Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

A Mother’s Day reflection

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the May 1, 2003 edition of the Inland Register>

I remember a little girl who smiled so big her eyes almost disappeared in her crinkling cheeks. She ran everywhere she went, on tippy-toes, enthusiasm spilling like cherry blossoms in a breeze.

Could I ever forget how she adored me? She’d crawl onto my lap and squirm around until we were skin to skin, her cheek against my chest. I was her world.

These days I catch glimpses of that little girl, but they seem rare. At age 12, some alien has taken over her body. Shy akwardness replaces exuberant self-confidence. I must seek her out, knocking on the bedroom door, then knocking again louder to be heard over the music. Her world has expanded and I fumble while finding my place in it.

The mother/daughter relationship may be the most complex of any we experience. It is often sentimentalized rather than understood. As the primal relationship it impacts all future relationships. As my daughter enters adolescence, I realize more fully my own position: as mother and as daughter.

Looking closely at ourselves as daughters can be painful for many women. Our mothers were not perfect, just as we are not. If we carry unhealed wounds from our childhood we may inadvertantly pass them on to our daughters.

The Easter season presents an opportunity for us to expose these hurts to the light and be healed. Through celebrating the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus we experience the path of transformation. We allow ourselves to acknowledge our pain, to grieve over our hurts, to honor our own walk to the cross where we take the risk to let go. We choose to let the healing begin. We don’t need to confront our mother, but through sharing our story with a trusted friend, therapist or spiritual director, our story is validated and opened to transformation.

Catherine tells me, “I don’t think I had much of a relationship with my mother. It was basically her telling me her problems and getting after me for what I did wrong.” She tries to be different with her daughter, trying to be sensitive to her feelings, and pro-active about communication. “I think we know more now,” she says. “My mother just didn’t know any different.”

We can connect with both our daughters and our mothers through celebrating accomplishments or milestones. Go out for breakfast, or take a walk in the woods. It means a lot to my mother when I say the rosary with her, to my daughter when I listen to her favorite CD. It’s hopeful for me when they agree to take part in one of my prayer rituals.

Eileen Pettycrew shares a loving closeness and lots of laughter with her mother which she hopes to pass on to her two daughers. “This quality in our relationship has developed over the years and is in stark contrast to the tense, mutually suspicious relationship we suffered through when I was a teen,” says Eileen.

Pettycrew’s website offers tips for girls about sharing their thoughts and feelings with their mothers, and advice for mothers on staying close to their growing up daughters. []

She says daughters are searching for who they are, as are mothers. “We don’t always know how to do that. We bury our hearts under rigid roles, busyness, frantic achieving, agendas, and negative attitudes, and, of course, our daughters learn how to do this from us. On some level we mirror each other, and we don’t always like what we see so we strike out against the mirror.”

Pettycrew says if we can meet in the middle — in a place that feels safe enough to let down our guard, real communication and healing begins. And we discover the love that was there all along.

She reminds me that little girl with the big smile is still around, I may just have to work harder to find her.

© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is one of the contributing authors of Daughters of the Desert: Stories of Remarkable Women from Christian, Jewish & Muslim Tradtions, from Skylight Paths Publishing.)

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