"I suppose every daughter eventually gets to this moment with her mother. You stand there, staring in disbelief over something she's done or said - or about to say because you can feel it coming. The truth is, you don't fully appreciate your mother and all she's been through in those moments, otherwise your reactions to the scene might be a little less selfish. But you are young, you haven't "lived" yet and you respond like a person of youth would.
So...you just sit there staring at your mother, wondering 'Why?'
And that is unsettling, right there in that moment.
When you don't have the benefit of years of wisdom, all you an see are your own needs. Such is the case with the young. You can't understand your mother the way you should. But, in all the non-verbal, unspoken measures of judgement you know something is happening that is powerful. Whatever it is will affect you greatly. Knowing this, you are shaken in how to respond. You know intuitively that you are an extension of your mother and you haven't yet figured out in life just how that is going to work for you. And so, whatever "it" is that is about to crash into your world, you are unnerved at what it will all mean.
In your mother, you see you.
And you don't know quite what to do with that yet. " ~ Helen Odenwald "In You I See Me"
I recently read this book, and those are the words that stuck with me throughout. The book is about two sisters and their mother and the "secret" their mother reveals that they have another sister. They eventually find her, make contact, and forge a relationship. It's a nice story. The book is not particularly well-written or organized, but it illustrates a mother/daughter relationship that comes full circle.
I have three daughters. Two biological, one "bonus" or "step" or whatever other term society likes to use to describe a child born of one mother and raised by another. I consider them all my daughters. But as individual as they each are, so is our relationship.
My oldest is 20 years old, and about to plunge headfirst into the adult world by her own choice. She has concluded that living on her own and supporting herself is the best way for her to "fit" into our family now, and that is ok with me. I'm supportive of a young adult her age taking steps to become a full-fledged adult, however misguided she might be in the actual facts of life (like needing a steady income, paying bills on time, prioritizing wants over needs). She will figure those things out by trial and error, just as I did, and hopefully remember some of the life lessons I've tried to impart along the way. Our relationship is as it should be - she, pulling away and sensitive to my input, me, wanting to keep her from being hurt, or experiencing stress, or any of the other negatives of the real world. But I can't. And, so, I must let go. And let her successes and failures be her own. And forge a new kind of relationship - a middle ground between being her mom and being her friend; still guiding but holding back a bit more. Biting my tongue when I see her about to fall into tricky situation. Helping but not hindering. Like me, she is full of big ideas and has definite ideas about how her life will unfold. But she is her own person. In her, I see me.
My middle daughter is almost 18. A near-adult, but not a bit ready to take on the world in that way. She, who is perfectly happy to reside at home, happy to be driven around instead of acquiring a driver's license, having no interest in adult rites of passage like getting a job or having a debit card. Nope, this one would happily live at home until.......well, forever, maybe. She likes the simple things, like snuggling with the dog, or watching movies. But her view of the "real world" - well, it's pretty grounded. She has a wisdom beyond her years, even if she doesn't always act on it. She's intuitive and "tuned-in," a great "reader of people" and always strives to make others happy. I worry, sometimes, that she puts others' happiness over her own. I worry that she won't get a job. I worry that she won't go to college. But I know she's still a kid. She's young and has struggles and will take a little bit longer to grow up. So, while I'm still fully her mom, I'm also her friend, and advocate and supporter. And, eventually, I'll have to push her. I just hope it's not too hard. Like me, she is funny and welcoming, warm and inviting. But she is her own person. In her, I see me.
My youngest daughter, and my "bonus" daughter, is 15. She is mature, responsible, eager to please and prefers her own company (along with her cat). She works hard and is completely confused about the trajectory of her life. As it should be. At 15, she is still at a crossroads and things could go so many directions. We get along well, she confides in me. But I am not her mother. I am her parent: the person who has raised her longer than her own mother at this point, the person who is in her daily life. I want for her all the same things as my "own" daughters. She is my own. I do not differentiate. But she is cut from a different cloth than her sisters - things that only biology can conjure - ways that only she can know because she is from another mother and has a different father. She is driven and athletic and competitive. Socially, she shrinks back. She prefers to be alone and keeps her few friends close and is fiercely loyal. Like me, she is shy and uncertain, organized and likes things orderly. But she is her own person. In her, I see me.
We're all a bit of each other. And that's what makes it so hard. And so beautiful.
In each other, we see ourselves.