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Fayette-Mom: Mothers and Daughters

Posted March 26, 2012

Jennifer Joyner

It’s been a little more than a month since my grandmother died following a long illness. While she and I weren’t terribly close, I did love her and was saddened to have to say goodbye.

It was especially hard to watch my mom go through months of caring for a terminally ill parent, and all that entails. And while there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to help, it has made me try to imagine what it will be like to have to say goodbye to my mom one day — and what my own daughter will go through when I eventually pass away.

Mothers & Daughters. Is there a more complicated type of relationship? My grandmother and mother couldn’t have been more different. Grandma was headstrong, opinionated and (if I’m being honest) pretty selfish. Mom is loving, wants to please everyone she loves and can be (if I’m being honest) selfless, leaning just a little toward martyrdom.

They certainly butted heads more than a few times over the years. And yet, when my mom battled cancer several years ago, Grandma came to stay and care for her, no questions asked, just as Mom didn’t hesitate to move out of state to be there for her mom’s last months. Time and circumstances melted away differences, allowing for healing and loving. Mom says being her mom’s caregiver as she lay dying was the hardest thing she’s ever done and yet, she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. There’s a lot of that time she cherishes.

Mom and I are so close now. We really have been for many, many years. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the years we struggled - he knock-down, drag-out fights we had when I was a (selfish) teenager, or the times she didn’t agree with choices I made, stubbornly digging in her heels and withdrawing her support.

Now that I reflect, I wonder if we almost had to go through all of that in order to get where we are now - to really appreciate the love we have for one another. In so many ways, ours is different that the relationship between Mom and Grandma. We’re not going to need a terminal illness to finally bring us close to each other in the end. But in some ways, it is certainly the same: Layered, yet at its core, loving. Complicated, but when it really matters, quite simple.

And how does all that compare to me and Emma? My daughter’s only eight years old, so there’s no real complication to our relationship yet. Or … is there? If I’m being honest (and taking several deep breaths), I can admit that already, she is starting to push me away, laying the groundwork for what our future may become.

And as I’m seeing this play out now for the third generation in a row, I’m realizing: perhaps this is just the natural order of things. As Mom and Daughter, we are going to differ, argue, and maybe even fight, and at some point, possibly separate.

It’s liable to get hard and possibly a little ugly, and certainly gut-wrenching. But …. as Mom and Daughter, it’s also going to be laughter-filled and heart-felt and wrapped in love and respect. It’s going to get oh-so-complicated, but also … beautifully simple.

In some ways, I wish I could fast forward through all the difficult years and get to the easy part. And then, my own mom reminds me, sometimes living through the struggle brings about the most cherished part of all.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.


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  • pirategirl12 Mar 27, 2012

    She would apologize to me each time I would have to do a task that she didn't feel a child should do for a parent. Each time I would ask her if she would do the same for me if necessary...she replied yes. I said well, there! ;) The say she died was the absolute saddest day of my entire life. When my dad died (before mom), I heard my mom thanking God for allowing her to take care of him until the day he died. Mothers have the HARDEST job out there but also the MOST rewarding.

  • pirategirl12 Mar 27, 2012

    VERY honest and raw...I think you're right! I do believe the development of the mother-daughter relationship has to go through the process. I remember as a little girl, I worshiped my mom and thought she was the smartest person in the world! Fast forward to around 15 years old when I knew everything there was to know and mom knew nothing! Lots of tears through a few years there! At 18 when I moved off to college I missed my mama to the tune of $300+ phone bills from calling her 2-3 times a day. At 15 if you would have told me she would have ended up being my best friend, I would have told you that you were crazy! But indeed...she was my absolute BEST friend, BIGGEST fan, and provided unconditional love ALWAYS. I consider myself blessed that I was able to tell her all of those things while she was still alive. I also took care of my Mama through a terminal illness where I became the parent and she the child.