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Roots to Support Her and Wings to Fly
But I'm Her Mother!
"Your daughter is in critical condition," Dr. Stewart said. "She'll be transported to Children's Hospital as soon as the neo-natal emergency team arrives."
"Why? What's wrong?" I asked, still whirling from the emergency C-section I'd just undergone.
"Meconium aspiration syndrome," he said. "She needs to be on a respirator."
"Can I see her?" I pleaded.
Covered from head to toe in sticky, greenish goo, weighing 5 pounds 14 ounces, Amanda was, I could see, the most beautiful and smartest baby. Although her breathing was labored, her spunk and determination were strong. Tiny, tired, and sick, and only 19 inches long, she was magnificent. With a twinkle in her eye and a sparkling personality, she had an enormous spirit. Instantly I wanted to get to know her, comfort her, kiss her, whisper in her ear, make it all better, but there wasn't time. The special-equipped ambulance was waiting. There was nothing for me to do, the nurse said, except to recover my strength.
"But I'm her mother," I pleaded, as if that fact alone was enough to shield her from the uncertainty ahead. As they rolled her away in the life-saving incubator, I gasped. It didn't seem fair that I was unable to protect my darling baby girl. No one could ease the agony of this premature separation. However, this episode taught me an enormous lesson about the relationship I would develop with my daughter—ultimately Amanda's life was out of my hands. I shivered as it slowly dawned on me how many challenges she'd face in her life that I couldn't control.
Immediately after her birth, I was thrown into the seemingly contradictory task of caring intensely while graciously letting go. In order for her to receive the best medical attention, I signed the permission slip for her to be transported across town without me. Only one hour old, Amanda was already a separate individual with a will and destiny of her own. Little did I know how many times over the next nineteen years I'd encounter that fact.
Mothering is a mysterious task. First you create an intimate, all-consuming attachment with your daughter, then you spend the rest of your life learning to let her go. Providing food, love, and shelter, you are your daughter's life-source. Although she is a separate person from you, as a baby, your daughter is so thoroughly dependent on you that she is a part of you. As your daughter grows older, this intense closeness lessens and takes on a more subtle dimension. She still depends on you, but not in the same way. Navigating this gradual release while still remaining connected can be difficult, particularly as she reaches her teen years. That's when conflict between you may be intense and when mothers (and daughters too) bemoan the lack of connection.
At first you take care of your daughter's every need, but gradually this shifts as she grows up. First you carry her in a backpack; soon she's walking on her own. Abruptly, during the teen years, it seems as if she doesn't need you at all any more. You're no longer your daughter's life source as she pushes for more independence. Painful as it is to go through, that's the way it's meant to be. It's your sacred duty to give your daughter roots to support her and wings to fly.
Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right pathS, but fhe final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.
This is much easier to do when she's four years old and she only wants to climb the ladder and go down the slide by herself while you "sit over there." It's harder when she wants to stay out past midnight or doesn't think you need to meet her date's parents. It's much easier to keep your relationship thriving when at eight she writes you notes and says how much she loves you than when she's thirteen, rolling her eyes and sighing at every comment you make. When she was a little girl, she wanted you to read her bedtime stories; now she insists you knock before entering her room. Once she told you everything, now she doesn't say a word. Sometimes it seems that she doesn't want you in her life at all, that she doesn't need you any more.
When your daughter reaches adolescence, you may miss your sweet little girl with the sunny disposition. It's not because you don't want your daughter to grow up, but because there are days, even months, when you wonder if you will ever have a harmonious connection again. All mothers desire to have a strong relationship with their daughters, but when our daughters begin to pull away and are talking back or pouting, it is hard for us to tell if that is what they want as well.
There is nothing more thrilling in this world than to have a child that is yours, and yet is mysteriously a stranger.
Be assured that your adolescent daughter needs you as much as she always has, but in a new way. She's growing up and cannot tolerate being treated like a child. What worked at ten is antiquated only two years later. Unfortunately many mothers and daughters get stuck in a vicious circle, reacting in the same old way to one another. Their minds are closed, they're stuck in a rut. It doesn't have to be that way—the teen years are full of glorious opportunities to get to know each other better and have more heart-to-heart connection.
I wish every mother and daughter could look each other in the eye and honestly say, "I like you." Getting your daughter to love you is not a triumph, because every girl loves her mother. You know that you have really succeeded when your adolescent daughter tells her friends that she really likes you. It is not often that an adolescent girl chooses to spend time with her mother or openly shares details of her day. These things come with the respect, openness, and trust that are formed in friendship, not in a relationship where the mother is solely in charge.
As a mother who has a delightful relationship with her teenage daughter and as a counselor to thousands of other mothers, let me reassure you that you too can have a fulfilling connection—as long as you're willing to grow, learn, and experiment.
The Little Cirl in the Photo Album
Several times during my teenage years, my mother would get nostalgic and drag me on a trip down memory lane with her. Sitting on the couch with dozens of old picture albums and scrapbooks, she would flip through pages filled with photos, drawings, and letters, hoping that I would soon join her in the joys of reminiscing.
