Celebrating mom: How love drives a mother-daughter relationship

Courtesy photo Susanna Hargreaves’ mother is shown in a family photo.

During a professional development education course, my instructor informed the class that the two most difficult times in a woman’s life are when she is 13 and when her daughter is 13. This made the class laugh, because it is true.

The complexities of becoming a woman can be difficult to navigate, and it is even more difficult to watch your daughter go through it. After all, hormones and emotions can be tricky, and no one can affect your heart like your mother. She knows you like no one else, and you can’t deny it. The same things can be said about my mother and my daughter.

In every girl’s life, she wonders if she is crazy or if her mother is crazy. In reality, and in my own experience, I think you really can drive each other crazy. There are just so many buttons to push.

The relationship between a mother and daughter has been a common theme in fiction and film. Everyone needs their mother or is trying to break free of their mother. At some point, we deny it or try to fight the bittersweet realization that sells all those self-help books and counseling sessions, because truly if it isn’t one thing, it’s your mother. However, there comes a point in life that you have to stop blaming your mother.

Lately, I can’t help but think about the monumental moments in my life that were exciting and stressful, and how my mother guided me: Graduating from college; finding a job; living on my own; traveling; falling in love; getting married; having children; battling breast cancer.

Through it all, my mom was just a phone call away. I often turn to my mother to find words of wisdom, or to at least gain some understanding of what she experienced in order to prepare myself. Sometimes her words come out of my mouth, because they are ingrained into my very being. I realize, I am my mother. Other times, I wonder if she really is my mother. We are so very different.

However, there are so many unshakeable qualities. Some are glaring and others subtle, and deep down, I know I inherited many of my best qualities from my mother. I will be honest, there were times I wanted to tape a sign to my fridge to remind myself to not call her. I just felt that we didn’t relate, and she wasn’t saying what I wanted to hear. No one could upset me more than her, yet she was always there when I needed her, and she knew when something was wrong.

Strangely, my mother and I have an uncanny connection. I don’t know what it is, but if I am making brownies or chicken and dumplings, I know my mom is making them, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have called my mom to ask what she is doing, and she will answer that she is making chili, and that is what I made for dinner, too.

I know love is our connection. When I became a mother, I realized how much my parents love me. That was a big “aha moment” in my life, and I felt so grateful to have her in it.

Around this point, it dawned on me that I shouldn’t get upset by what my mother says to me. Even though she doesn’t say what I want to hear, it is her own opinion from her own experiences. I also realized that her opinion wasn’t meant to limit me. It was just another way of looking at something, and a different perspective is a good thing.

Believe me, my mom will tell you what is what and she really knows what she is talking about. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t, and that is OK. There are times when I am amazed that after all these years, her opinion still means the world to me – because it does.

There is something very powerful about a mother’s approval and disapproval. I try to remember this as I guide my children.

Being a mother is a blessing, but it also is quite stressful. There are times that I have trouble going to sleep, because I worry about my children, and I would stand in front of a train for them in a heartbeat. To keep my children safe and also independent, I strive to give them freedom within boundaries.

However, lately they have been pushing against these boundaries quite a bit. I know this is a good thing and normal. They know I am here for them, and I won’t back down.

I wonder if my kids really know how much I love them and that my favorite part of the day is when they come home from school? It amazes me how they were once a concept, and now they are their own person arguing with me. They are becoming more and more independent.

My eldest son recently learned to drive, and there was nothing more challenging than smiling to hide my fears as he drove away. At some point, I know I have to let go and trust that he knows what he is doing.

As soon as he drove out of the driveway, I immediately went into the house and called my parents to tell them I love them and to apologize for all the stress I put them through.

I could only imagine how much I must have worried them through the years. How did they get through it? Ugh, to the ugh. My mother just chuckled and said it all works out and me being a parent is payback. My dad reassured me I was a good mother.

A dear friend and the godmother of my three children used to have a tiny sign hanging in her house that read, “Being a mom is like being pecked to death by a duck.” This is so true. For years, it seems that being a mother is teaching your child the meaning of no and that such a word really exists.

Now, I am trying to convince my children that they are capable of more than they can imagine. I want them to realize the only thing holding them back is their own limitations and beliefs. I want them to learn to be resourceful and to never give up. However, so much of life has to be learned through experience. Some things can be taught, and some things can’t. I just want my kids to be healthy and happy and, most importantly, kind.

Somewhere I read we are all made of stardust. This comforts me, and I have told my children we are forever connected. My beautiful mother is a part of me. My children are a part of me. Deep down in my heart, I know that no matter what happens, this connection is unbreakable. It will never be lost, and we will have the stars to remind us, always.

Mom

Through the years

She is with me in all I do

I see her in my hands and eyes

I hear her angelic voice

Telling me how I can improve

That I can do it

Don’t settle

Speak up

Ask questions

Get the answer I want

Make up my own mind

And never give up

She taught me everything

From how to pack a suitcase

To travel

Plant a garden

Dress a wound

Knead dough

Devein shrimp

Catch and clean a fish

Make salsa

Decorate a cake

Love books

Appreciate a nice shade of lipstick

Or a glass of wine

How to haggle

How to be strong

Prepare for a typhoon

A tornado

Or a flood

She taught me to be careful

Trust my gut

To work hard

To be tough and

Tireless

But most of all

She taught me

To figure things out on my own

Find my own path

And to just be me

Even when I drove her crazy

I knew

My mom loves me.

– Susanna Hargreaves

Susanna Hargreaves is a mother of three enchanting children, an educator and writer from New Hampshire. For more information, visit letmetellyourstory.com.