We all come to the celebration of Mother’s Day with a long history of being a daughter, profoundly influenced for better, or worst, by our mothers. For some, the notion of honoring our mother on Mother’s Day brings about a mix of emotions. Into this emotionally charged day full of obligations, memories, some sweet, others not, I’d like to propose that if for no other reason than giving you your first example of how to deal with life challenges by developing resiliency, we should honor our mothers on this Sunday, Mother’s Day.
There is no one who we are, or were, as close to as our mothers. They were our model for who we wanted to become, and did not want to act, sometimes simultaneously. We did, at one time, idealize our mothers. Many still do. We did want to just be like mommy, and many of us still use our mothers as a measure for our actions, even if this surprises us. Not that every example we were offered, worked. Nor that our mother didn’t have her own struggles: perhaps, with an alcoholic husband, or her own drinking, eating, or drug use; or her needing to deal with violence in her home, or in her community while protecting her children, or her facing discrimination at her job. Not that our mother didn’t have her own girly thoughts, those negative messages we internalize from society that serve to both limit us and blame us. Because she both loved and wanted to protect you, her daughter, your mother may have reinforced many of these messages, after all, that was all she knew.
But our mothers did show us what worked, and what didn’t. Through our close observation of them, we absorbed our earliest life’s lessons of how to make it through life with dignity, while respecting others, and ourselves. As such we are simultaneously so very close to our mothers, and often shocked and repelled by how much we are indeed like them. This is the mother/daughter dance.
The relationship between a mother and her daughter is complicated, at the very least. There is great love, tenderness, even, pride, but this relationship can also be tinged by other feelings, less talked about, less patriotic: envy of the power a mother has, particularly when we were a teenager; jealousy, on a mother’s part particularly as daughters matures, and she ages; caretaking, as mothers become infirm, and daughters become in some ways their nurturer, coming often at a time when daughters are over-whelmed by the needs their our own children. Being a daughter is a challenge. Having a daughter is a challenge. And it is within this very challenge, that our resilience is staged and begins to be developed.