is the one raising me. I’m not sure when this role reversal happened. That was never my intention. Her entrance into this world was shared with her much larger twin brother. The physician told us that her brother had the “sweeter spot” in utero. But from the moment that beautiful 3 pound 11 ounce baby girl entered this world, she’s been a source of strength for our family. 

Parenting boys is like playing defense in the game of dodgeball. If you’re not on your toes, you’re going to get pelted in the face. Raising boys involves blood, broken objects and amphibians. They eat — a lot. Boogers are everywhere. We’ve abandoned the concept of matching socks. And here’s the rub, our daddy is just another big boy. In hindsight, it’s evident that the Lord knew that I would need an ally in parenting these fellas. 

Sissy and I have adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mantra. She has battle wounds to prove it. When her brothers needed to practice their catching, she found a glove and waited for the ball to be returned. Consequently, we found out that she needed glasses. I’m super grateful that goose egg popped outward instead of inward. 

Even though the outdoors isn’t her jam, sissy agreed to a camping weekend with the family. She helped pack the tent, sleeping bags and snacks. All was going well until shower time when we discovered the tick. And then the ankle swelling began. We haven’t asked her to return to the woods. 

Our sissy has spent hundreds of hours in the sweltering heat and freezing rain of the ballfield. On one such summer baseball marathon weekend, she waited 20 minutes in the snow cone line. With widened eyes, she reached out to grab her refreshing, long-awaited treat. Turning to run back to the bleachers, sissy tripped over the foot of the man standing behind her. Defeated, bleeding and sticky, she made her way back to where I was watching the game. She sobbed. A few minutes later, the guilt-ridden man walked up and gave her money to buy another one. Drying her tears, she limped back to the line and waited again. This time, without running, she climbed back into the bleachers to sit down. As she grasped her spoon to taste that first satisfying bite, both the ice on her spoon and the entire cup of snow cone fell to the ground. Sissy hung her head in utter defeat. 

Although I’m sure she has no clue, this girl heals my parenting brokenness in all ways possible. I too have felt the disappointment that life can deliver. I have dropped my mama snow cone multiple occasions as well. But the crazy fact is that, for me, she’s the stranger with the snow cone replacement money. 

Dylan’s never broken anything that belongs to me. She doesn’t walk around naked or make jokes about booties. Daily, she preps the lunches for the following day. On more days that not, she wakes me up for school.  

My selfless girl always has money for concessions. She’ll go without a snack just for the pleasure of giving to someone else. When Dakota’s soccer team didn’t have enough players to make a team, she volunteered to play. And although she may have not been the quickest on the team, her intimidation game was strong. She ran at the other players with her teeth visibly clenched. On occasion, she scored. 

Dylan’s tougher than me. At amusement parks, she’s the only one daring enough to ride the loopty loop rides. When the boys skin a deer or shoot a raccoon, she’s the first one ready to observe. If a sick chicken needs medicine, she patiently administers the meds. The boys don’t mess with her, mainly because she can throw a throat punch. Inversely, she’s their biggest fan. 

A few weeks ago, I picked up a disappointed Dylan from school. When I asked what happened she said that her “reputation (had been) ruined.” Thinking the worst, I asked her what that meant. To which she replied, “I cried in class. Now all the boys know that I’m just a regular girl.” 

But she’s not just a regular girl. Dylan can feel the bite of a bass on her fishing line. She can set the hook and reel them in. She has a quick wit and a deep faith in God. She has faith in me. She has faith in all of us. 

Just when I thought that I couldn’t be more enamored with my girl, Dylan found her athletic niche. As it turns out, my strong, beautiful daughter is a gymnast. I can most confidently tell you that I had no idea how physically and mentally tough these athletes are. With ripped hands and aching joints, these girls practice 16 hours a week. When she misses the high bar and lands on her back, she gets back up and tries again. When she splits the beam, she wipes her tears and heads back to the floor to evaluate what went wrong. On meet day, she pushes her nerves down and hits the spring board with all the strength she can muster. Dylan is learning to improve upon her last score with each passing week. The progress is slow, and the pressure is high, but our Dylan isn’t easily rattled. And when everyone else is tucked in bed for the night, Dylan begins her homework. 

When I am at my weakest, Dylan notices. She’ll pet my hair, pat my leg and ask me if I need her to cook dinner. Heading for a night on the town, I can count on sissy for an honest opinion on my outfit choice. I know a change is in order if her nose wrinkles. In all honesty, the only time Dylan loses her cool is if her brothers step out of line or if someone eats her snacks. The latter doesn’t happen very often —anymore.  

This girl knows how to have a good time. Like me, she loves an impromptu public photomontage. We’ve gotten used to taking selfies because the boys never offer to take our picture. A trip to TJ Maxx followed by a Lauren Daigle jam session heals us both from the exhaustion of raising boys. Ironically, it doesn’t take us long to miss them. Because even though they are crazy and loud and rambunctious, they are ours. 

Don’t get me wrong. Dylan’s not perfect. She’s lost the privilege of having a bedroom door for several weeks at a time. That door had a habit of slamming. She has her fair share of meltdowns, but so have I. And as with any balanced relationship, we’ve found our happy medium. 

With every sun that sets, I am grateful for the gift of my daughter. I now know why baby girls are adorned with bows — a precious, perfect gift. My hope and prayer is I can be the mother Dylan needs me to be — that the relationship will not be lop-sided with me on the receiving end. Because truth be told, when she reaches for my hand, she’s the one holding mine.