Letting Go Again

tumblr_ncmxlvl2vp1r238sko1_500Last week I moved my daughter to London, UK. For she and I, child and parent, the event marks one more step in letting go. For me alone, the event is a sober reminder that while the majority of my life belongs to the past; the bulk of hers belongs to the future. In London, when we stood for our goodbyes, my daughter was an iridescent helium balloon in my grasp, but then, I opened my hand and released the string. I watched and admired the balloon, soaring on invisible updrafts ever further away, but the wonder was laced with the sorrow of letting go of something so beautiful and precious.

When I look back on life, it is neither accomplishments nor career that has most given me purpose, fulfillment or joy; it is parenting with my husband. We have raised 2 children and given them to the world as independent adults. They are more than I ever expected, a gift that I am thankful for everyday. As much as I want to keep them in my orbit, I realize that they belong to the future and not to me. When I left London with its diversity, opportunities, youth and culture I knew it would energize my daughter’s soul in a way that small town Canada could not. She was born to live in such a city and I wondered if she would ever return.

tumblr_n5nnxh9yBd1tt1ij5o1_500Parenting is an ancient dance, one where we start out holding children close, but as time goes by we swing them further and further away to dance on their own. We hope the future provides the opportunity for more close dancing, but must live with the fact that many children will find their own rhythm, one we cannot follow, knowing neither the music nor the steps. We call these children independent and should be proud, but deep down in a secret place, we wish we could have them dance to our tune. Relinquishing control is never easy but it is our job.

tumblr_mxg6owlyFg1snw16do1_400My daughter dances to a music I cannot hear, a dance of her own. My final act is to bear witness and I undertake my responsibility with great pride. I will be there to catch her if she falls, as this is an integral part of learning to dance alone. I watch her soar into the future and I feel joy knowing that in her dance, a part of me resides in the future as well.

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Mothers and Daughters


See wonderful cartoons at this site.( bizarro comics.com)

Freud analyzed her. Eminem rapped about her. Faye Dunaway portrayed her with a wire hanger in hand. Let’s face it: Mothers are the go-to figures in songs, stories and screenplays for good reason.

Oprah magazine

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and then advise them to do it. 

Harry Truman

Who are you? No doubt you’d like to think of yourself as unique, the end result of a shiny one-time blueprint used only to to bring YOU into the world. I used to feel that way, special and self-assured, until I reached the age when I would look at myself in the mirror and see my mother looking back.

I realize that my mother and I only share 50% of my DNA, but as a daughter I have come to understand that a mother has considerably more influence in a daughter’s life than just what goes into the hard drive. In fact, the soft ware that a mother gives her daughter is equally potent. In medicine I see mother/ daughter relationships and whether they are deeply loving or testy they are always intimate, intense,vulnerable, emotional and complicated. For many women it is the singular most determinant relationship of a lifetime. When conflict arises in these relationships it almost always fuelled by disagreements over power, authority and acceptance.

I think for every female our mother is the anvil upon which we forge ourselves to create our own identity, she is the whetstone for your blade, or if you prefer a movie approach, the mother figure is an avatar of colossal power. During my formative years I spent extraordinary effort honing my individuality against the grain of whom I perceived my mother to be ( I was wrong, as I discovered in later life when we were inseparable.) and it was my criticisms of her that provided the motivational grist. I wanted to be better, to be different, to be more.

The idiocy of rejecting everything a parent is and has to teach is, of course, called adolescence. Some are brave enough to call it individuation. Some never leave this turbulent purgatory and do not know that adolescence can extend far beyond the teen years and even into old age. The best part about being older is the development of an understanding, it is the quiet acceptance that your mother is/was just another flawed human being after all, and the struggle for every woman is recognizing that our mother is not always right, but neither is she always wrong. She may come bearing criticism but she also comes to you bearing gifts.

I think that the true definition of being a woman comes at the age when you stop blaming your mother for all that is wrong in your life. It is true that a mother’s influence is profound, but until that magic moment when you step up to the plate and say, “ This is my life and I am responsible for it”, you are not an adult. Without this acknowledgement you are never in charge.

When I look I the mirror I may see my mother but more importantly, I see myself. Although she is now gone, she is as integral a part of me as an arm or a leg, but I no longer see those parts we share as a cross to bear. I see them as gifts from my mother, recognized and valued and as well, I see more, qualities that she did not possess. Athleticism, determination, independence,  leadership- these are characteristics I possess different from her template, that I developed in adolescence to escape from her gravity, but I possess them only because she  was the whetstone for my blade.On further reflection I see things that belong to me alone; happiness, contentment, a stable family, a long standing marriage and good health. I realize that I have become more than the sum of the parts of me that are both my mother and myself and that in my small way, I have changed our collective history.