Having recently sent my oldest child and daughter off to BYU I’ve reflected on the dynamics of our mother/daughter relationship including what I’ve learned from our past and what I look forward to in our future. I’m sure you can relate as you are a daughter or a mother and at some point either have or will leave the nest.
Danielle From the Beginning
Gabe and I knew our first daughter would be named Danielle before we were even married. My middle name is Danielle and I have always been partial to the name 🙂 We were elated to find out we were pregnant with a girl a year and a half into our marriage. The moment Danielle was born was the most intense and incredible moment of my life. Instantly my life was focused on the care of this precious child and would never be the same as it was before.
Gabe had the opportunity to give Danielle a priesthood blessing when she was a few months old in our church. Among the blessings he gave her was that she would be able to recognize the beauty in the people and things around her. He also blessed her to be a good example to her younger and brothers and sisters. This particularly blessing really caught my attention. When I did the math, it meant I would atleast have two boys and two more girls to add up to Danielle having brothers and sisters. Both of these blessings became evident in her life in amazing ways. She has two sisters and three brothers and she has definitely been blessed with the gift of seeing the beauty in people around her. She is one of the most accepting and kind young ladies I have ever met. She withholds judgement and instinctively reaches out to the less fortunate. I wish I could take credit for instilling these characteristics in her. But I can’t, because she inherited these attributes from her Dad. He is the only other person I know who is as kind and accepting as she is.
I think most mothers assume their daughters will be like them. My first indication of our differences came when I enrolled Danielle in dance class when she was three. After two years it became evident she had more charm than grace 🙂 I took to dance like a fish to water at her age but for her she was more like a fish with two left fins. And when Danielle was around 12, I could see that more of her interests were moving in a different direction than mine. I admit this felt a little uncomfortable at first. It became more difficult for me to relate to her as I remembered myself having different motivations and interests at her age.
Something that helped me immensely to process and understand our personality differences is the Color Code. I came across it about five years ago and it really opened my eyes to the variety of personalities we are born with and what makes us tick. I was able to understand the difference between what motivates her and I and how we can best communicate with each other. It turns out I am a Blue/Red and Danielle is a White/Blue. She and I find satisfaction in life in different ways. I enjoy completing a project or learning a new skill. Danielle enjoys reading a book and getting lost in an exciting story. I was not raised in a family that valued leisure time spent reading. This is one example of the core differences between this daughter and I that could have caused major conflict. I tried to temper my expectations of how her leisure time should be spent with an appreciation for what she enjoys. Once I adjusted my expectations, I felt much more peace and could let her ‘be’. I’m sure she felt more peace also by not always feeling like she had to be doing something I considered productive every time I came in the room. Now certainly I maintained a core set of expectations for all of our kids regardless of their personalities but I also learned how to not project my personal motivations and expectations on her.
I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for differences! Many of the ways in which Danielle and I are different are the ways she has surpassed me. I may be her Mother, but I believe I have more to learn from her innate qualities than she has to learn from me. We still have many interests in common and I know that will expand even further when she gets married and begins a family. I may or may not be secretly hoping she gives birth to an almost 10 pound baby the first go-around too 🙂
Her Final Year
At the beginning of Danielle’s senior year I felt a strong desire to arrange as many family excursions as possible so our family could spend some quality time together. We’ve never been ones to travel a whole lot but I assumed it would be really important this final year with her. A few weeks later, Gabe and I were given the special assignment of creating the reenactments for our church’s Moroni’s Quest. It is a type of 4-day, religious retreat for approximately 800, 12-18 year olds and 400 leaders. LIttle did we know that this assignment would end up consuming approximately 3000 combined hours of our time over the next ten months. But the experience for our family was priceless! We gained spiritual insights about the Book of Mormon, got to know countless members of our stake and had the opportunity to consecrate as a family. Our kids took on additional responsibilities around the house so Gabe and I could spend the time necessary to create this event for 1200 members of our church.I admit there were moments when I wondered if we were cheating Danielle of family time traveling or doing other recreational things during her final year at home. But in the end it brought our family closer in a way that will help us weather the storms of life through our faith and strengthened testimonies of Jesus Christ.
As the months of her senior year passed by, I tried to ignore the inevitable that she would be leaving at the end of summer to go to college. She applied and got accepted to Brigham Young University in Provo. It is the same school Gabe and I met at and graduated from. I am beyond excited she gets to work towards her academic goals in such an amazing learning environment. My involvement in Moroni’s Quest also provided me the perfect distraction from loathing over her impending departure.
The couple of days before she left were definitely sad. It started sinking in to her younger siblings that she would be leaving soon. They all seemed to huddle around her and she was perceptive of their need for her attention. Danielle wasn’t as sad because she was the one embarking on a new adventure.
I had to remember what I felt like when I prepared to leave for BYU. I had skipped fifth grade in elementary school so I was barely seventeen when I graduated from high school and left for BYU. But I wasn’t scared at all. I was so ready to go on a new adventure and leave high school behind.
As Gabe and I said goodbye to our little girl, the final embrace was definitely the hardest standing outside her dorm building. I was the one who didn’t want to let go. I felt love from her but could also feel her excitement for her new life. She is blessed to have a wonderful roommate she’s known since kindergarten and she has many other friends also attending BYU.
This generation’s experience of attending college with smart phones is so different than what my generation experienced. It’s such a blessing to be so connected to her even though she is so far away. We’ve texted almost every day which is more than when she was at home. We now get to strengthen our mother/daughter friendship as we appreciate each other as individuals and enjoy our common interests.
So, why is it so hard to let her go? I think it’s because every day for the last eighteen years I have been emotionally and physically responsible for keeping her safe. Now that she is almost 700 miles away, I can’t do that anymore. But I suppose that is the point. She now has the opportunity to develop herself, discover who she is and what she is capable of. This will only happen as she makes mistakes and overcomes them with her own resolve. Of course I will always be there to continue to love and guide. Gabe and I took her as far as we could and now she will continue to soar.