My daughter became my catalyst. t woman that I could be for her. My daughter became my catalyst.My eldest daughter is now 24 years old, most parents would say “it feels like just yesterday when she was born” well I am not that parent; I felt the pain and the happiness of each and every one of those years with her. I was a very young mother, a teenage mother to be exact. I didn’t know what I was doing; but I knew I loved her and wanted to be the very best woman that I could be for her. My daughter became my catalyst.
My struggle of letting her go
In a certain tense you never let your daughter go, but in another you do. For so many years she has been my “why”. Eric Thomas a motivational speaker refers to your “why” as something that makes you work hard, something that propels you, your reason to move forward. Well my eldest daughter was my “why”. I remember waking up three in the morning to study until eight am because I was so determined to study and get my college degree. If you look in the background of her baby pictures you will see my books, highlighters and notepads. My daughter was my impetus for change. She gave me the energy I needed to be successful. I wanted to create a legacy for her and I did, and she made me proud.
One legacy I created was pledging in a sorority, you see in the black community being a member of a sorority provides you with status and a certain level of network opportunities; but most importantly it places you with a sisterhood committed to community service. I remember when I attended the information session I knew desperately I wanted to be a member. I could see myself wearing the letters, however the process was extremely challenging, it was so difficult that I was hospitalized for dehydration. But I kept thinking of how our lives would change if I became a Delta and if one day my daughter Alleea would be a Delta. I remember my mother calling me when I was away at college and in the hospital saying. “Donna come home, you are sick” I remember immediately thinking “I cannot let myself down and I cannot let Alleea down.” Alleea has always been my “why”. That was almost twenty years ago! And it is with pride that I say that I am a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority incorporated! And what trumps that feeling is that three years ago I pinned my daughter Alleea into the same sorority that I pledged in and she is now a legacy!
For so many years she has been the impetus of my life. My daughter has made me want to be a better woman and she has. However, now she needs to create her own life and become a woman. I never saw her outside of me. I never saw her as her own person, she has always been an extension of me. She instituted my standards and my values, but in the last couple of years I have seen her moving into her own. I have seen her make decisions that I do not agree with. I wanted her to work for a corporation; she wanted to work for a non-profit. Although I like her boyfriend I wanted her to date, and she wanted a steady relationship. I saw that she was creating her path and I struggled with that. I wanted her to continue to follow my lead, but she was telling me through her actions, that she was creating her own path.
Her struggle to show me she was letting go
If you ever meet my eldest daughter you would believe we are sisters. People describe our visual appearance as “uncanning”. Well in the last two years I have seen my daughter secretly making decisions that she knew I wouldn’t agree with. These decisions would cause a great deal of tension between us. Our communication was struggling and so was our relationship. There were times of silence, times of anger and times of great grief. But eventually we would land on her ground. This process of discontent was necessary for me to let her go and understand that she was creating her own life and her own world.
This struggle continued in different ways, and now I have conceded that she is my daughter but she is now transitioning into her very own path as a young woman. Although I am her mother and she will always be my daughter our relationship has now changed. My daughter is no longer an extension of me; she has created her own life. In my mind I think of a picture of a circle and a heart. The circle and the heart connect although they are two distinct objects, for years that is how we have been. Now I am picturing us as two separate and unique objects and that is a new concept for me.
Alleea is now her own woman and my role in parenting her has changed. Although I am her mother I am no longer someone that will freely offer her advice. My advice will come by suggestion, our relationship has now transitioned.
The natural order of things
As a young woman there is an independence that occurs and I honor my daughter as she transitions into this new phase. Motherhood is not stagnant so we must be ready for change and our daughters must be prepared to experience the highs and lows of their true independence.
"Let the kids walk!" my friend yelled as I discussed breakfast options with the kids. "If they don't like what's here for breakfast, let them walk to the store and pick up what they need!" Initially I ignored him thinking I'm not going to let a 10 and 11 year old walk to the store alone. I continued with our discussion on options for breakfast. That's when Mark came out of the room looked at me and said. " Donna this is how they learn, this is how they grow" I thought for a minute and reflected. The store is about 6 blocks away, we are in a very safe family oriented neighborhood in NJ, Kennedy walked to school a few times by herself (4 blocks) , then I concluded... maybe this isn't a bad idea. Mark went about his business and I decided to prep Kennedy (11 years old) and Madison (10 years old). We discussed safety concerns: crossing the street properly, not speaking to strangers, not accepting any car rides and paying attention to their surrounding. I gave them four recyclable bags to carry the groceries back home, we created a list of what they wanted to purchase and a fifteen minute lesson on economics ( we estimated the cost of each item and how much money they needed for the purchase). The mission They girls walked out of the house with confidence, armed with a list, cash and one cellphone. I said a prayer as I looked out the window hoping they were safe. Mark took a nap! Ten minutes passed and I wanted to call to see how they were but I decided that I needed to allow them the opportunity to walk and shop. Fifteen minutes passed and I glanced at my phone every second for the next five minutes when they finally called. They called with glee in their voice, their only question was to verify what pancake mix to purchase. Within ten minutes they were home and with major glow of accomplishment on their faces ! I was so proud of them both . Providing them the opportunity to grow I have to admit that I am a nurturer and I almost made Kennedy miss the opportunity to grow because of my own fears. As a mother we have to be mindful that our personal fears are not paralyzingly our children. Instead of being fueled by fear we need to arm our children with the tools they need for success. With growth comes failures Maybe I should have let them go without the crash course in economics and walk all the way to the store without enough money and have to walk back home and back to the store again. After all of that walking the pain in their legs and feet would make them prepare better next time . Letting go I'm proud of Kennedy for walking to the store, purchasing food and being an amazing young girl. I'm also proud of myself for understanding that I have to allow Kennedy the opportunity to grow and that mistakes/failures are valuable ways to learn and grow .
