I have what I would call a great relationship with my daughter, Hannah. She is with B and I every two weeks, for seven days. Hannah and I ride back and forth together to and from school; to and from dance; we share meals together and television shows. I like her music, and we talk about many things. I feel like she trusts me, and opens up to me.
It was not always that way, however. Over the last few years, especially since I moved out on my own, I have worked really hard to build a stronger relationship with her. I have done that by being less reactive and dramatic, more connected to her, and more open. For many years, I would respond so dramatically to things she would want to ask me for, that she would stop talking. I didn’t want her to bear that anymore, and I wanted to learn to take accountability for my own part of our relationship. It has been a process of connecting deeply with her, as well as letting go so she can become more independent.
Even with those changes, I have noticed something that doesn’t work in my relationship with Hannah, or with anyone close in my life, for that matter. I have noticed that the more that I put my hands in her life, become too inquisitive, or intrusive, or full of worry about certain things, the more that I push her away. I am not talking about questions about day to day life issues, but when I ask too many questions about issues with friends, or family plans, she shuts herself away. In being the control freak that I can be, I have lost her in the process.
This plays out in other relationships too, particularly with Hannah’s other mom. I have seen over the last few years that if I don’t keep trying to control how we get along, and expect that she act the way I think she should, the more she doesn’t hear what I have to say. When I keep my hands off about my expectations, and just let her be herself, we both get along much better. It goes for friends and family, too. When I stop trying to control the outcomes of things in relationships, it smooths out beautifully, even though it goes against every impulse I have to do SOMETHING. Not to just let go. It is the fear of letting go.
That is all it is really, is fear. And that fear is like no other than with my daughter. Fear that she won’t tell me something. Fear that she will love her other mother and her family more than me. Fear that I am losing her to the world and that we will never connect again. As cool of a mom as I think that I am, about her becoming an adult, I get completely scared to think of her out in this big world, without me. When I am deeply in this fear, I want her to fly in the world, but I want to be running underneath her the whole time with a basket to catch her, in case she can’t fly.
So, when I let go, and stop intruding, and saying yes more instead of asking questions, we connect much more deeply. We have more fun together. I can be there, for her and with her, yet I can trust that she is okay, and she will tell me if she isn’t. It is a learning curve, for sure, but when I really trust in the fact that she is okay, and all is well, then I get to connect with her, and others, in a deep and meaningful way.