Having a daughter has been such a gift. Our mother daughter relationship is so important to me and it’s not something I take lightly. Over the last few years, my Little Mama has become more than just my little sidekick. She’s become the very reason I have chosen to work on myself as mom and as a woman.
Not to put any pressure on this Little Mama – though, she tends to thrive under pressure. Sass it up sister!
As a child, myself, I always had a very close mother daughter relationship with my mom. Very rarely would you see her without her little tail tagging along behind her.
Cut to present day.
Tail becomes mom. And she grows a new (sassy) little tail.
And they are… inseparable.
I consider myself very fortunate and blessed to be able to work from home and spend every non-school waking hour with my little girl. Here are some of the important things I feel we have to diligently work on so in the coming years, we will continue a strong, nurturing mother daughter relationship.
LISTEN TO ONE ANOTHER
It’s pretty easy to dismiss what a 6 year old has to say, especially when we have houses to clean, meds to administer, lunches to make, and activities to get to. But when I find myself choosing something else over what she has to say, I stop and think – is whatever I’m doing worth telling her that what she has has no merit? Sometimes, we can’t always accommodate – like when she runs into the kitchen frantically to tell me that her buddy Caleb brought an awesome fidget spinner to school, or how Emma prefers playing tag over dolls, and I’m in the middle of burning a pancake over a gas stove. But there are moments I’m watching tv or exchanging funny bitmojis via text (usually, with Caleb and Emma’s moms, go figure), and Caleb’s love for fidget spinners and Emma’s love for tag is just as important to her as paying bills is for me. Who am I to decide what’s valid and what’s not? Just as I’m about to say “just a minute…” and shoo her and her sad neglected puppy dog eyes to the next room, I stop and think… is what I’m doing right this second worth dismissing my child? (No offence to my mommy friends…you know me and my bitmojis have got nothing but love for you…)
I’ve noticed such a shift in her behaviour from when she admittedly felt neglected by mommy’s “busy” stuff, to now, where I intentionally stop what I’m doing to listen to what she has to say. That includes eye contact, and even getting down to her level. Not surprisingly, it’s become learned behavior for her to stop what she’s doing to listen to me talk as well. Learning to model (and implementing) good listening skills is still a work in progress, but we’re definitely getting there.
Part two of listening also means paying attention to her body language, and understanding why she’s saying “no”. “No, I don’t want to go to the potty.” “No, I don’t want to eat anymore”. “No, I don’t want to share this toy.” As much as I want to do the exact opposite, I have to listen to what she is saying. I’m learning not to force her on the toilet, while allowing her to figure out her own body signals. I’ve learned not to shove food down her throat if she says, I’m not hungry anymore (and yes, it kills me, but we’re all better for it). And if she has a special toy she doesn’t feel like sharing, I think about how I wouldn’t want to share my most precious jewelry with just anyone. We’ve been taught to enforce the idea “sharing” but now I’ve learned, that within reason, children are entitled their boundaries, and in many cases, sharing isn’t always the answer.
However, compromise is.
SUPPORT AND HELP BUILD HER CONFIDENCE
This isn’t always easy for me. I tend to be a hovering mama.
I don’t mean to be.
Okay I do.
Here’s the thing – she needs to know SHE. CAN. DO. IT. She needs to know she’s enough: She’s good enough, she’s smart enough, she’s strong enough. It’s easy to finish her sentences for her, catch her before she has a chance to fall, and prevent her from trying altogether. But I’m learning rather quickly that my grade one kiddo is better off stumbling over herself and her words, than to never learn how to recover. This was no easy feat as far as this mama’s concerned, and I continue to work on this. I have to just keep reminding myself, I’m building a healthy mother daughter relationship and a confident little girl, and something’s gotta give.
Take a hike paranoid, mama!
But more than setting her free, I need to model confidence myself. Self deprecation, saying “I can’t” ad nauseam, or doing and saying things that I would never want her to repeat – should have no place in raising my little girl.
Getting in front of the camera lens is a good start. For the last 5 years, I have felt less than cute and worse – unworthy of being in photos. WITH my daughter, no less. What is this telling her? That I don’t feel confident enough to capture these beautiful moments together? That I am less than, because I don’t weigh the same as I did pre-Little Mama? What am I telling my Smallie if I’m consistently reminding her to practice self love and self care, meanwhile her own mom forgets to do the same?
AGREE TO DISAGREE
Many of us have been brought up to not have our own opinions, or to speak only when spoken to. No disrespect to those family dynamics, but that’s not how I roll with this little one. I want her to speak up. I want her to have a valid opinion. I want her to disagree with her dad and I, and if it means she has the smarts to come up with an equally valid reason behind her argument, all the better. Yes, we encourage a peaceful home with kindness, mutual respect, and support – but it is wildly unfortunate to be silenced and not be given the freedom to speak up. I desire an open relationship with this Little Mama of mine. If at any point she feels the need to suppress her thoughts or feelings, I’m running the risk of losing her trust and the ability to have an honest and open mother daughter relationship with her.
Of course, respect is still incredibly important, and in light of our political climate, it’s easy to mistake disrespect for having an opinion. Once again, achieving a balance between respect and speaking her mind… yup – still a work in progress.
