Young or old, whether we live around the world or just around the block from mom, 21st century demands, stresses, children of our own, personal differences, and lack of time have done their best to chip away at the first connection we ever knew. Making time for a few small, but powerful, steps in your relationship with mom can strengthen the bond that began even before you were born, and make her day special!
If you’ve been out of touch, or even in touch but focused on everything else life has thrown your way (including taking care of mom if she’s aging), set aside “business as usual” and dedicate a day, an afternoon or even just a couple of private, uninterrupted hours (cell phones off!) to a special activity the two of you can share and enjoy. If what you do reflects a childhood memory, even better.
Gardening or cooking a favorite family recipe side by side, sharing a blanket with some homemade lemonade and sandwiches on a beach, or playing the piano together if that was a family tradition can bring you closer by recalling fun times you spent together. Preparing for summer by shopping for swimsuits and sandals, followed by lunch at an outdoor café, or visiting the neighborhood in which you grew up can bring back the sweetest of memories and help to reconnect.
In fact for one mother-daughter duo, a leisurely drive around the old neighborhood found them standing front and center on the doorstep of the former family home. Mustering up some mutual courage, the two rang the bell and the family who lived there was only too happy to let them walk through after 20 years. “Seeing the kitchen where my mom taught me how to make an omelet, trim the stems of flowers, and how to properly sanitize a countertop, of all things, brought back a flood of memories I’d long forgotten about,” said Austin, Texas resident Betsey Stronglea. “My mom remembered even more.”
If geography precludes your spending time together, something as simple as old photographs can help revive the past and serve as helpful tools to reconnect. Try studying them closely to jog your memory and then writing down detailed recollections of a time together, such as staying up half the night to prepare for the school bake sale you’d forgotten to mention, or when your mother became leader of your Girl Scout troop (she probably wanted to spend more time with you and your friends). Put these written recollections and photos into a beautiful fabric journal and send it to mom, perhaps along with a treat reminiscent of something the two of you baked on that long night before the almost-forgotten sale.
For an aging mom, perhaps the loss of her own mother has left a void in her life. Planning a day where you ask what she liked to do growing up with her mother (a trip to the library, a favorite museum, or even an amusement park, for example), can bring you closer than ever and allow you to nurture her as thanks for all the years she has remained strong, loving, patient and protective of you with little thought of herself.
Finally, as daughters and mothers, our lives are filled with trial and error. We are all imperfect and fallible, not robots. Regrets and mistakes are part of our DNA, so to speak. To acknowledge and learn from them with the idea of moving on together, no matter what, is indeed divine though in most cases well within our power. It is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
Beth Herman is a freelance writer with interests in healthy living and food, family, animal welfare, architecture and design, religion, and yoga. She writes for a variety of national and regional publications, institutions, and websites.