Showing Up for My Daughter
Our adult daughters still need us.
Most parents love the emotional release that comes with empty nesting. Even if our children don’t leave home, they become independent. We’ve done our job.
We love the expression of freedom — ours as much as theirs. We go back to work, enjoy less expensive vacations, and cook only when we want and what we want.
OK, so we still lose sleep worrying if they are OK, bail them out when they hit a wall, keep them on our car insurance, share a cell phone plan and let them use our Netflix account. So, we are not totally free. The truth is, I hope I am never free from my children.
Chopping Down the Family Tree
Not much about parenting has gone as I expected. I had far more challenges than my expert psychology training suggested I should have. I spent a lot more money than my professional salary afforded me. Visa didn’t mind that part. I have gained far more insight about my capacity to love and nurture than I ever knew possible.
I am the mother of a 26-year-old daughter who is living in a different world than when I became of age. Mothers have changed, daughters have changed, and the mother-daughter relationship has changed. The change that is most notable for me is how I show up for my daughter.
My mother was great at showing up when I need her. Her keen mother instincts always knew when I did. Hospital stays, births, deaths, hard breakups - she was there to soothe me or nurse me back to health. But, the older I got, and the less I needed her, the less she showed up. She stayed busy with her life, and I stayed busy with mine, thousands of miles away.
I want different for my daughter. I want to keep showing up for her, no matter how many miles are between us. I want to accept every invitation and receive every phone call. Sometimes, I’ll even politely impose, like when she told me she was planning an international vacation alone. Her friends were short on time and money, but my daughter wanted a summer getaway, so I offered to be her travel companion.
We decided on a 5-day trip to Cartagena. I flew from Colorado to San Diego to meet her so that we could travel together. That required me to be on a total of five planes within 24 hours. My relationship with her is worth it, and I cherish every moment in her presence. Cartagena was our first mother-daughter vacation. Usually, our family of four travel together. So, our trip felt extra special.
The Dance of Dissonance
Our mother-daughter relationship is not perfect. We have different socialization needs, food preferences, and tolerances for ambiguity. She reads fiction, I read nonfiction. She listens to horror podcast. I listen to Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. I wonder if she sometimes intentionally defies me.
I witness my daughter’s dissonance as she navigates her desire to be mothered by me and her interest in asserting her autonomy.
My daughter shows concern for my health issues and checks in with me frequently to make sure I am OK. She offers to pay for our activities. But, she gets easily annoyed if I overly rely on her for simple tasks, like asking her to put the hotel Wi-Fi passcode into my phone.
Nevertheless, I am honored to show up for her any way that I can, even for a rap concert. My daughter invited me to a Drake concert when she won box seats at her job. When her co-workers asked her who she would take, she told me I was the only person who came to her mind. So, she called me up and asked me to fly out to L.A. to go to the concert with her.
I did not think twice about the unreasonable request, because no request is unreasonable when your daughter identifies you as the person she wants to share her special moments with. I packed my bags and flew.
The opening act was as egregious as I have come to expect rappers to be. I browsed the food trays several times during their performance to keep myself from listening. Meanwhile, I was intentional to show appreciation for my daughter’s invite.
I was no more interested in hearing Drake as I am to get a belly piercing. But that was my first rap concert, and, admittedly, he was far less misogynist than I expected. The music was much more enjoyable than the opening act.
However, I admit, I kept waiting for the band to come on stage. I did not know that popular rap concerts are literally a one-man show. Drake was the only person on the stage talking into a microphone with a music track playing. I was in awe of what seemed to be a low standard for performance, but eventually accepted my disillusionment as an age-gap-thing.
I kept watching my daughter sing the words to almost every song. I cheered with equal enthusiasm when her favorite songs played, not because I gave a damn about the song, but because my daughter wanted to share this moment with me. She has friends that she hangs out with regularly, but she saw this as a mother-daughter moment. I could not be more proud to share it with her.
We walked back to our hotel glowing and basking in the ambiance, her in awe of Drake, and me in awe of her. Early the next morning, she drove me to the airport before heading back to her home in San Diego.
When we are together, we spend a lot of time in quiet comfort that maintains mother-daughter boundaries. I don’t need to know all of her secrets or all her thoughts. I just need to know that she is healthy and safe. I love knowing that there is a big space for me in her life.
I Will Keep Showing Up
I don’t miss being a swim mom, buying school supplies, driving lessons, or the college stress years. They have been replaced by frequent phone calls in transition between work and home, exclusive invitations to spend time together, vacation planning, and reminders to start saving for retirement now.
I understand the value of being an involved parent, no matter how old or independent she gets. I will never ask her when she is going to get married or have children. I won’t pass down family recipes to her or demand that she comes home for the holidays. Like when she came out of my womb, I will attune myself to her needs and let her know that she can trust me to show up.
Bakari, R. (2019). When You Can’t Go Home Again. Medium. https://medium.com/@rosennab/when-you-cant-go-home-again-aaae8cfd26d2
Kumar, P. (2017). Like Mom Like Daughter — Is the Nicest Compliment to You. Medium. https://medium.com/@prepawan/like-mom-like-daughter-is-the-nicest-compliment-for-you-2873b625f5a2
Mahone, B. (2017). Some Mother-Daughter Relationships are Complicated. Medium. https://medium.com/@BevMahone/some-mother-daughter-relationships-are-complicated-b75f9c31bb84