"Look at this one," she would say, handing me a drawing of two people, both without bodies and with arms coming out of their heads where their ears should be. "It's me and you playing ball," she would say. "Don't you remember? You drew it for me."
"No, I don't remember at all."
She would continue by pulling out piles of old papers. "Let me read you these." I never found the notes that read, "I love you, Mom" or "Mom, you are the best" particularly profound or moving, but as my mother read, her eyes would light up with excitement and joy.
"Remember when you used to write me all these cute little notes?" she would ask.
"Mom, I was like five years old," I would say, a bit irritated by her question. "Do you really expect me to remember?"
She always chose to ignore these statements and would continue. "Oh, look at you there!" my mother would say, pointing out a little girl who was dressed up in a Cookie Monster costume. "You were so adorable!"
The bright-eyed, blonde child in those pictures was a stranger to me. I didn't know her. I never quite understood why my mother would show me all of those old photos and letters. It was as if she hoped they would strike some chord within me and bring me to remember something that I had obviously forgotten.
For my mother, there was sentimental value attached to every item in those books, but it was different for me. Looking at pictures of me as a child brought joy to my mother's heart; for me, it merely brought back a few blurry snapshots of a life I used to live. It was real to her, yet so obscure to me. Treasuring the days when I insisted on following her wherever she went and wrote her notes professing my desire to be just like her when I grew up, my mother remembers being the center of my world. However, I don't remember what it felt like to be that child in those pictures. I don't remember worshipping her as she swears I once did.
My memories of relating to my mother go back only as far as the seventh grade; for me, that is when our relationship began. I can clearly remember the excitement that filled me when she dropped me off at my first junior high dance and my irritation at her when she made me get off the phone at 9 P.M. on school nights. For me, my adolescent years, not my childhood, make up the foundation of our relationship.
I know from my own experiences and from talking with dozens of other girls that, once they become teenagers, many girls get frustrated with their mothers. Complaining that their mothers don't understand them, that they are too strict, that they don't trust them, and that they are embarrassing, most teenage girls have seemingly endless lists of things that bug them about their mothers. We often blame our mothers for all the difficulties in our relationship, saying, "If she would only do this differently, we would get along better." Putting most of the responsibility on our mothers' shoulders, we expect them to change so that the relationship moves in a positive direction. However, if you want to have a good relationship with your mother, you must be willing to do your part. Believe it or not, you have the ability to make a positive change in your relationship with your mother.
Just because you and your mother have disagreements and don't ever seem to get along doesn't mean that there is no hope for a good relationship. First, it helps to realize that all girls have difficulties in their relationships with their mothers, particularly during the teen years. My mother and I are not perfect. We fight and argue, we disagree and have struggles just like every other teenage girl and her mother. However, we have worked hard to learn how to deal with our problems and to create a relationship that is fulfilling for us both.
Family life is a training ground. Learn to get along at home and you can get along everywhere.
I wrote this book to give other teenage girls insight into my relationship with my mother and a chance to learn from the things that I did right, as well as my mistakes. I don't pretend to be the perfect daughter or claim know all the "secrets" to getting along with your mother. I can be a brat, and at times I've been difficult. I've picked fights with Mom; I've gone behind her back and done things that she specifically told me not to do; I've told her, "I had a great day at school today," when, really, I had skipped all my classes and spent the day with my friends at the mall.
So, you see, I am not perfect and I know what it's like to be a teenage girl who's struggling to get along with her mother. I don't have all the solutions to problems that you may have, but I do have insight. I am nineteen now and in college. Away from home, I can look back on our relationship in a new light. I can understand what mistakes I made when relating to my mother, I know what things worked for us and what things didn't work. I can look back and say, "Here's what I could have done differently."
After reading Between Mother and Daughter, I hope your feelings of desperation and hopelessness disappear. I hope you will have learned how to teach your mother how to relate to you as the young woman you now are, not as the little girl in the photo album you once were.
Your Evolving Relationship
Drive Me to the Mall, Please
"You can drop me off up there," I said, pointing to the corner ahead of us. "But, honey, that's two blocks away from the mall," Mom replied, surprised that I wanted to be let out of the car so far from my destination. "Don't you want me to drop you off closer?"
"No, thanks. I'll just walk."
"It's not a problem," she replied. "Where are you meeting Jamie? I'll just drop you off there. You know, I really don't like you walking all that way alone."
"Mother, I'm thirteen. I think I can walk a few blocks by myself!" I crossed my fingers, hoping that she would let me out at the corner and wouldn't insist on driving me all the way to the mall. "I want to walk. You don't need to take me the whole way."
My mother looked at me and sighed. She was obviously frustrated, but she pulled over to the corner anyway.
"Can I have some money?" I asked. "After we're finished at the mall, Jamie and I are going to take the bus to see a movie."
"I have an idea," my mother said, her eyes lighting up. "I have some shopping I can do at the mall. I'll go and do mine while you girls do yours, then we can meet up and I'll take you both to the movie and out to dinner."
