This weekend I pulled out my family recipe book for the 4175th time since my daughter was born to make my mom’s chocolate chip muffins for Sunday brunch and she seemed to notice it for the first time. She immediately grabbed the book and had tons of questions.
“How did you make this?”
“Why did you make this?”
“Where did all the recipes come from?”
“Why is my picture in here?”
Then she took off with the book, taking notes on her favorite recipes and demanding to keep it. And in that perfect moment I thought, ‘Oh my dear daughter, I’ve been waiting for this day. I have lovingly tucked away a copy for you! It’s in perfect condition…somewhere…and you will get your hands on that as soon as I uncover it’.
You see, a few years ago I decided to update our favorite family recipes in our cookbook and ordered one for each of my sisters and my mother. Then I thought my then two year old daughter may also want a copy for herself. I started picturing her as a young woman in her own kitchen, dancing around in an adorable apron as she made her favorite family recipes from childhood.
These are the moments we dream of as mothers. Sharing family history, gifts that we’ve lovingly created in hopes that they will be welcomed with love and joy by our daughters. In this scenario all of my hopes lined up perfectly. My daughter was not only excited about the book but also picturing herself in her own kitchen one day recreating the recipes lovingly created by the women in her family.
Now that we’ve all had our hearts warmed up from this lovely moment in time, let’s take a minute to acknowledge all of the perfect moments we picture with our daughters that don’t actually happen. All of those missed interactions that we enter into with hope and leave feeling crushed by our daughter’s reaction. You know the ones I’m talking about, where she yells because you’ve got it all wrong and you’re left feeling crushed and disappointed.
Let me give you an example from my own mother-daughter relationship. For my 21st birthday my mother planned an elaborate surprise birthday party for me. I had always loved I Love Lucy so the party had that theme, with her and her friends renting costumes to dress up as the characters. She even hired a Lucy impersonator who crashed the party. And this surprise party had a bit of a twist, I arrived with my boyfriend to what I thought was an intimate family birthday party to find guests arriving after me. My parents friends, my sorority sisters and friends from college all came trickling in. I never knew who was going to walk through the door or what was going to happen next. And you’ve guessed it, that caused this introvert, who doesn’t like a lot of attention, to freak the hell out. I had my first panic attack halfway through the party and felt a mix of anger and guilt (for having the anger) that I got put in that situation. Not at all what my mother envisioned when she carefully planned the event.
Of course she felt terrible, because all she wanted was a wonderful celebration of her middle daughter. But as you can imagine her excitement and energy she poured into this special party probably came crashing down pretty quickly. We were both left disappointed and feeling guilt in different ways. How do you even start to wade through all of that?
Here is the secret. These messy moments will happen way more than the perfect ones. And as mothers its our job to accept that our hopes and dreams for our daughters aren’t always going to match hers. Even though it may feel like it to us, having a daughter is not an opportunity to relive our childhoods or right our life mistakes. In fact, this is one of the reasons mothers and daughters have conflict. When we have expectations for our daughters to meet our emotional needs, we set ourselves up for failure.
My mother never said anything to make me feel badly for feeling tortured at the party but as a daughter I felt badly that something she spent so much time planning was anything but wonderful. When our daughters feel a duty to protect their mother’s from their own feelings we get into a complicated mess. Once I was able to articulate to my mother my feelings about the party she said, “Really, Hilary I get in hindsight how that party was not the right match for you”. Acknowledging that I didn’t do something ‘wrong’ by being ungrateful for this party was exactly the thing that could help me move on. Maybe you can see with your own daughter how you releasing her from pleasing you helps her accept herself.
To make this short and sweet, if you expect your daughter to feel fulfilled by the same things you do or for her to love every idea, outing or gift you give her — you are setting yourself up for disappointment and your daughter up with the expectation to make choices based on your happiness. Instead, create a dance with your daughter where you accept her feelings, wants and needs whether or not they match your own. Ah, that feels much better doesn’t it?
If any of this resonates with you my Mothers Group would be a great fit! https://www.liveandbloom.net/mothering-girls