Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Mothers and Daughters

Recently, I've become better friends with another mother. She is a great woman to bounce ideas off of and will just let me ramble until the answer comes to me, kind of like you, my blog readers. I am blessed to have her in my life because Lord knows Bruce doesn't have a lot of patience for rambling and will just jump in with the answer if I don't get to it quick enough. This relationship is a double blessing though because I also get to be friends with her teenage daughter. She and I hang out after school a few days a week and she is smitten with Charlotte - which makes her A-OK in my book.

As is only natural in this season of my life, I've been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. Watching my 2 friends has given me an opportunity to reflect on what happens when 2 women in the same house disagree about something. Now that I am experiencing the mother side of the relationship, I realize that the responsiblity for 'doing it right' is in my hands now. I have to be the grown up. I am now the example to my daughter of what a woman should be in this world. Geez, isn't that a sobering thought?!

DISCLAIMER NOTICE: My intent in this musing isn't to give a complete biographical sketch of my own relationship with my mother, so many, many details wills be left out. I'll just share the pertinent ones for the ideas I am pondering today. And before I go on, no mom, I'm not trying to vent or air our dirty laundry. I love you and think you are great! This is my perspective as the daugther...

Thankfully, the fighting with my own mother ended about 10 years ago. We were trying to plan my wedding while living in different cities and it seemed to be making both of us miserable. My mom remembers this time differently than I do, but she didn't see my roommates faces when I came out of my bedroom after one of our blowouts on the phone. I can honestly say though, I have no memory of what we were fighting about. Wait, I do remember one of the topics - what kind of salad we would serve at the reception, caesar or garden. I also remember that I felt helpless to change the situation we were in. It left me both mentally and physically exhausted. Regretfully, what should have been one of our happiest times, was probably the worst time in our relationship. (And really though, even then, it wasn't that bad.)

As I watched my two friends fight recently, I was struck by how it seems every mother and daughter must go through some strife before they make it to a place of peace in their relationship. It made me take a step back and look at my own daughter and wonder what our relationship will be like when she becomes a teenager. Is it truly inevitable? Will she look at me one day, with hate in her eyes, and use all of her self-control to NOT tell me how much she hates me in that moment?

When I was talking to the daughter-friend about what was going on with her own mom, I implored her to NOT tell her mom that she hated her. I knew her mom already felt it and that saying it wouldn't actually make the daughter feel better. In the end, she didn't say those awful words to her mother and things seemed to have settled down between them. Gratefully, I can't recall ever saying, "I hate you," to my own mother. I think I instinctively knew as a young woman that those words were too hurtful to speak. (Mom, feel free to correct me if I am wrong and did utter those words. I do wear rose-colored glasses you know.)

Why do women have to go through this rite of passage with their mothers? Is it hormonal? Does the mother feel threatened by her daughter? Are there jealousies at play here? Are expectations too high? I have never seen a mother-daughter relationship that didn't at least have a season or phase similar to what I experienced with my own mother or what I see in my friends' lives now.

What I want to know is, how do I prevent this tension in the mother-daughter relationship? How do I teach her to be a lady and to not resent the expectations her father and I have of her? How do I encourage her to be her best without being a nag? How do I help her understand a social situation from another person's perspective when hers is perfectly legitimate as well?

After a brief search of the Bible (because I think the answers to all of life's questions are found in it), I didn't find a manual for how to be a good mother (but that doesn't mean the answer I am looking for isn't there). There are even lots of mothers in the Bible who set not so great examples (Rebekah, Maacah, Mother of Herodias's daughter) of how to handle a child. Even after re-reading Proverbs 31, I feel as if that speaks more as to how to just be a Godly woman than how to be a good mother.

Maybe though, that is where the answer lies. In authenticity.

Maybe striving to be the best daughter of the King I can possibly be is enough.

Maybe if I model how to properly handle emotions and hormones I can show her that God is in control of our bodies.

Maybe if I strive to be my best I won't demonstrate jealous behavior when my daughter does something I can't or couldn't do and she will learn to rejoice in the success of others.

Maybe if I base my expectations in the reality of my daughter's strengths and not in my unfulfilled dreams, she will gracefully grow into them, possibly even surpass them.

Maybe if I use reason and patience, my encouragement won't sound like nagging.

Maybe if I model consideration of other people's feelings and needs she will naturally follow suit.

It is a big task, but just maybe I can do this...

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