My mother, my friend

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

It had been another unsatisfying conversation with my mother. I felt that she'd been pushing for information. From her perspective, she was just interested in what was going on in my life.

Annoyance turned to frustration – then sadness as I berated myself for reacting in this way. And yet, it seemed to be a pattern, and I wondered what had happened to the my mom = my best friend equation.

A friend told me that what I was going through was natural. Typical mother-daughter dynamics, she said, especially in early adulthood when the parent-child relationship undergoes some seismic shifts.

But I found this answer unsatisfying, and rather than give in to the thought of a perpetually fraught relationship, I redoubled my efforts to turn things around and decided to pray.

Mainly, I tried to see my mother from God's perspective. I worked on appreciating all her good qualities – and there are many. When things would get tense, I would actively value her generosity, her selflessness, her kindness. Truly, there was a lot there to be grateful for. But the friction continued – as did my frustration.

Then another friend told me about a new book that looks at both sides of the mother-daughter relationship. Daughters, it reveals, almost always feel hypercriticized by their mothers – even when criticism is the furthest thing from a mother's mind. It's just the way things are between mothers and daughters. Or so the book claims.

It helped to learn that what I was dealing with wasn't unique to my relationship with my mom. In fact, it woke me up. Not because I suddenly felt a kinship with all the other frustrated daughters out there, but instead because I realized I'd been duped.

What I saw in that moment was that I was acting out a role. That I'd been tricked into believing that I had this role to play. After all, I was the daughter. Everything pointed to my need to feel suffocated, hyper-analyzed, criticized, annoyed.

But that wasn't the role God had given me – in the same way that the overly interested, hyperattentive role was not the one He had given my mother.

I was delighted when I realized that all this could be resolved simply by seeing both my mother and myself spiritually.

"Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation," wrote Mary Baker Eddy. ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 332). Starting from that standpoint – that we are both children of God, and that God is our Father-Mother – caused a shift in my thinking. I stopped viewing our relationship hierarchically.

To say that we are both children of God in fact meant that, spiritually speaking, my relationship with my mother was one of sisters, or friends, not mother and daughter.

I also loved the idea that we could be blessings in each other's lives. God, the one Creator, had brought us together for a purpose. Since that was the case, only good could characterize my relationship with my mom.

I started expecting a blessing when I thought about our interactions. I started to look forward to the good we could discover together – and discover in each other.

I can't say that things shifted instantaneously. But I was rooting out entrenched views of the way things are between mothers and daughters – and I was making progress. Our conversations got better and better. Not because she was acting any differently, but because my thought was changing.

I found I was more willing to hear what God was telling me about her – about us – when frustration or annoyance tried to creep in. And within a few months, even those feelings had mostly subsided.

Are things picture-perfect between Mom and me these days? Not 100 percent of the time, no. But I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said that they're still wonderful – and that I genuinely feel a healing has taken place. As in any human relationship, we have things to continue working out together. But the mom – make that sister – I've discovered is well worth the effort.

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