Together, Lily and I consciously designed a paradigm for our relationship in which I was neither unbending authority nor permissive friend. Like the connection that began with her massage, our paradigm evolved as we evolved. I was thrilled that it paid dividends when she was in adolescence, and we’ve been teaching mothers and daughters to create their own paradigms in our MoonBeams Mother-Daughter Circles ever since. At first I felt unmoored, but my temporary discomfort was worth it. Be patient. It’s a process.
As Lily embarked on being a teenager, when I was asked by friends and well-meaning strangers if it had gotten harder yet, I replied that it was actually getting easier! We had created a groove using this premise: we are souls on a path together, linked permanently, and we can make our journey pleasant or unpleasant, as long as we both know we have a choice in every moment. Enlightenment simply means having a choice.
Gradually, I had to give up the power that had taken me ten years to accrue. I practiced letting go of needing to be right, needing to have the last word. I had to invent ways of smoothly releasing my power in a way that felt comfortable to both of us. I had let go of thinking I needed to teach Lily a critical life lesson during the hectic five minutes before we left for school. But I was motivated by my observation that letting go worked! Magically, after our mutual willingness to let go in any given inflamed moment, magically, we would have a moment later that evening during which she or I would remember our earlier firey episode and say, “Can we talk about it? How can we do it differently next time?”
It truly was a miracle. I had an emotional, talkative, and occasionally offensive teenager. We were allowed to be mad at each other, but we were not allowed to blame each other, intend to hurt each other, or call each other names. And as a mother, I had to release any notion that using shame or fear to get her to behave was helpful. And, in retrospect, I see that it taught my daughter not to be susceptible to other people’s use of shame or fear to get her to do what they want her to do.
Letting go of power meant disengaging my will—right when Lily was starting to grow hers. It was almost counterintuitive. But that’s because the old script says that when the other team gets stronger, you fight even harder.
(Look where that’s led the world.)
We practiced—and practiced—letting go during times of conflict. It was much more difficult for me, because I had been practicing the art of holding on, of digging in, for 40-something years! I like to get my way! I have a habit of holding on to an argument—because I’m right! Lily has inherited her share of right-ness as well, but she was more willing, in the heat and drama and attachment and escalation and resistance, to be the one to say, “Mom, let’s not do this.” She never felt like she was giving in or giving up power. This path appealed to her because it was fun and rewarding to do things in a different way.
Together we realized beyond a doubt that the only way anyone actually won was if we both let go, if we both released that ancient and undesirable feeling of digging in, of getting our way. On a larger scale, if we can’t surrender to peace in a mother-daughter relationship, how can there be peace on Earth? What would the world be like, in the future, if today’s kids learned to enjoy the peaceful art of surrender, if they learned that true power lies in mutual empowerment? Getting to the point where we truly know in each moment that we have a choice—and make a conscious one--has been our very gratifying path.
Something about the role of mother seems to necessitate using fear and shame as behavior control. But there is a moment when it stops working--or starts working…against you. I rejected shame and fear as discipline or motivation for Lily, and I encourage other mothers to reject it with their daughters too.
Eventually Lily and I reached a new stage: recognizing the moment of potential conflict escalation. We came to know—from experience—the heated moment was summoning us to surrender to the beauty of that moment, to the joy that potentially awaited. Today, we don’t dig in our heels; we don’t gear up to win. Before a conflict even arises, we know we are both going to win. In an ironic twist, that moment of potential conflict brings with it an element of delight—the delight of surrender. It can happen with a glance in a crowded supermarket, or with a high five in our own kitchen.
CONTINUED in Part Three