As I await the graduation ceremony for my 21 year-old daughter to commence I can’t help but to flash back the relationship with my daughter which once kept me awake at night, I wondered how I had fared as a mum. Like many, my husband and I had started out as a dual-income couple working hard to afford a bigger house, a nicer car and a better lifestyle. While some mums could bring snacks to school at break time and to help in classrooms, I was busy climbing the corporate ladder. Although I committed all my non-working time to her, I did not realize that my poor little innocent daughter had often wondered why her mum had to work. The gifts and the vacations that could be afforded with the greater household income meant nothing to her.
Despite this, I would say we had a wonderful relationship until her teen years paid a visit. Suddenly we seemed poles apart. We argued about almost everything; her clothing, her language, her attitude, her preferences, her faith etc. Had my daughter become so different or was I just too conservative and controlling? I had to get used to the idea that my daughter now had a mind of her own and that she is very different from me. I had to give her space to grow. I was constantly reminded by my husband to choose my battles and not fight over everything! It was so bad that I was as glad as her when time came for her to leave the comforts of home to go to college.
But I missed her terribly when she was in college. I looked forward to her phone calls and was worried whenever I did not hear from her. Thank God for long school breaks that brought us back together again. It was a time to pamper her with all the food that she was deprived of. Yet, I nagged her about her weight gain! Will I ever change? Somehow we managed to always have a good time though, each being conscious that we had limited time together and thus tolerated each other’s flaws.
After 4 years apart from each other, I must say we have a wonderful relationship again. So how did it happen?
A few incidents (I believe) smoothened our relationship. I had time and again reminded her to drive within the speed limit. She called once, remorseful that she got a speeding ticket. The fine was US$600. You would think I would have said, “Did I not tell you?” Instead I consoled her and even offered to pay the fine. But all she needed was understanding and empathy, not reprimand nor compensation. She accepted it as a learning lesson and God knew that money was a painful but yet not harmful way for her to exercise safe driving. She was grateful for not being berated.
Another time she called crying as she had vomited several times. It was the middle of the night in the US and she had taken the anti-vomit pills from the big bag of medical supplies that I had packed for her but it still did not stop. I got her to get into bed and place her laptop next to her where we could see each other. I prayed over her continually until she fell asleep. Thanks to Skype, I could be there to comfort her to sleep until her laptop screen decided to go to sleep too. Guess she knew that in times of sickness, I would always be there for her.
Other encounters that were impactful were perhaps her break off with a boyfriend, a minor car accident caused by her inexperience and damage to her 3-month old Mac Book Air when she jam-braked her car. I realized that for each of these trials, all she wanted was support and empathy.
I have learnt a lot being a mum. As much as I had wanted my daughter to avoid pitfalls in life, she had to experience it herself and even suffer pain to discover and remember. I cannot protect her from the world. There is a time and a season when she will encounter and learn. As she grows and matures, I must just watch from the sidelines cheering her on and to ensure that she does not wander too far out. I have set the boundaries and now I have to let go of control. I simply need to be patient, tolerant and not expect perfection from her in the meantime. I have learnt to keep my mouth shut. And if I have to say it, I pray that I would say it in a gentle and loving manner. This way, we enjoy each other so much more.
I asked my daughter who majored in psychology why we had so much disagreement in the past and her reply “teenage hormones, mum!” Teenagers go through a difficult time, trying to find an identity for themselves. I should have been supportive and not add to her confusion. Sometimes when she rants and complains, she is not seeking a solution. She just wants a listening ear, empathy and understanding. She is just screaming to be treated as an adult and all she needed was love.
The most surprising thing that happened recently was when my daughter said to me one day, “Mum, I think I am morphing into you. I can’t stand it when the house isn’t clean, I have to make my bed, I won’t get into bed without showering, I feel uncomfortable in clothing that is revealing…….”
Wow……..what can I ask for? My daughter who had once said “don’t make me like you” is now happy to announce that she is becoming like me! Somewhere along the 21 years I must have done some right. It has not been an easy ride. Much time has been spent down on my knees but I have been blessed. I have a Father who knows that I need help. In all my helpless and desperate moments, He was there to love me, guide me, support me and to cheer me on too. It has been an enriching journey and I look forward to a new episode in our relationship.
Selina C., who is a loving wife to a faithful husband and mum to two great children