“[D]aughters can model a great deal from a mother who is self-aware herself,” says Juanita Johnson in, Know Thyself First(Part 6 of Our Mothers, Ourselves: Mother-Daughter Relationships)
A storyteller and psychotherapist, who, along with her 27-year-old-daughter gives talks and workshops on the mother-daughter relationship, Johnson adds, “…I observe quite frequently that [a] mother knows so very little about her own self…[and instead] plac[es] way too much emphasis on how her daughter turns out rather than examining, ‘What [what she, the mother] do I know[s] about [her] self and how [she] feel[s] about [her]self…”
After reading this I immediately realized why I have felt such incredible emotional fatigue over these last 12 years.
The first decade of the century flew past me as if a light gust of wind.
A rush of confusion and amazement that over took me when hearing news casters and television personalities state that we had passed the first decade of the 21st century.
I remember turning my head and looking to my husband. “What are they talking about,” I said.
“It’s the end of the decade.”
“What decade?” I asked.
“The year 2000 to 2010.”
That’s when it hit me. Ten years had passed since the year after I gave birth to our third and last child, a girl, like out two older daughters.
I’m the proud mother of three females.
When learning at six weeks that the 3rd and last child I carried was female I asked my husband, are you sad. You won’t have a son.
“No,” he said.
In that I had given birth to two girls I felt for him not having a child of the same sex with whom for him to have a relationship.
“I’m happy with our girls,” he said. “They’re beautiful.” And then he smiled, adding. “Besides, I like doing the girl thing.”
That girl thing to which he referred involves a lot of talking and even more listening.
For a man whose job consists of making a ton of decisions that literally affect people’s lives I’m impressed by how wonderfully and openly he speaks with and actively listens to our daughters.
Oftentimes I find he does a much better job of this than I, their mother, and who is also a psychotherapist.
Perhaps the challenge I face is that hearing my daughters’ words, their concerns and fears, anxieties and the annoyances they face from others and from me takes me back to the strife ridden relationship with my mother.
Perhaps this is one, if not a core, aspect of what Juanita Johnson addresses when recounting her observations of how so many of us mothers are so ignorant to and incredibly unconscious of aspects of ourselves, our behavior and emotions, how both affect each other, those with whom we interact and most particularly our daughters.
Again, as a psychotherapist, it is part of my job to be self-aware, as much as possible. Without the refine dimension of the observing self I cannot help clients who seek my assistance in better comprehending the actions, that flow from their thoughts and emotions.
And yet when confronted with interactions involving my own daughters, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones, mind, soul and heart of my core, I crumble like all other mothers.
It is this aspect of the mother-daughter relationship that, while not unique in its existence–fathers and sons experience this too–but unlike that of the opposite gender calls into play such depth of feeling that we find it almost unfathomable how much energy and sweat remaining present, true and honest to the interactions with our daughters asks of us, and any mother.
And yet this is the work, remaining present and honest and always with respect.
This means not giving up, never turning our backs on our daughters, leaving them to feel they are too much for us to handle, that we regret their entrance and presence in our lives, always, always remind them that just as they are evolving so too is the universe remolding us, their mothers into better people through our relationship and the ties that bind us to them, our daughters.
Writing this last sentence proves much easier than living those words.
This last sentence spells out the backbone of what I spent the first decade of this new century doing.
Yes, I drove my daughters to school, got them to orthodontist appointments, helped with term papers, refreshed my memory and skill at doing algebra and trigonometry, assisted with cello lessons. But in the midst of attending graduations from Kindergarten, eighth grade, high school, college and graduate school I was always and forever striving to interweave and in all my actions the message, “I love you. I need you. I am and will die a better person because of you in my life right now.”
Saying those words are nice. But children, most especially daughters are like psychotherapy clients.
They are healthily skeptical. They grow suspicious of what is directly stated, come to trust that which is done with consistency.
The love a mother holds for her daughter inherently demands we continually and consistently self-examine all that we think, and feel. “Am I saying or asking this because it will truly help or benefit my daughter? Or am I following a well-worn path laid down by the women before me?”
We want the best for our daughters, for them to surpass our expectations and accomplishments.
But witnessing them achieve that always stirs the concern and fear, “Will they forget me?”
Like our children and daughters fear that should they disappoint us we will abandon them, we too fear failing them as their mothers.
I address this fear each day by being the change I did not experience with my own mother.
I am forever at my daughters’ backs, always taking their sides in public, and when offering constructive criticism at home using myself and my mistakes as the example at the center of the teachable moment.
“When I was your age, I was so [or] I observed _________________,” and using their dilemma or situation to fill in the blank.
It is important that my daughters know that I am not perfect that I have failed many times, that I am well-acquainted with regret. I demonstrated this by continually saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Actions, not words. These prove the best indicators of self-examination.
And with a mother who despite of the fear of what she might and will see, continually turns to the woman in the mirror, so too our daughters will gain the strength and tenacity to join us in examining their reflections in the mirror of their own lives and living.
An exhaustive task.
But oh, so well worth the effort.
Tags: action, children, daughters, emotion, fathers, fears, girl thing, Juanita Johnson, Know Thyself First, Mother with Mirror by Students for Renew, mothers, Our Mothers, Ourselves: Mother-Daughter Relationships, psychotherapist, relationship, self-awareness, self-examination, sons, storyteller, thought