By Cheri Fuller
The mom-daughter connection is an intricate, close relationship that is static and changing at the same time. It's static because of the strong bond we've had since our child's birth, and it's changing because we're human and our daughter continues to go through different stages of life, as we are as well. Even as our relationship spans the decades and seasons, it's a paradox, and that's why it's complicated.
Think of all the history you have with your daughter, all the bonding and good times: First birthday and first day of school. First stitches and ballet shoes. School programs, Brownie Scout meetings, and inevitable skinned knees. First pierced earrings, lipstick, heels, and dates. Graduation and all the years and laughter and tears, and arguments, in between.
The closeness of the mother-daughter bond holds much potential for joy, but also for conflict. Usually the conflict starts in the teenage years, if not before. When your daughter was little, she may have clip-clopped around in your red high heels and said, "Mommy, I want to be just like you when I grow up!" Yet when she arrived at adolescence, she started rolling her eyes at your advice and letting you know that she didn't want to be anything like you.
familiar? You're not alone, but there is hope. I too found my daughter's
Because the truth is that though when our daughter was born, we had a thousand hopes and dreams for her, including that one day we'd be best friends, even after she transitioned through adolescence and became an adult. But as life unfolds, even the best intentions go awry. There are so many challenges on the journey to adult friendship that the reality is fraught with friction and sometimes frustration. Thankfully, a harmonious relationship with your daughter is possible.
Here are a few things we share to get you thinking and let us encourage you to try one this summer to strengthen your relationship:
Find a Fresh Way to Bond through helping others. It's fun to go shopping with our daughters, but how about bonding through serving together? For example, you could walk for a cause. Choose a walkathon or a 5K run that raises funds for a cause you both care about, train together, and then enjoy doing the event together. A mom and daughter we know had a great experience walking a marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Or you could both volunteer for an animal rescue shelter if you love dogs or cats. Think about what issues you really care about and present the idea to your daughter. Serving or giving something worthwhile can help the two of you connect in a deeper way.
Take a personality or temperament test. You and your daughter can understand each other better by looking at the ways you relate to situations and people. Invite her to take a personality test and talk about what you discover about each other. Even if you've known your daughter her whole life, this is a great way to learn something new about each other.
Make your own soundtrack. If you're taking a trip this summer, make your own mother-daughter CD with each of your favorite tunes to play in the car. (This works great too if you're just riding around together doing errands or taking her places.) It can create great background music for enjoying some time together.
Watch mother-daughter movies. Viewing a movie with a mother-daughter theme can make a fun girls night. Shared movies like The Joy Luck Club, Because I Said So, Pride and Prejudice, Becoming Jane, Steel Magnolias, or One True Thing are wonderful conversation starters, whether your daughter is ten, twenty, or beyond.
Learn something new. When Catherine's relationship with her daughter was strained, she asked Elizabeth what she really wanted to learn or explore. Elizabeth loved to cook, so her mom signed them both up for a number of cooking classes. These cooking experiences kept mom and daughter connected during their most difficult communication periods. They kept building bridges, understanding grew, and they both became excellent gourmet cooks.
As we share in our book, today Ali and I have the friendship, "the mother-daughter duet" I'd hoped for. We understand each other more, accept each other, and even appreciate and celebrate our differences. We have forgiven one another for inevitable hurts and made peace with the past. We truly enjoy each other's company and friendship. But it was not a quick process. It took a lot of work to get here. For a long while it seemed that when we were together, we clashed like a junior high school band more than we harmonized like a skilled orchestra, and there was no way we were going to sing a duet. We had no idea what a long journey it would be, but it's definitely been worth the effort.
relationship between mothers and daughters is intense, personal, complex,
and unique. But you can have the loving, authentic bond you always dreamed
of—when you learn the mother-daughter duet.
FULLER is a best-selling, award-winning author whose books have sold
more than one million copies. She loves to encourage moms of all ages,
speaks at a wide range of women's events, and is a frequent guest
on national radio and TV programs. Her website, www.cherifuller.com, has a blog, articles, and inspiration.
ALI PLUM is Cheri's 33 year old daughter, a writer and songwriter, a wife and mother to Noah and Luke. Mother-Daughter Duet: Getting to the Relationship You Want With Your Adult Daughter marks her debut as an author.
(Use only with permission of author.)
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