Monday, September 21, 2009

Mother and Daughter InTransition

Last month my daughter lived here and now she doesn't.
First came love, then came marriage and then came the happily ever after. But for me, somewhere along the way came the empty bedroom across the hall and the new relationship we are transitioning into.

My daughter, Natalie got married 6 weeks ago to the Christian man of her dreams, David. He makes her so happy and has such a kind heart, we couldn't be happier for the both of them. All during her college years and dating, Natalie chose to live at home and we knew that it would be quite a change around here when she moved after they got married. I know the Bible says that "the woman is to leave her home" and to "become one with her husband." and we urged her to adhere to this principle. I thought I was prepared for her moving out, but she is my first born and it has not been easy.

My sister and a close friend at church are also joining me on this journey of loosening the apron strings. Both have daughters going away to college and missing them as well. All of us have been surprised at the strange times and strange things that seem to trigger our tears: the empty cars parked in the driveway, the empty bedroom, and for me it was the lack of my exercise partner and the empty spot at the dinner table. For 23 years my daughter has sat to dinner at my table, and it will take some time to undo that. I miss not getting to touch her, stroking her hair and even her smell. Carrying on our relationship, primarily by phone, just isn't enough. However, unlike my sister and friend, their situations are temporary. Their daughters will be living sporadically back in the fold of the family again, especially holidays and summers. My situation has more permanence to it. This chapter is closed with my daughter and at least for the first three weeks it was an emotion akin to mourning.

(I know it sounds like she moved away to some foreign country, instead of 30 minutes away , but writers, not to mention mothers are very emotional people and feel so deeply. I am convinced that all of us writer/moms need to take stock in the Kleenex corporation.)

The good news is that 6 weeks later, no tears are falling and life is getting into a new routine, with a lot of our old routines mixed in. My biggest realization is that whenever she comes to visit, about 1-2 times a week, it is . . . different. While Natalie is still my daughter, she now comes to my house as a guest. Like our other friends and family, she and her husband call before they come, bring food to help out with meals, and help out with the clean up. My husband and I have found ourselves unconsciously playing the part of host and hostess. When we know they are coming I start cleaning up the living room, gathering all the newspapers and magazines. He starts working in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and cleaning cabinet tops. (Yes, I know I am lucky to have a guy who know how to load a dishwasher!)

It seems that when they are coming it is an "event" now and, of course, events must have homemade meals and desserts. My husband and I even discuss what will be on the evening's agenda for entertainment: board games? cards? DVDs? television??? Instead of heading for bed at first yawn, as I would do when they were dating, I feel that either my husband or myself need to stay up and see them to their car and wave from the front porch; just as all thoughtful hosts do. Why are we doing this? Natalie and David have seen this living room cluttered with newspapers. They know what the kitchen looks like in stressful weeks of school. Natalie was living in it all only a few weeks ago. What is changed?

I believe that marriage has somewhat leveled the playing field of adulthood. Without a word between us, our actions are signaling we accept them as adults. Our relationship with them is becoming more of a friendship quality and less parental. But that doesn't mean we always have to act like adults. We still tease, chase and play "bootie tag", a game of who gets the last slap on the rump. Natalie seeks out longer hugs and cuddles than she used to, as if she knows how valuable they really are and how long they have to sustain her until she comes back. I even hear her gently scold her new husband, "David, you are not supposed to be going through my parents' pantry now." I jump in and assure him he could still raid the pantry if he were hungry, just as he did when they were dating. "But mom," Natalie interjects, "you don't do that when you go to your mother's house." She is right. I realize I am patterning things from my own relationship with my mother. When I visit my mother , she always treats me as a revered guest and sends me on my way totally full of food, attention and love.

So what I think is a new transition in our relationship has actually been played out years before and I have subconsciously copied it. And why not. . . . it works. I am now looking forward to getting to know my daughter and son-in-law as certified adults. As usual, my mom was right as she advised me to stop looking back and start looking forward. But, be patient with yourself as you transition there.