"No thanks, Mom. We wanna take the bus." I could tell she was disappointed, but did she honestly believe I would want to go to the movies with her? I see her every day; why doesn't she understand that I just want to be with my friends?
Reaching for her purse, Mom took a deep breath. "You know," she said, "when you were little, you loved to hang out with your mother. You always wanted to be with me. I couldn't even go to the mailbox without you wanting to tag along."
Rolling my eyes, I responded, "I'm not little anymore."
She grabbed a twenty-dollar bill from her purse and handed it to me. Then she said, "At least we know you still need me for some things. How would you get to the mall if you didn't have your mother? And where would you get money?"
"I'd take the bus and I'd get a job," I said matter-of-factly. Then jumping out of the car, I said, "Thanks, Mom. I'll see you later." I began my two-block walk to the mall.
She's Growing Up
One of the first clues that your daughter has started individuation—pulling away from her mother in order to find her own identity—is when she wants you to drive her places so that she can be with her friends.
It doesn't stop there. You cheerfully drive your daughter where she wants to go, and instead of being thankful for what you've done, she is distant and cold. You ask her if she had fun skiing, if she handed in her homework assignment, or what movie she saw with her friends, and she gets irritated. Devoting more of her energy to hanging out with her friends, she spends less time with you. She doesn't tell you as much as you'd like her to. Some days she doesn't want to have anything to do with you at all. Suddenly you are no longer number one with her and are left on the outside looking in.
I have so much I can teach her. I would say you mjght encounter defeats but you must never be defeated. I would teach her to love a lot. Lauqh a lot at the silliest things and be very serious. I would teach her to love life, I could do that.
—Maya Angelou, on the possibility of having a daughter
I vividly remember my response to Amanda's insistence that I drop her off so she could walk the two blocks to the mall by herself. I was proud of her spirit and independence; in fact, many times I encouraged her try new things and venture out on her own. I didn't want her to be tied to my apron strings, so whenever she wanted to have an adventure I'd say, "Sounds good, try it." At thirteen, she was taking the bus to the slopes for allday skiing and lessons. I wanted her to go after what she wanted, to know her own mind, and to be able to stick up for herself. I'd raised her to have good self-esteem; I boasted to friends about her accomplishments and cheered her on when she demonstrated a new level of competence.
Up until that moment, however, I'd never considered how her determination to be her own person would impact me. I hadn't considered how her thrust toward independence would shatter my security. Her determination to spend an afternoon with her best friend left me feeling like I'd had been stripped of my life's purpose. Walking two blocks to the mall was a victory of autonomy for her, but for me it was a reminder of my vulnerability and a shaking of my "Mommy" identity. Until that moment I hadn't realized how much I depended on Amanda—not only because she added meaning and purpose to my life—but because she was good company. She was fun to be with, and for twelve years she'd been my cheerful companion and buddy. Her needing me gave me a reason to get up in the morning. Though I understood her need to be with her friends, that afternoon I didn't want her to go to the mall and movie without me. I tried several times to coax her into letting me tag along, but she sensed my clinging and jumped out the car as quickly as possible. She was diplomatic, but that didn't stop me from trying to manipulate her by asking, "What would you do without me?" I didn't like myself for using a guilt trip, but I couldn't stop myself. I handed her twenty dollars and didn't even try to hide my disappointment. Ashamed, frustrated, angry, sad, abandoned, and lonely, I barely knew what to do with myself. For the rest of the afternoon, I was agitated and couldn't get my bearings. When she came home, I probed for every little detail—"Did you like the movie?" "What did you have for lunch?" "How was the bus ride?" She answered with one-syllable words, went straight to her room, shut the door, and called her friends to relive the excitement of her day. My day seemed utterly flat and boring by comparison; our relationship was approaching a new phase, and I didn't like it.
Excerpted from between mother & daughter by Judy Ford, Amanda Ford. Copyright © 1999 Judy Ford and Amanda Ford. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Foreword by Carmen Renee Berry
Two Voices—Two Viewpoints
PART 1 Staying Connected
1. Roots to Support Her and Wings to Fly
2. Your Evolving Relationship
3. Responsible Freedom and Positive Limits
4. Talking about Difficult Subjects
5. Healing Your Relationship
6. Trust Is Where It's At!
7. Courage, Brains, and Heart
8. Avoiding Guilt Trips
9. Escaping Humdrum
PART 2 Rolling with the Punches
11. Driving and Other Rites of Passage
12. Clothes and Costumes
13. Body Piercing, Tattoos, and Other Desires for Adventure
14. I've Got Legs! Body Image and Eating Disorders
15. Bring on the Boys
16. Getting High
17. Privacy, Solitude, and Space
18. Mom Embarrassment: How Could She Do That!
19. Role Reversal
20. The Blues: Daughter's Down Days
PART 3 Flying into the Future
21. Finding Your Passion
22. Legacy of Love
23. A New Spin on an Old Struggle
Afterword by Mavis Gruver
Posted November 23, 2001
I found this book to be very helpful during a very turbulent time! I really appreciated the way the book gives both the mother and daughter perspective. Most of all I found the book to be very practical, which it what I need the most right now!
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