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There’s nothing quite like the experience of gazing into your
daughter’s eyes. In her you see all of the possibilities that the world holds, and you silently promise yourself that you will make sure she sidesteps the
pitfalls you slipped into. You hold her against your breast, you feed her, you
help her to walk and to gain independence.
Your heart warms when you catch her watching you, mesmerized
by you. You can tell that you are her moon and her stars. Then things change.
She matures, learns more about the world and slowly begins to play an active
part in it.
Instead of imitating your every move and seeking your
approval, she is now more interested in gaining the approval of her peers. With
each passing day your conversations become less warm, less open and less
frequent. One fateful day, you offer your opinion and she flat-out rejects it,
her lip curled as though you are the last person on earth who would know
anything about anything that’s going on.
“While mothers are idealized when children are 4 or 5 years old, teenagers often see their mothers as being old-fashioned or ‘out of
it,’" writes Josephine Ferraro, a N.Y.C.-based psychotherapist. “This is another
stage where children are learning to separate themselves emotionally from their
According to Ferraro, this stage of judgment and criticism of her mother’s life
choices and tastes may linger well into her 20s. Daughters are shedding the idea that their mothers are infallible, all-knowing
beings; which pushes them to attempt to distinguish themselves from their
"When we become adults we have to grow up and be our own person, not someone who is completely identified with who our parents wanted us to be." –Sil Reynolds, a therapist in Hudson Valley, N.Y.
“This stage, as much as it is emotionally taxing for both the
mother and the daughter, is important because when we become adults we have to
grow up and be our own person, not someone who is completely identified with who
our parents wanted us to be,” says Reynolds.
Reynolds warns that it is very natural to want to keep some
things we learned from our mothers, but it is also a natural thing to want to be
different. How this stage in a mother-daughter relationship impacts it
in the long run is solely dependent upon how the mother reacts to her
daughter’s resistance and search for identity.
“If the mother understands that this resistance is normal and
doesn’t feel personally rejected by her daughter, then their relationship will
survive this stage,” Reynolds says. “When the mother is feeling secure in her
role, she is able to accept and talk to her daughter about her resistance, and
she can be there for her daughter to set healthy boundaries which her daughter
needs. Our daughters crave our limits and never want us to give up on them.”
In other words, moms, give your girls some space. But maintain that support, even when you feel her pushing you away. It's a tricky balance, but one that could mean a future filled with love, or fraught with resentments.
Have you and your daughter been through this stage?