This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
When we received this story from one of our readers, Annabel and I both found it very moving. I doubt whether she is the only woman who finds herself in this predicament. Perhaps you can relate to the story and may have some advice or comfort to offer; if so, you might like to leave a message in the Comments section at the end of this story.
A mother daughter relationship can be tricky at the best of times. Is it the unrealistic desire for a ‘mini me’, a friend and confidant or simply a loving relationship with each others best interests at heart? However much you invest with support, guidance and unconditional love, managing your expectations, and they theirs, things can still go horribly wrong, spiralling out of control.
As a small child, my daughter was timid and shy, very cute really. Often to be found in the garden on the swing singing The Raggy Dolls tune – an adorable TV programme for children, do you remember it? Quiet at school, yet gregarious at home, her reticence to come out of her shell in public was puzzling. Heart breaking really. Early school years were difficult, confusion was obvious with one teacher remarking if she wasn’t so young she would have said she was clinically depressed. There was no bullying. I held on to the positives, she was happy and confident at home and would eventually emerge from this stage.
Senior school was more of a challenge, as parents we fought hard to find the right school for her. I thought I had struck gold when one headmistress promised her school’s ethos was to bring the individual best out of each child regardless of what that might be. The promise never materialised, we were let down.
And yet, feeling I was the only one who could see her worth and determination, I wasn’t surprised when she left school disheartened at 16, without a word to anyone, enrolling herself at the local college. Not a particularly successful time but she continued, doggedly, to push herself forward.
Amidst all this, confounding everyone but me, she passed her driving test first time, much to the 5th attempt brother’s chagrin. There was so much ability and common sense that rarely found a place to shine and help build her confidence.
The following young adult years were not pretty, countless jobs and obvious depression. I could weep, and did, when I thought about the lack of a social life and friends and what I perceived she was missing out on. My beautiful daughter deserved to have fun too. By now she and I were co-dependant, with little or no support. I received ‘phone calls from close family demanding to know what I was doing about it and how they were worried sick, but no-one ever offered help or advice. Counselling began at a leading clinic but ended unhappily. I found another counsellor, but by this time she was an adult and with no feedback I could only hope it was working. Again it didn’t last long.
Everyone was thrilled when a boyfriend and future husband arrived on the scene. Could she and I finally disengage? Could she finally be happy? Armed with that hope I became a fully fledged practising sycophant with the young man concerned. During this time she was tested independently for dyslexia and dyspraxia and was diagnosed with both – thanks school, thanks college, thanks counsellors, not. A thorough dose of self flagellation ensued. The confusion and bewilderment these two conditions caused, the feelings of not fitting in and of being different must have been dreadful, and I was by her side almost every moment. But did we now have the key to a healthy mother daughter relationship?
It seems not. Her past has now become re-written and re-shaped in many angry actions and words with the blame laid at my feet. I am deprived the pleasure of two grand daughters and the delight of witnessing my daughter become the capable and loving mother I know she is.
I have learnt, the hard way, you can put many, many coins in the slot machine of life for a very long time but the years of love, support, belief, and quite frankly hard work, can come to nothing. Someone else can follow up directly behind you, put the last coin in, and claim the prize of her love.