This This an article that appeared in the Outlook in 1993. I have reread it many times, but one time I read it aloud to my own daughter because it makes sense to me, I hope it does to you too. Perhaps your relationship with your daughter is not as stormy as some, but the idea of growth certainly is worth thinking about.
Written by Ann R. Eddy
By the time I was 16, I was three inches taller than my mother. She and I had a joke between us during that time. Since daughters often end up taller than heir mothers, we reasoned with mock seriousness, mothers must shrink.
During my freshman year at college I began to wonder if my mother hadn’t shrunk mentally as well. When I came home for the holidays I realized that not only could I reach kitchen shelves Mom couldn’t touch, but my mind was exploring heights toward which she’d never stretched.
Over the next three years I became aware of a widening gap between us. We disagreed on religion, books, politics, education and personal goals. Even our polite small talk exploded into hot arguments.
One night after a heated quarrel I went upstairs to my room and lay in bed thinking. I just couldn’t get Mom out of my mind. When I thought of her sacrifices that let me get where I was, I nearly wept. I had turned into the kind of daughter I thought I’d never be–one whose seeming ingratitude was breaking her parents’ hearts. I finally vowed to bite my tongue until it bled rather than argue with Mom again.
All went well for three years and several short visits. Mom and I had never discussed the no-argument plan, but we both knew the rules. Most old subjects were taboo, and new, potentially explosive subjects were avoided. Unfortunately, we were acting more like polite acquaintances than mother and daughter, and our relationship was becoming shallow.
After college graduation, in the fourth year of our delicate truce, I had a chance to spend a few days with Mom and Dad. Within an hour of my arrival we had exchanged all the “safe” news.” Three days of small talk loomed ahead.
Two of my mother’s friends came for lunch that first day. I hadn’t seen them in years, so for a while I enjoyed their light chatter. But four hours of talk about grandchildren, weather and African violets exhausted me. I was annoyed, too, when they assumed that their slick, neat views on more complex subjects would naturally be mine as well.
When Mom finally closed the front door on her departing guests, she said to me. “Honey, you didn’t have much to say. I wish you had talked more.”
“Mother,” I burst out, “I didn’t talk because I was bored! Don’t you see that you and I have nothing in common? You either don’t approve of or don’t understand everything I find worthwhile!”
I was shocked to hear my dark anger pour out into the light. My knees turned to jelly and I sank into a handy chair. Mom sat down more slowly, as if she were bravely sustaining an arrow through her heart.
But when she spoke it was as if she had read my old thoughts. “You’ve outgrown me, Ann.” She said evenly. “It’s hard for a mother to accept, but it always happens. I outgrew my mother. When I was your age I’d go back home to the farm and think I was going to scream from boredom. No one ever talked about anything but the crops, no one ever asked anything but “How are your hens laying?”
“And once, in a very regrettable moment, I told my mother that she and Papa were dull and old fashioned. Mama sat down with tears tracing the deep wrinkles of her cheeks and said, “But, Nancy, that’s because you’ve outgrown us. Papa and I raised you with the hope that you’d do and learn things we never had the chance to. Our sacrifices have nurtured the very growth that’s made you find us dull.” And then Mama said slowly, but with a strange pride, “I reckon your feelings are proof of our success.'”
This was one of those crystal moments in life when I saw myself as part of an endless chain–a chain of mothers and daughters winding back through time, every child outgrowing her mother, only to make sacrifices for her child and be outgrown herself.
Perhaps Mother and I saw the same chain, because the old chasm between us miraculously filled. For the first time in years we stood on solid, communicable ground. But our first exchange wasn’t very articulate. I found myself with my arms around her as we gave soggy comfort through our tears. In the days that followed, the easy warmth of those moments held fast.
Slowly we began to tackle those points of disagreement that had separated us over the past years. Now the air was clear. The urgency was gone. We were willing to compromise, to admit agreement when we saw it, to acknowledge a good point on the other side and most of all, to listen.
We still disagreed about quite a few things. But our eager, open talks showed me wisdom in my mother I’d never known before or maybe just refused to see.
By the next summer Mom had died. We parted in love and respect. I knew I was what I was because of her. I knew she had known that.