The decision of whether or not it is ok to share my deepest thoughts with my daughter has presented itself on many occasions throughout the years. I’ve been single since she was 5 years old, and now at age 31 she and I have an absolutely glorious relationship. Fortunately, we never experienced the stereotypical mother/daughter angst relationship, and we are happy to have become adult friends.
Despite our closeness, I struggle with how much of my emotional life to reveal to her, lest she either worry about my mental health, or think of me of as less than the strong, independent woman I have presented as over the years. Some of the reasons I struggle is because her childhood was extremely challenging for me, as well as for her dad and of course her as well. She was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at age 7, and from that age until her early teens, she became a human guinea pig for at least 15 different medications to help calm her symptoms. I struggled with confusion, grief and just how much time and energy I could devote to her without it affecting my marriage. Although her dad and I were in our 40’s, we were still new parents and this challenge placed an additional burden on an already shaky relationship.
Before becoming a mother, I was a jewelry designer, weaver, actor, and more recently a Special Education teacher. I honestly thought I would be able to continue at least some of my interests after giving birth, however I didn’t plan on the challenges I was now facing. I dove head first into being her strongest advocate, and let everything else go by the wayside; marriage included. I’m sure that even as a young child, my daughter witnessed my depression and I had to fight to not give in to it, instead showing her my positive side. There are many memories that both she and I never talk about, her manic behaviors, aggression towards me and the general despair that we all felt about not knowing how to help her navigate her life.
Now, at age 31, my daughter shows no visible signs of the early grunting, arm jerking, and agitation that plagued her childhood. She is a successful musical theatre actress, confident and extremely talented. She is loved by all who meet her, and I am most proud of the human being she has become. I have taught Special Education for 34 years, and although my dream was to be a jazz singer, I must admit that I have found teaching to be a rewarding career. In the midst of it all though, there are many voids and gaps in my life that are difficult to put into words with friends, and especially with her. She knows I am still looking for creative fulfillment, and that I really want to be living by the ocean. When I am feeling “less than,” I censor how I am really feeling, because I don’t want her to be sad for me. I sometimes feel as if I have put up a protective shield around her so that she will not be affected by my lack of life planning, missteps and regrets. That if I told her how I really feel about the life I’ve lived, she might crumble and feel helpless.
Lately, I’ve had an opportunity to share some life lessons with my daughter, lessons that I didn’t follow in my own life but ones that I’ve learned, almost through osmosis and just being alive. She has a loving boyfriend, and while I do a lot of listening I also carefully and lovingly impart words of wisdom that I wish I had gotten from my own mother. She listens and thanks me, and I think she has gained some understanding of what it means to be me. I don’t think it is ever possible for anyone to really understand another human being, because we are the only ones inside our brains. Hopefully, I have nurtured enough empathy in her so that as she gets older, she can try to step into my shoes and gain insight for her own life.