There comes a time in a daughter’s life where her mom goes from a hero, the protector and patron of all that is good, to the villain, the benefactor of evil. In my eyes, this tragic transformation happened to my mom as I embarked on my teenage years. My mom suddenly became the “bad guy;” her sole purpose was to embarrass me and to enforce rules that imprisoned me as I struggled for independence. She was no longer the hero I adored and looked up to, but rather the enemy I found myself battling. After butting heads for years, I finally tired of the perpetual conflict. I needed an ally – I wanted a hero again; however, our once close relationship lay in a broken heap of anger, and my mom and I were faced with a new challenge… rebuilding and restructuring our relationship. Together, we conceded that three crucial factors were necessary for us to bury the hatchet and enjoy a healthy and happy mother/daughter relationship. I believe communication, empathy, and trust are what brought my mom back to me..
Communication between mother and daughter is often a very difficult task, especially if the topic at hand is an uncomfortable one- which, during the adolescent years, is every topic. When a young girl faces a constant barrage of physical and emotional change, it is difficult to conjure up the courage to reach out for advice or assistance from anyone, especially Mom. Trust me, as I speak from personal experience.
A favorite memory that I shared with my mother from those awkward tween years was the time when I asked her if I could start shaving my legs. Far too intimidated to ask her face-to-face, I wrote my request on a little piece of paper and left it in my mom’s bathroom. My mom had to be patient when my naive “embarrassment” prompted me to assign notes and the occasional eye roll as my primary forms of communication. That day, not only did she “allow” me to shave my legs, but more importantly, she reassured me that it was okay to talk to her about anything and everything. In retrospect, I believe this assurance was one of her most valuable gifts to me. She did not force me to talk, but left that sentiment to marinate in the back of my mind. Like most teens, I avoided direct communication and mostly disregarded my mother’s offer of support, but the seed was planted, one that would ripen and grow with time. Eventually, in my own time, I tested and harvested the seed she had planted and now I juice the fruit of her wisdom and savor every drop of sweet advice.
Another barrier to communication between a mom and her daughter is a lack of empathy for each other’s respective lives. Empathy is extremely important during adolescence when the child and the parent’s worlds are most antithetical. The most effective way to coexist with someone is to empathize and understand what is going on in their life; however, let me tell you, this is sometimes extremely difficult to achieve with your mom. During my middle school years, I felt like my mom did not understand what I was experiencing and her advice was rarely helpful. For each crisis, she generously offered words of advice such as: “Just ignore them,” “You are better off without him,” and the infamous, “It’s not the end of the world.” My mom’s intentions were pure, as she was trying to save me from my teenage angst. Unfortunately, her dismissal of my melodrama felt patronizing and offensive, and the resulting communication caused me to further tune out her crescendo of suggestions. What both of us failed to truly comprehend is that we were living in two very different worlds at the time- my world much smaller. In my middle school world, to my 12-year-old self, my problems were life or death, my frustrations infuriating, and my heartbreaks crippling. I had tunnel vision and very little understanding of how miniscule my problems were within the grander scheme of life. My mom was trying to help me put my problems in perspective. Now, at the EXTREMELY mature age of 17, I understand that she was merely trying to minimize drama and provide real-world context. Though the teen years began as a bumpy road, with arguments and misunderstanding at every corner, my mom and I have made colossal strides towards a healthy empathetic exchange of worries. I have begun to value her input and acknowledge that she comes from a place of love, experience, and good intention. She listens more and understands that my juvenile dilemmas are the most important situations I have experienced thus far in my short life. We are better able to recognize our different perspectives and have moved from a place of conflict to a relationship of mutual understanding and trust.
I have learned a lot about trust these past few years. I have learned not only how important it is to have, but also how difficult it is to keep. A maternal bond is built upon a foundation of trust; as is any healthy relationship. In order to gain my mother’s trust, I have learned I must consistently demonstrate trustworthy behavior. Trust is earned- a realization that has come only after a great deal of trial and error! I am not an angel. Like most kids, I have made mistakes, broken rules, and disregarded my parents’ concerns; however, the transgressions that broke my mother’s trust are the mistakes that hurt my heart the most. In these instances, the tangible feeling of my mom’s disappointment was unbearable. So, while we may never completely agree on things, such as my curfew, or which social events I should attend, we have both worked hard to stay true to our word and listen to each other with mutual respect.
I continue to discover that my mom’s rules are not put in place to ruin my life. Her restrictions are an attempt to protect me. Despite my flaws, to my mom, I am an angel, and losing me is her greatest fear. My mom is grudgingly recognizing that I am growing up, and I need to try new things. The mistakes that I inevitably make are necessary so that I am prepared for the next chapter in my life. But trust involves give and take. The more she can trust me to honor my word, the more I trust she will respect my developing maturity and bolstering opinion.
Relationships are work, especially if you want them to last. Sometimes having polarized priorities means that the relationship between a mother and a teenage daughter can require extra effort. While it may be a struggle, I believe that understanding, as opposed to agreement, may be the key to a positive, successful relationship. I remember the moment I began to truly understand my mom. It was the moment I stopped seeing her as all-knowing and all-powerful and acknowledged her, not as the hero or the enemy, but as another woman with similar problems and experiences. Maybe she is not meant to be a hero, she is only human, but that does not make her a villain. I could only reach this realization after communicating with her, empathizing with her, and then finally trusting that my mom- my strong, beautiful, intelligent mom- is a fantastic woman and will always be on my side.
By Ali Argo