I have been blessed with a wonderful relationship with my daughter. Sarah and I are the best of friends and as a result, people (usually moms) see our closeness and often ask how we managed to escape the mother/daughter conflict that is so prevalent during the teen and early adult years.
That’s not an easy question to answer, but I’ll try to briefly share several of my thoughts on the subject.
I had a horrible relationship with my mother. So when I had a daughter of my own I decided that I didn’t want a repeat of that relationship. So I made it the prayer and strong priority in my life to have, not just a decent mother/daughter relationship with Sarah, but to eventually come to the place where we also had a solid friendship based on a genuine love and respect for one another. So my determination for the relationship was the starting place.
Homeschooling, and the fact that I only had one daughter, also played a large part in the developing of our relationship. Prior to high school (and speech and debate) Sarah spent virtually everyday just with our family. She didn’t have many friends and she wasn’t close to the few friends that she did have, so most of the time she had only two choices regarding who she hung out with: her brothers or her mom. And the older she became, and the more annoying her brothers were, the more mom won. So in a way, she was stuck with me, and as a result, we grew closer.
But as we grew closer we started to talk with each other. And we talked a lot! We especially love our late night talks. All my kids love gathering on my bed late at night to discuss life issues, but most of the time it is just mom and daughter talking quietly (our favorite topics are fellas, flirting, and relationships.) I also do a lot of probing. I ask her how she feels about various topics, why she feels the way she feels, and what led her to feel that way. Here and there I interject my own thoughts, opinions, and experiences, but a good portion of the time I let her figure things out just by talking them through. I try not to lecture her, or preach at her, but rather to talk with her, and to listen to her, and to understand her side of an issue.
One of the things I see in moms who don’t have good relationships with their children, is that they are always on their kid’s backs about something. Obviously there are times (many times) when our kids aren’t doing what we told them to do and we have to be at them continually to get the tasks done. But if we are always nagging at them and criticizing them, a once loving relationship will break down, and a relationship that wasn’t strong in the first place, will never be built. We have to find the right balance of instructing them and enforcing our rules, tempering our words with love and understanding. It’s not an easy thing to do. I struggle with it and fail, constantly. But I get back up, usually go apologize, and then start over. And one final word, moms: even if your kids are being wretched and rebellious, NEVER cuss at them or call them names. That will tear down a relationship faster than anything.
Another really important aspect to our mother/daughter relationship is honesty and transparency. I don’t like people who lie and I also don’t like people who are fake. As a result, I have always tried to be very honest with my kids. If there was something I didn’t feel was appropriate for them to hear or that they didn’t have the maturity to understand, I would explain to them that I didn’t think they were ready for the information and that I would tell them when they were older. Sarah says she hated when I did that. But as exasperating as it was to her, I felt it was better than making up stories. And I think that has helped to build trust, not just with Sarah, but also with my boys.
Because I have earned Sarah’s trust, I am approachable. Sometimes Sarah will come to me and say, “Mom, I don’t think you are going to like this but…” And Usually I don’t like whatever she tells me. But I try to be calm (doesn’t always happen) and I try to understand where Sarah is coming from, and I will also try to give serious consideration to whatever she wants to tell me. Interestingly, the more I think about Sarah’s impression on a subject, the more I tend to agree with her.
I want you to know, however, that Sarah and I do have our disagreements and even an occasional fight. Sometimes I annoy her and sometimes she irritates me. After a fight we will go to different rooms to cool down, but usually within five or ten minutes one or both of us are trying to make up. Because our relationship is so important to us we want to fix any flare-ups as quickly as possible and restore our relationship to its usual sweetness. We really can’t stand being angry with each other or for our friendship to be at odds. So we fix things and fix them right away.
I also would like for you to understand that when I talk about having a friendship with Sarah I don’t quite mean the sort of relationship that I have with my other female friends. We are still mother and daughter. She still wants her mommy when she is hurt and sick and I still take care of and protect my baby. I encourage her friendships with other young people and I don’t try to be “one of the girls” and hang out with her friends. I understand and respect boundaries and strangely enough, I think that makes us even closer.
Finally, I have always made sure that Sarah and her brothers know, really know, that I love them. I don’t just flippantly say “I love you” to my kids. My expressions of love are not rote. Instead, I regularly look them in the eye, give them a kiss, and say something loving and endearing from my heart. And I always let them know that whatever happens, I will be there to help them.
One of my sons was asked by a friend if he believed his parents loved him. “Of course,” he replied, There was no hesitation. And it shocked him to learn that his friend never felt confidant that his own parents really loved him. But my kids know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I love them. They are my babies and will always be my babies until we are in heaven together in our glorified bodies. And actually, I’m not so sure they won’t still be my babies in heaven (but let’s not digress into a theological discussion.) In addition, Sarah is my one and only daughter. She’s my little girl and I love her more than life.
One last thing. I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. I mean lots! I don’t want you to walk away thinking that my relationship with Sarah is perfect. Like I said, we have had our arguments. I also don’t want you to think that if you do the things that I did in my relationship with my daughter, that you will have a relationship with yours that is the same. It doesn’t work that way. Every mother and every daughter is different. And every relationship is different. And different things work with different people. My advise to you is to assess. Evaluate your relationship with your girl. Try to honestly find what is wrong in your relationship, in your girl, and most importantly, in yourself. And don’t be afraid to go to your daughter and give her a detailed and very heartfelt apology. It may not change things instantly, but if your daughter sees that you are trying to be different, and working to understand her, it will at the very least soften her attitude toward you a little bit.
There are probably many other elements that have worked together to build the loving relationship that I have with my wonderful daughter, but I believe the above items are the primary factors. These, and of course most importantly, God’s grace. He gave me my relationship with my girl. He gave me the insight into her personality and then taught me how to build the sweet and loving friendship that we now experience.
So when life gets tough, as it does quite often, I remember, and am very grateful, that God has given me something very special.
My darling daughter.
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