I would love to hear how you are coping with transitions in your relationships.


  1. You ARE lucky to have a husband that knows how to load the dishwasher. But I'm even luckier to have a wife that feels about her children the way you do. I think we are just now starting to realize that this "change" in our lives is really a chance to grow as a couple as well as parents to the two other wonderful children that still reside in this house. And as always I'm looking "forward" to learning about all this with you.

  2. transitions are somewhat happy somewhat sad things for me. I have done a lot of them. We have lived in three different countries and now have friends and family spread across the world. All of these relationships have gone through transitions, usually for the best. But sometimes you see that what you thought you had with someone you actually never did. Which is sad, but I guess god to find out.

    That's wonderful about your daughter. Hope everything continues to be happy for her.

  3. I know EXACTLY what you mean! When my oldest first moved out, it took several days for me to learn to only set the table for 5 instead of for 6. And it is funny that you treat your daughter and her husband as guests! I do the very same thing! I cook a special meal when I know they are coming!!! I am learning to love the different nuances of our relationship. I'm sure it will continue to change and grow and get even better.

    Great thoughts, girl! I see that Jody Hedlund is a follower of your blog. She is amazing! We critiqued each others work for just a bit before she got an agent and had to attend to the edits for her book. She just got a contract for a 3 book deal! And she is an amazing blogger with lots of great writing advice.

    I love the new look of your blog!

  4. I just find it interesting how differrent you feel about them when really i don't my relationship with either one of them has changed at all. When natalie is home i will still battle for that seat on the couch with her and end up in a fight. She is still my sister and when you tell me to change clothes because they are coming over i think you crazy! she is still my sister and knows me no matter how i am dressed or how my room looks.

  5. Dalton is right. I don't think I feel as different about this transition as you (and dad?). From day one, marriage seems...way we've been married forever! I guess I miss the comfort of having my own room and being able to get away from the TV (Law and Order, and Sports Network...etc..) and do my own thing. I am beyond convinced that I was made to be married, and when we have a child someday and you get to be "mee maw" or "Yee haw" or "Big Mama"...I will know that I was made to be a mom. Just. Like. You. : )

  6. To DCJ: Many thanks for your support on this journey

    To Tabitha: I appreciate your early readership more than you know. 3 countries is very tough, but glad it has given you the opportunity to transition; at least it was mostly for the good.

    To Sherrinda: Thanks for the good news about Jody, as I hadn't caught on to the fact she had joined. I have learned so much from you and looking forward to more.

    To Nat and Dalton: always enjoy your feedback and glad to see how little has changed for you!

  7. Hi Ava! Thanks for visiting my blog today! My son is nearing the one year mark. I can't believe he'll be turning one so soon! I don't even want to think about him getting married!

  8. Hi, Ava! It's nice to meet you! Thanks for coming by my blog today and for your encouragement! Welcome to the blogging community!

    I've been in a time of transition for the past 7 years and more is coming. Hopefully after that things will be somewhat still for a while. It's amazing how big life changes really do impact all areas of life. I'm so thankful that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever--that He gives peace that literally surpasses understanding!

  9. Hi Ava!

    I too thank you for visiting my blog today! What a treat to meet new people.

    Both of my children are still very young, a three year old and a ten year old. Some days I want to cut the apron strings and burn them. Most days I tear up at the idea of saying good-bye. Life has a way of happening and bringing us along for the ride.

    I am happy that above all your daughter has found a man that loves the Lord, making it possible for him to love her the way Christ does. Phew! Hallelujah!

    Blessings to you...

  10. Ava - if you were sitting in my office, i would just reiterate how normal your feelings are...and how much they speak of your love for your daughter. sounds like you have a great relationship with her!

    The Character Therapist

  11. Great job putting so many of my same feelings into words. It's funny how I clean house and plan meals, including their favorite foods when the girls come home for a visit, just like you. You did a great job describing the transition after the wedding. I remember my transtional relationship with mom the same way you do! Brings it all back. Guess I have that to look forward to/dread with my girls.


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