Of Mothers and Daughters – A Tale of Transition in Two Letters*

Of Mothers and Daughters – A Tale of Transition in Two Letters*

The dynamic between mothers and daughters is always evolving and, at least once in this complicated relationship, a rift occurs for whatever reason. Either one might feel like they’re not pleasing the other or living up to expectations, which in all likelihood, we impose more on ourselves and not the other person. Mending the rift can take days or years, but the longer we wait to do so, the wider it becomes and the harder to mend. Picking up the phone may be the scariest option for both, so when it doubt, the old fashioned written letter may just be the perfect answer. Here’s Dr. Dena Moore’s take on restoring relationships whether you’re the mother or the daughter. The thing to keep in mind is that it’s never too late…the postman delivers during rain or shine.

Sometimes it's difficult for mothers to make the transition into understanding their little girls when they become adults
Sometimes it's difficult for mothers to make the transition into understanding their little girls when they become adults

Dear Mom,

Last week I read a story about the ways mothers and daughters communicate and it inspired me to write this letter to you. First, I want you to know how proud I feel to be your daughter. It seems that as much as I love you, I am also equally confused and sometimes hurt by you.

Mom, I know we talk but we don’t talk. As a girl, I remember listening to you talk to your friends. How I longed for the day when I would be grown up enough for us to talk to each other like that! In my girlhood fantasy, I pictured us as two adult women, talking and laughing together over lunch. Mom, it seems that each time we talk, I am still a little girl. I know you love me, yet when we talk it is a brief check in and then the usual questions about what I’m eating, whether I’m getting enough rest, or if I’m saving money. You talk about people we both know and then we go our separate ways. I don’t know how to make our conversations sound like the ones I overheard with you and your friends without your help. Maybe it is just a matter of talking and listening together Mom.

I am so proud of you Mom! Just like when I was young, I still think you are the most beautiful, smart and talented person in the world. Yet no matter what my age, you and only you can make me feel like my hair is out of place, or my make-up is overdone, or my clothes are too tight. You know that facial expression – the one that conveys, why in the world did you wear that? Just like when I was a teenager, I will do anything to avoid that look and happy is the day when I get that approving smile or comment from you! 

Shutting down when your daughter is seeking approval only makes matters worse
Shutting down when your daughter is seeking approval only makes matters worse

Please don’t get me wrong Mom. You were, and still are the best Mom ever. You put up with so much during my childhood and teenage years. Do you know how much I worry that I might be a disappointment to you? Do you know that I regret all the mean and hurtful things I said to you when I was a teenager? I cringe to think of those years and can only imagine what you must think of me. I don’t know what you think of me as a woman, Mom. Even though our lives are very different, I hope that you are proud of me. Maybe what I am trying to say in this letter is that I would like to get to know you as a woman and for you to get to know me as the same. Yes, we will always be mother and daughter and for that I am grateful. But I am wondering if maybe our conversations were a little deeper, maybe if we listened to the other a little more, and maybe shared our lives a little more, that we can be even better than ever.

Would you like to meet for lunch sometime?

I love you!
Your daughter

Even the smallest note can convey love...remember it's the thought that counts
Even the smallest note can convey love...remember it's the thought that counts

To my beautiful daughter,

I was watching a television show about mother/daughter relationships on Mother’s Day and thought I would write you a letter to tell you a few things that you might not know. First, I hope you know that I love you very much. You have grown into such a strong, intelligent, and beautiful woman and I find myself in such awe each time we see each other. Yet I also find myself at a loss as to what to say to you. How do I tell you these things? What would I possibly have to talk to you about that might be interesting to you? You have gone so far in your life and I am…well, I’m your Mom. Yes, I have my life and work yet at the end of the day, I am your Mom. And so I find myself talking to you about the only things I know to talk about – making sure you are safe and eating, sleeping, and saving money. I really want to know you. How does one “do friendship” with her grown daughter? I’m willing to learn but am not sure you would want to be friends with your old Mom. Do you remember playing tea party as a child? How I looked forward to the day when we could have tea parties as two grown women!

I hope you know how proud I am of you. I remember the day you were born just like it was yesterday. You were the most beautiful baby ever! I was terrified to bring you home. You were so tiny and helpless. Would I be a good enough Mom? Would I be able to meet your needs and raise you right? When you were young, I would quietly sneak into your room just to watch you sleep. You are so special and I am often at a loss to tell you how much I love you. I wonder if you know the joy you have brought to my life. Do you know that I still worry that you will realize all my flaws and think less of me? Do you know that when I see that “Oh mother!” look on your face, I still cringe to think of what you must be thinking of me?

More often than not, sharing conversation over coffee or tea is a perfect way to break the ice and become friends again
More often than not, sharing conversation over coffee or tea is a perfect way to break the ice and become friends again

Please don’t get me wrong. You were and still are the most wonderful daughter a mother could ask for. I guess what I am trying to say in this letter is that I would like for us to get to know each other as women. Yes, we will always be mother and daughter. Yet I find myself longing to be your friend and you mine. Perhaps if we could somehow find a way to talk about our lives more, listen to the other more, and maybe give ourselves to the other more – maybe we could begin to figure out this mother/daughter friendship question together.

Would you like to have tea and cookies sometime?

I love you,
Mom

*These two letters are based on my work with mothers and daughters across various ages and stages of life. If you would like more information as to how to more effectively transition into adult relationships with your children, or if you are an adult child and would like more information on transitioning into adult relationships with your parents, contact me, Dr. Dena Moore, at dena@neworleanstherapycenter.com The Center for Health and Healing located at 541 Julia Street, Suite 201, New Orleans LA 70130.