Maya Angelou speaks of nine words that her mother said to her that changed her life. With the eloquence of a poet, Maya Angelou reflects on her mother as a woman of great character. An entrepreneur, a strong willed woman, someone people admired her; she refers to her mother as a hurricane in its perfect power. At the age of twenty-two Maya’s mother said nine words to her that changed her perception of herself; she told her “I think you’re the greatest woman I have ever met, “like Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt and my mother.” Those words impacted Maya. Maya stated that after her mother said those words she immediately thought: “suppose she is right, suppose I am really going to be something… maybe I should stop smoking, maybe I should stop drinking and stop cursing.” Her mother planted a seed in Maya, the seed of greatness.
Your words and perception of your daughter can impact her life.
Can you imagine the paradigm shift that took place in Maya Angelo’s life? Those words her mother said changed Mayas thought of herself and in turn gave the world an amazing poet, writer and female leader.
How are you impacting your daughter’s life?
In a study conducted by Onayli and Erdur-Baker in 2013, the researchers interviewed 426 female university students with the mean age of 21.6 years old. The study focuses on mothers and daughters and the impact mothers have on their young adult daughters self esteem. This study noted a few very interesting facts: daughters who have insecure bonds with their mothers during infancy are more likely to have psychological problems. It also notes that the quality of the mother daughter relationship plays an important role in the development of her self-esteem.
In this study connectedness was defined as the ability to share feelings and ideas and represents an affective attachment to the relationship. Connectedness between a mother and daughter was noted as important as it pertains to a mother’s impact on the daughters self esteem.
So what does this research mean and how does this impact my daughter?
Having a positive connection with your daughter can increase her self-esteem and in turn provide her with the foundation to increase her confidence and self-perception.
Here are four ways to increase the connection between you and your daughter:
1.Use your words wisely.
It is easy to say hurtful words during a disagreement with your daughter. Try to use your words wisely, words have a long lasting affect. If you do say something that was wrong admit it, and let her know that you didn’t mean it. Use words that encourage and propel her forward, believe in her and be her biggest cheerleader
2.Try not to label your daughter.
I have seen mothers label their daughter as the “smart one” ‘the creative one” “the clumsy one”. Whether the label is positive or negative remember your daughter is growing and changing…don’t hold her back and/or don’t hold her to standards that she has grown out of. Allow her to grow and guide her through this growth.
3. Help your daughter visualize her future.
There is a concept called limited time perspective, which is typical for a girl until approximately 23 years old. This prevents some girls from thinking and planning for long term goals. Help your daughter see the larger picture. Do that by asking her to imagine her future and/or have her create a vision board of her life in the next five years.
4.Listen, Listen, Listen
Give less of your advice and hear more of her thoughts. Listening can give you a blueprint of your daughters mind whether it is right or wrong. With this blueprint and less emotion, you can more effectively communicate with your daughter.
Onayli,S., & Erdur-Baker, O., Mother-daughter relationship and daughter’s self esteem. Procedia Social and Behavioral Science 84 (2013) 327-331.
There I was racing to the subway; balancing my handbag, luggage and walking up and down those dreadful stairs to and from the platform. After two subway trains and a fifteen-minute AirTran; I finally found myself at Newark International Airport checking into a flight to North Carolina. I smiled as I gave my drivers license and boarding pass to the Transportation Security Administration. I was on my way to a weekend of fun! It was my friend’s birthday and we had an entire weekend of events planned.
I sat on the plane, buckled myself in my seat put my headphones on and I exhaled as I could finally relax. The flight attendant stood up and with a gracious smile she began to recite the safety regulations. Then one thing she said resonated with me “ If there is a drop in cabin pressure the panels will open revealing oxygen masks; be sure to place an oxygen mask securely over your mouth and nose FIRST before assisting others”.
I thought for a second, why did these words sound so new to me today although I have heard them several times before? As a woman with two daughters, a demanding job, and many other obligations I thought to myself: “Am I as a mother… putting the oxygen mask on my face first?”
There is a theory in nursing founded by Dorothea Orem called Self Care. This theory emphasis the importance of caring for oneself in order to be healthy and helpful to others. As a doctorate prepared nurse, I know that nurses like mothers take care of others day in and day out; many times forgetting about ourselves. This is a common mistake. We have to remember that before we are wives, mothers, sisters, aunt, etc. we are a woman first.
Here are three simple changes you can make to assure that you are: “placing the mask” over your face first.
- Take fifteen minutes a day to meditate. My best friend sent me an app that guides you through this process. It is called “stop, breathe & think.”
- Exercise, you don’t have to run five miles but go for a walk, join a running group or take the staircase instead of the elevator daily.
- Avoid negativity; always be mindful of the energy that is in your space. Positive energy will inspire you and help you to excel.