TELL HER SHE’S BEAUTIFUL
I know what you’re thinking… Deb, are you out of your ever-lovin’ mind?? Telling your child they’re beautiful just promotes vanity and a desire for acceptance based on aesthetics! How dare you!
Allow me to explain…
I’m raising this Little Mama to know that being beautiful means much more than what she’s wearing or how she wears her hair. Being beautiful is having a beautiful heart. Having a loving soul. Having a generous spirit. Having a boisterous laugh. And in our eyes and in her own – she was created beautiful. She is beautiful. And she always will be beautiful.
I don’t believe that we should withhold compliments like how many were raised in the 70s and 80s. Humility doesn’t come out of being shamed or being told that they’re not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Humility comes with confidence and gratitude. And if one truly believes they are beautiful from deep within, they will have the confidence to proudly stand on their own, and the gratitude to humbly share their gift with others.
Go ahead, mama – share some of that loud and infectious laughter of yours!
You know the saying, “be her parent, not her friend”? I believe that to be true… to some degree. Often times, one hears the word parenting, and one thinks… be an avid discipliner, be strict, instil fear. In that regard, I have to disagree. Again – no judgment on those who use and are successful with implementing these strategies. For me, I believe that being a parent, is about being responsible. Whether your style of parenting is that of a gentle approach, or more fear-based, the one thing we can all agree on is that we have to be responsible for these little beings, who simply cannot be responsible for themselves. I have to be someone she can rely on, turn to, and trust. Someone who will be consistent in whatever style of parenting we see fit. Kids crave consistency. They want to know you’re not wishy washy, and that you mean business when you mean business. Yes, flexibility helps – but when it comes down to it – consistency and structure is key. Nurturing a healthy mother daughter relationship to me, means keeping expectations clear, and teaching our kids to discern right from wrong.
STOP TAKING EVERYTHING SO SERIOUSLY
I know, I know… I have a 6 year old. Who am I, to speak for my fellow mamas/dads with teenagers? I’m sure I’ll be reworking this very list, a handful of years from now. But at this point, as far as my child is concerned… life doesn’t always have to be about getting into every extracurricular activity, following a schedule, being the best, wearing the latest. Life is meant to be lived. And laughing is living. Feeling is living. We, as parents get so caught up with the day to day plans, we forget to tap into our inner child as well. My little girl helps pull that youthful side out of me. She has taught me to loosen up a bit, and just be nonsensical for a moment (or 10). This has always been essential in nurturing our mother daughter relationship. Learning to understand how she sees the world, and how she wants the world to see her – helps build that unbreakable bond we have with one another. She sees that I’m speaking her speak, and following her lead as far as keeping things light. She has experienced some pretty traumatizing moments at a very young age, and I have her resilience to thank for being able to get through some of those heavy times. But mostly, I see her unparalleled ability to find joy in virtually everything that comes at us. Does this look like a girl weakened by challenge? She rises to the challenge – with a huge goofy smile on her face.
ENGAGE IN CONVERSATION – BE EMOTIONALLY AVAILABLE
Little Mama wasn’t much of a talker as a toddler and not much more in her preschool days. She sang, she mimicked, and she entertained – but hold conversations, she did not. Now, I have myself a little chatterbox and it’s the most amazing thing. We hold meaningful(ish) conversations, and they’re as 2-sided as they come. What I’m learning from this little 6 year old chatty Cathy is that there’s always value in sharing conversation and having open communication with a loved one. Even during moments of silence. Just being present and engaged (refer above point on listening) is enough to send a message to your little one that what they have to say is important, no matter how trivial.
TELL HER I LOVE HER – FILL HER BUCKET (AND LET HER FILL MINE)
I know space is important, and being a smother mother is pretty much the worst possible thing. But I have to admit – any chance I get, I sneak in a snuggle (or 10). I don’t know if it’s our history of loss, or because she’s our only living child, or because of some recent developments in our family’s well being – but I can’t stop saying I love you to her. I’ve been researching the ramifications of saying I love you too much… and well – nothing has stood out to me. Except that you can never “over” love your child. I want the word love to be used to its max in our household. I want love to be shown in everything we do, and everything we say. I want her to know of love and not be afraid to express it. I don’t ever want her to search for love elsewhere to fill a gap at home. I want her to always feel worthy of love, and learn to love herself. It starts with hearing it.
Now that she’s old enough… I’m lucky enough to hear it back.
LET HER SOAR
Just like how my mom was with me for the last… ahem… few decades (yikes), it’s so important to let our little ones explore their strengths and interests. It quite literally, breaks my heart to envision her leaving me one day – but I know that day will come soon enough. So for the sake of keeping our mother daughter relationship in tact, I have to start accepting that she may not go with what MY personal hopes and dreams are for her. I can only guide her to find the right path and follow it with courage and curiosity. I can only hold her hand and support her as we assist her in unraveling her passions and her strengths. I can only teach her and model good decision making skills and once again, encourage her to love herself enough to honor those passions. All while keeping her in diligent prayer. You got this, my sweet girl!
Now go git it!
Please share some of your tips in the comments below, on how you keep your mother daughter, father daughter, father son, and mother son relationships strong! Don’t have kids? Talk to me about how you nurture your relationships with any of your loved ones! Always love hearing from you!
The LOOK:: Want it? GET it!
Here’s to lasting beautiful mother daughter relationships and all relationships,
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