Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Mother Curse - Seeing Your Daughter's Potential While She's Driving You Nuts

It’s déjà vu meets out of body experience. I’m sitting on the floor helping my daughter put away the eternal pile in her room, and I see her blonde head pouring over a book she hadn’t seen in awhile. I’m taken back 28 years to another room with shag carpet. I’m sitting on the floor and this time, it’s my mother that is helping me clean up my eternal pile. My short brown page boy haircut flops down in my eyes as I find a book that was just begging to be opened and perused. I hear my mother’s pained frustration at having to remind me yet again to stay on task and finish the job… and I feel that same helplessness. I don’t know how I can put down a book that calls my name. I put that book away and find myself on another rabbit trail when my mother breaks into my thoughts with “Someday, Ruth Lynn, you will have a little girl JUST LIKE YOU.”

I snap back to the present where I’m still sitting on the floor sorting Polly Pocket from Littlest Pet Shop. And, she’s still there, head down, hair in her eyes, enraptured with her imagination. I call her name and she looks up with a guilty deer-in-the-headlights-look. Brusquely, I remind her that the pile will not put itself away, but I refrain from echoing those age-old words. Yes, she will indeed if God so wills it… she will have a little girl just like her, and that’s a good thing. Strong-willed daughters give their mothers gray hair, but someday they’ll change the world if they learn to submit to God.

Some days, however, I wonder if she’ll live that long. My frustration with her feels overwhelming at times. The repeated bickering with her brothers, her refusal to keep her body to herself, her lack of respect to her daddy and me, the lack of desire to obey, and my own sin issues reflected back to me make it hard to see the amazing qualities she does have.

I try to remember that I need to be thankful, that she is a gift. Of course, I think, her very creation is a miracle. But it is so very hard to see that gift in the moments where my peace is disturbed and fights reign and I am forced to fight for composure and justice and patience one more time. Ephesians 5:20 comes to mind, “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Ann Voskamp captures my thoughts exactly:
          “The whole of life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts,
and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. …
There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.
It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.
She continues:
“But in this counting gifts, to one thousand, more, I discover that slapping
a sloppy brush of thanksgiving over everything in my life leaves me deeply thankful for very few things in my life. A lifetime of sermons on
“thanks in all things” and the shelves sagging with books on these things
 and I testify: life-changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless
 nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.”

That moment when I see beyond the hands on her hips and the furrow of her brow and the attitude she’s wearing... when I can see the gift of her strong character and love her for it.  That is the counting. That is the nailing. The strong-willed daughter’s mother must be strong-willed as well. She must doggedly see the good gift in her child whether the mood is compliant or volume loud.

I continually feel that there is a piece missing to our relationship. I remember how as a single teacher, I’d tell my student’s parents to look for even the smallest thing to give positive reinforcement. The child finds himself drowning in the negative issues of his own making and unable to see the love of the parent.  Sometimes, I cringe at the gall I had to say stuff like that – having no experience. It had to be hard to hear from a single non-parent like me. Now, as a parent, yeah – I should listen to my former self.

As I was pondering how to bridge the gap in our mother-daughter relationship, I heard a song speaking the name of Yahweh: the God who wanted us to know His name. It hit me. I need to make myself known to her. I struggle in almost the same ways she does. I’ve done this a few times before, took the time to open myself up to her, but never on a regular or intentional basis. Each time, though, she looked up at me blue eyes rimmed with thick lashes in solemn understanding that she’s not the only one.

That’s the most appealing thing about Jesus. He, our High Priest, wore the same flesh and bone and struggled with temptation just as we do. Hebrews 4:15-16
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

When I find myself working on that eternal pile in her room, I will see beyond her rabbit-trailing to the gift of who she is.  I will speak words of encouragement to her and give her hope that her mommy understands the struggles she has.

There is indeed Someone who can empathize with our weakness. Praise God!


  1. I smile in recognition. My daughter is turning 13, and it has gotten easier and easier to appreciate her strong will as she's needed it more. I would not want anything less for her, even if it means more work for me. But I'm up to the challenge. I'm strong-willed, too.

    1. Thanks Megan! That's good to hear! I'll look to the future with hope. :) Let's hear it for strong-willed moms parenting strong-willed daughters!