Of Daughters, Healing and Living with Intent…

colophon love…, a photo by ms.lume on Flickr.

The most difficult aspect of raising our middle daughter has been the clarity of self that her presence in my life has delivered.

From the moment I realized my water had broken–I had been lying in bed–to her entrance into the world 45 minutes later–I pushed only 3 times–to when the nurse handed her to me and I placed her to my breast she had mirrored aspects of myself long hidden and yet to make their existence known.

When arriving home 12 hours later and preparing to feed her, our middle daughter, who exudes passion and emotion in all she contemplates and attempts lowered her toothless gums onto my nipple with the strength of a shark latching onto its prey.

I say this not in criticism, albeit my nipple did hurt. The pain I felt was a sign of her vibrancy…and of things to come.

At three years of age our daughter underwent her first of several petit mal epileptic seizures.

After much testing, and the careful discernment of pediatric neurologists, she started medication and in doses that both raised her threshold of undergoing seizures but also did not leave her drowsy and lethargic.

Both the pediatric neurologists who treated and directed our daughters care, I and my husband sought to preserve her creativity and joy for life while addressing the risk of experiencing a seizure for instance when on a play structure, or worse, while swimming.

Our middle daughter’s joy and passion for life has, on so many levels, prodded me out of my comfort zone and pushed me into unknown and nascent areas of self-reflection demanding that I come to know and understand myself in ways that I could not have accomplished alone.

That this has resulted from interactions with my daughter evidences that there are things a woman can learn about herself, myself, as delivered through relationship and interactions with her, our, daughter(s).

But what of women who do not have daughters, but rather sons?

Then life has special lessons for you to learn that only sons can convey.

As for those of us who are mothers of daughters, much of what we are to learn from these, our daughters, requires that we begin to reflect upon our own histories as women, and daughters, if we are to grasp an integrate these lessons.

“[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)

[See my post, Of Daughters, Actions and Self-Awareness…]

Likewise, the relationship with our daughters and the accompanying interactions, can provide a mirror and sounding boarding by which for us as mothers to learn more about ourselves, grow and bring our dreams to life.

But as 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…”

And why the need to ascertain these lessons, for they are many and often times painful?

These lessons provide the map upon which we are to assist our daughters in becoming the adults and persons the world and life on earth, this incarnation, has deemed.

As well, these lessons also prepare us, their mothers, for what is to come in our passing from the life of this world into that of the next.

I make no claim to understand or know what exists in the afterlife.

I only believe that in the spirit of the unending cycle of life, death and rebirth, every thought, hope and action possesses purpose.

And with purpose always comes intent.

Intent of character, intent of action and the integrity that must always accompany intent if our living is to have significance and meaning, not simply for our lives, but those around us and whom we love.

Watching our middle daughter, struggle both emotionally and academically through grade, junior high and high school to find her place and achieve the goals she set for herself, was excruciating for both my husband and me.

You want to help and along the way, attempt and achieve success at fixing as much as you can. But even more remains. Continuing to battle with “that more” strengthened our middle daughter’s reserves. It refined her beauty, intelligence and perseverance in a way that leaves us both proud, humbled and in speechless awe.

Much of our work was and has been hands-on, assisting with academic assignments, hiring tutors, emotional coaching, offering guidance and setting down limits.

Another aspect of all that was asked us, has involved self-knowing and when age appropriate for our daughter, self-revelation–telling her our story, how we, my husband and I became the man and woman we are.

A psychotherapist, who also as a daughter never got to know the person my mother was, I recognize all-too-well, the importance of showing our children, our daughters the persons and women we are.

How else are our daughters to move from girlhood to womanhood lest they learn how we, their mothers made the torturous trek?

More importantly, how else are we to transition our relationship and interactions from that of authority figure and subject to one of friend and comrade, unless we the mothers of our daughters  open the door inviting them into the holiest of holies where our true and essential self dwells not as their mother, but as the person and woman who is their mother?

Now a freshman coed, our middle daughter begins a nine-week stint of pledging activities that is to culminate into her becoming a full member of a sorority.

The idea of pledging a sorority frightened me to no end when I attended college.

My self-esteem could not have tolerated the self-presentation required of anyone seeking to join such an organization.

I so yearned to belong.

The idea of not being accepted overwhelmed me.

I remained focused upon my studies.

Having established herself academically–she achieved wonderful grades-our middle daughter set out to enhance her social interactions.

I want to make friends and get to know people.

She chose to explore sororities that do not haze pledges seeking membership.

Interestingly enough, mental health is the philanthropic focus for the sorority our middle daughter is pledging.

I recognized she had made a wonderful choice when I read this.

Yesterday I spoke on an artist’s panel moderated at a local art museum where one of my paintings, along with those of the fellow artists on the panel, and others comprise a current and annual exhibit.

Having entered my work in this exhibit during the last 8 years I have also participated in several previous artist’s panels.

This panel was the first to host all women.

Sitting with the four other women, listening to them describe what motivates them to paint, and how they stimulate and nurture their creativity provided a treat beyond that of getting to share my responses with the audience.

I was even more amazed to learn that three of the other four artists and women are also writers.

I offered to host them in my home and continue our discussion of our work but also including our goals for writing and publishing.

Our middle daughter expressed anxiety on returning to school after the weekend and beginning her round of activities initiating her and the other pledges into the sorority.

“This is normal,” I said.

I too am feeling nervous about hosting the women. I do not fear that they will retreat from the promise to come, but rather that when they do I will meet another aspect of myself yet realized and acknowledged.

So much of what we, as mothers, do with and for our daughters pertains not simply to assisting and nurturing them into adulthood, but also healing and mending our broken hearts and wounded spirits, as their mothers.

A whole and lively mother is a loving and supportive mother.

Giving to our daughters, particularly that which we did not receive as children, is but one more avenue through which to give to ourselves.

The success of our daughters achieve in life provides the carpet of immortality upon which we sail from this life into the next.

Our middle daughter has returned to school and begins her journey into the sisterhood of her chosen sorority this evening.

Her strength fuels me to confront my fears.

Tonight I will be call the fellow women artist’s I met yesterday and arrange for us to meet.


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