Mommie dearest

It’s news to me, but according to the experts, the family relationship that is the most troubled is the one between mothers and their teenage daughters. Think of the door slamming, the silent treatment and the snarky comments hurled between Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan (back when she was cute) in “Freaky Friday” – a movie which we have watched and enjoyed many, many times.

Psychologists say that the root of these conflicted relationships is the result of the mother seeing her daughter as an extension of herself at the same time that the teenage daughter is desperately seeking her own sense of self. The article that brought this to light described a mother and daughter who hung out together on Friday nights, eating their favorite candy and watching “Project Runway” in their jammies.

Everything was fine until high school, when the daughter wanted to hang out with her friends instead of mom. The mom reacted like she had been stood up for a date and became resentful that her daughter was choosing to spend time with her friends instead of with her. Her daughter felt conflicted about going out with her friends because she felt like she needed to take care of her mother’s feelings. After reading this, I couldn’t help but wonder: who was the adult in that relationship?

Having had two daughters – and I still have one who is a teenager – mother-daughter relationships is a topic that I can speak from experience on.  While I’m not out of the woods yet, I can say that the relationship between me and my daughters has been relatively free of conflict and was even described as “good” by Jennifer…high praise indeed when you’re talking to a teenager.

How have we managed to avoid the fights and drama that are often a part of mother-daughter relationships? When our oldest daughter was entering junior high, I got some very good advice from a gifted family therapist who we saw regularly. He said, “Don’t try to be your daughter’s best friend. That’s not what she wants from you. She wants boundaries because that will make her feel secure.” That’s advice I’ve tried to follow. You won’t see us in matching bikinis on Facebook.

Another reason why we get along (and for which I can take no credit) is that I happen to be blessed with girls who want to please.  There are many parents who do all the right things and relationships still are strained just because that’s just the personality their child was born with.

And…and this is a huge…I have a husband who is ready to step in to support me and reinforce the boundaries when the occasional snarky comment is flung my direction by one of the girls.

That’s not to say that our household is run like an impersonal boot camp. My daughters and I have enjoyed many evenings watching “So You Think You Can Dance” together, sharing Jelly Bellys and trading backrubs. But should their phone ring with an invitation from one of their friends to go get coffee, I’m happy to for them to join their friends and leave me on the couch. Thank goodness they have friends!  All I ask is that you text me with what time you’ll be home.

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