“I wish mothers knew that words they whisper, however quietly, echo in the mind of their daughter for years to come,” said my daughter Teresa to me during a recent phone call…so I asked Teresa the obvious question. Were there still words I had spoken to her that came back to haunt her?”

An obvious, but inherently brave question. After reading “Echoes of the Heart: A Collection of Stories from Mothers and Daughters,” edited by Mary Miller, PhD and her daughter, Teresa Miller Archer, we’ve been left pondering the reality of the complexity of the mother / daughter dynamic for so many of us. If we’re honest, how often do we feel like we listen to our mothers? Do we have an ideal relationship in our minds that we feel like is impossible to get to?

In this book, Mary set out to find mothers and daughters who would be willing to tell the tale of how they have felt, over time in pivotal moments of connection and disconnection. It’s a testimonial to how complex these relationships can be, but through reading each story, we see that perhaps there is a way to healing and wholeness in how we relate to one another. If you are passionate about the legacy you’re leaving as a mother, or in relating to your mother (or another mother figure in your life), this book is a must read.

Below are a few beautiful excerpts from these stories and questions to prompt us to think deeper about our own relationships.

“The biggest issue I am really bumping into continually is not to judge. I leap in both feet first so often before I really understand the situation. It is so easy to do. Instead of asking questions, I come out with absolutes on the situation we are discussing or judge an action she has shared with me. The tongue is truly the most difficult part of the entire body to control. She already knows what I think. It is my turn to listen.”

How difficult is it for me to listen without judgement to my mother/daughter? Why is it easy or difficult?

“There is a big difference between those who say, ‘I love my mother’ and those who say, ‘I love my mother enough to be able to battle for a better relationship.’ That is a kind of love that is enough to process any blockage that gets in the way of that, in order to have a more mature relationship. It was scary to begin the conversation with my mum. It was scary to potentially hurt her. I cried a lot just doing it. I feel it is difficult to do with any relationship.”

What would it mean to battle for a better relationship with one another?

“I know there are some things where we will agree to disagree but where she will still choose to support me, and I appreciate that. But as long as her opinion is communicated in love, and I don’t feel threatened by having it pitted against me if I make an alternative decision from what she might want, I want to hear what she has to say.”

Do we communicate our opinions in love, or through pride or judgement?

A poem: Habits of the Heart

habits of the heart are

seamless as a patchwork quilt;

steady,

immoveable.

building wings for the flight;

always ready day and night.

and then, and then…

the years turned corners; the shutter closed.

I stood at the kitchen sink staring

like a deer in the headlights.

yet unchanged and chained

to who I am

these three things remain undiluted.

this faith.

this hope.

this love.

not a bad exchange.

What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind as a daughter, as a mother?

To get a copy of Echoes of the Heart, click here

Image via Martha Galvan via Darling Issue 15.

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