Revisiting Relationship Expectations

By: Christine Fishel

I have a new friend whose mom passed away last year. “I miss her a lot,” my friend told me. “We were close.”

She didn’t offer much more, and I imagined the two of them sitting on a pretty patio with glasses of wine, deep in intimate conversation amidst the potted geraniums and gerbera daisies.

“What did you do together?” I asked.

She thought a bit before answering. “We talked about once a week.” I do with my mom, too. But I never thought of that as enough to qualify our relationship as close.

“What kinds of things did you talk about?”

“Nothing deep, just talking, laughing.” Surely there had to be more, but that was all she had to offer to explain the closeness she had shared with her mom.

This conversation didn’t go the way I had expected. Her short answers were not at all what I had expected.

Most of my life, I have craved those porch moments I imagined my friend had with her mom. Because those occasions were what I wanted, I have assumed others want the same thing. I have also assumed that those who have a close relationship with their mom must have those moments and have them frequently.

Over many months following this conversation, I have pondered this question: What defines a close relationship with one’s mother? Have I had misconceptions all along about what makes the ideal mother-daughter relationship? Does such a thing even exist?

Maybe the relationship I have craved is formed from my own selfishness, tailored to my own personality and needs with a little Hallmark commercial mixed in. I think of my own mother, her difficult adolescence filled with financial instability, the long illness and death of her father, the sudden death of her young brother, and the hope and disappointment of a blended family that turned out to be led by a selfish, atheistic step-father. Compared to my own growing-up years of solid health, financial and religious stability, and the possibility of a college education, my mom’s were years of financial, emotional, and spiritual survival. With such different life experiences, I can see now how we might want—even need—two very different types of mother-daughter relationships.

I propose that we begin a dialogue. I welcome the perspectives of those of you who have found the love you’ve needed from your mother or your daughter, as well as the viewpoints of those of you who still crave this intimacy. How do you define a close relationship with your mother or daughter? How have you nurtured and grown that relationship? Has the stability of that relationship changed over time? Please share. So many of us need to hear about your experiences and soak in your wisdom.

One reply on “Revisiting Relationship Expectations”

My mom and my aunt are depression kids who grew up on a small homestead farm. Life was so different for them. I can remember asking my aunt about what she thought or felt and she would always say the same thing. She would chuckle and say, “I don’t know Cindy, we didn’t have time to think about those things. There was always chickens and pigs to feed.” Maybe that was the same way they approached relationships.
My relationship with my children is different, specifically my daughters. There is an unseen bond that has been built with heartache, tears and laughter. There is an invisible connection that cannot be broken by distance or deployments. For me, magical Hallmark moments consist of the ability to capture everyday life and make it special. If I wait for my idea of the perfect circumstances, I will have missed the moment.

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