Thunder woke Emily and me up in the wee hours. Knowing how scared Emily gets of storms, I went in to lie by her for a little while. It was one of those sweet Mama and daughter times, when you remember how quickly time flies and how dear these passing moments are. One of those times when you can just be in silence together and understand. I felt her small arm creep around me when there was another crash of thunder, and I remembered how very comforting it is to have someone you love nearby in a storm.
With Mother’s Day recently passed, I wanted to elaborate on a comment I made today on Facebook about mothers. There is a terrible assumption in Western culture that you must, necessarily, pass through a phase where you despise your mother as a teen daughter. If you don’t have screaming matches, constant battles and open warfare, you probably aren’t normal.
Our culture plays up generational differences in entertainment and advertising, repeating the lie that our mothers always have to embarrass us, always have to be viewed as stupid, that mothers are the enemy of fun and coolness, and that teen girls must revolt against the oppression and over-protection. What a tragic and false line of thinking.
As a teenager, I remember being in a restroom with other girls in front of the mirror, applying their make-up and chatting. One of the girls called her mother a “bitch.” It stunned me, and the reason it stunned me was that I loved my mom. It wasn’t that there were never any misunderstandings. It wasn’t that I was some perfect daughter. (I regret not getting my head out of the clouds and helping her more with housework and things I could have done to lift her load. As a mother of grown children, I think of Mom’s labors and sacrifices more every day.) But the thought of hating her as a teenager? Not within the realm of possibility. It made me sick hearing it.
I realize girls and moms can have opposite personalities, situations differ, and our culture has changed. But it is a moral sickness to assume that daughters have to hate their moms in the teen years to be normal. Instilling respect, compassion, empathy in our daughters is something we have to work at. It will not come passively, because the culture disciples and indoctrinates in a very systematic way.
One way that I work to achieve empathy and compassion is to remind our youngest, the only one still at home, that I do need help. Children who are waited on and not asked to do their part within the home become the entitled brats we see who fail to launch. I want her to see people with lenses that show the burdens others carry in this life, and to adjust her own demands in light of those things. That is a check to selfishness, and a call to usefulness and kindness. Our children need this desperately in our age of entitlement.
There are no guarantees that our children will not go through a stage of selfishness and dislike for mothers (or fathers.) But don’t assume it’is necessary, and working on a strong relationship of trust and love will help mitigate the toxic assumptions this world promotes.
As a P.S., one of my favorite memories is of my mom french braiding my long hair in high school. I never did manage to do it myself. She would get up early sometimes, even when tired, to do it for me. Bless you, Mom, for all those precious, little things. <3