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Friday, April 30, 2010

Mothers and Daughters

I've read about women who said that their mothers were their best friends. That started me thinking about my relationship with my mother, who died in November 2006, and with my daughter. My mother and I were never close, both geographically and emotionally. For whatever reason, I never felt the closeness that many women have with their moms. I have a friend who has a very close relationship with her mother, and they are more like friends than mother and daughter. When my friend and her husband moved out of state, her mother moved, too, to a city nearby.

I never gave the mother/daughter relationship a great deal of thought until my mother died rather suddenly. Then I realized that there were some things I wish I had told her. Now that I am the mother of a 16-year-old daughter, I have found myself hoping to have a much closer relationship with her than I had with my mother. I am trying to do things that might help us develop a close relationship. She has told me that I am not just her mother, but also her best friend. That's a pretty special statement from a 16-year-old these days.

Hearing her say these things is rather amazing. I adopted my daughter from Russia when she was 11 years old. She never had much of a relationship with her birth mother, and what she had was not a positive experience for her. She has said that she didn't deserve a loving mother. It took a lot of time and hard work for her to be able to accept that I love her and will always be there for her, and it took a similar amount of work for her to be able to admit that she loves me, too. Opening herself up to love also meant exposing herself to potential hurt. Despite the fact that coming from a traumatic background has made attaching to and trusting me very difficult, we do have a good relationship, one that is improving and growing stronger all the time. I know how important our relationship is to her.

I want my daughter to be able to tell me or ask me anything. Learning to trust when all the adults in your life have betrayed your trust and abandoned you takes a huge amount of effort and a big leap of faith. She also is very worried that she will hurt my feelings if she tells me something I may not want to hear. I have told her that I would rather deal with what she needs to tell me than to know that she is being less than truthful with me.

My daughter is her own person; she is creative and artistic and outgoing, all things I am not. She learns best through hands-on experience, I through listening and note-taking. We share a love of animals, photography and reading. And we enjoy spending time together, even when it involves hard work such as cleaning the garage.

My dream for her is simple: that she become the best person she can become, whether she is a teacher, an artist, fashion designer or mechanic. I want her to find a career that she enjoys and that will provide her a comfortable life style. I have a master's degree in education, but she may well not go to college. If not, she understands that she will need to attend art school or a vocational program of some kind. My dreams are not her dreams.

I just want her to be happy. And being happy, for someone with her background, cannot be taken for granted. It isn't a natural feeling. But she no longer feels doomed to a short, unhappy life. She knows she deserves a good life and happiness. She knows that she deserves love, and a mother who will always be there for her. I hope she understands that as humans, we all make mistakes, and we all hurt others at some point in our lives. But that doesn't mean the relationship is doomed.

As I have told her repeatedly, and I believe she now accepts this, she and I are a team. We will face life's challenges together, as mother and daughter, and as friends.