Best Mother’s Day gift of 2012

betty ming liu Inspiration, Relationships 10 Comments

I recently discovered the secret to a better relationship with my daughter: unconditional love. Ouch — do you know how hard it is to give her that when I’ve been raised with success-obsessed values?!

What a challenge to let go of personal expectations so that my 17-year-old baby can find herself. It’s especially hard because Gabi’s a high school junior who is looking at colleges. As her mom, I began pushing her to consider specific universities (that shall remain nameless), even though she found them boring.

I confess: her life was becoming all about my ambitions for her.

Wait, translation: her life was becoming about all the things that I wish I could’ve done when I was her age.

To keep these uglies out of my head, I’ve made a major change in my daily routine. As some of you already know, I start my day by reciting eight affirmations that I describe in my blog post on “How to live the life that you want.” Every morning, I repeat these eight, defining sentences to remind myself of who I really am. And when I came to the realization that I should treat Gabi better, I revised the list.

So bye-bye to the affirmation that read: “I always make time to love someone who needs it.” Instead, I took the point straight home with a new mantra: “I love Gabi unconditionally.” It means that I don’t try talking her out of her latest musings on what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up. And while I’m still responsible for raising her to be a decent human being, I can remind her to clean her room — but not every time we speak (truly a struggle to get this one right).

Loving Gabi more unconditionally has taken much of the tension out of our interactions. When I think she needs guidance, I’m able to discuss things more reasonably (most of the time) instead of yelling and nagging. It’s possible that I listen a little better now too.

There’s also been a bonus in this change for me. Accepting Gabi has made me more self-nurturing. This is so different from growing up in my parents’ house, where I was only loved when I did what they wanted by bringing home good grades or whatever else they felt would make them proud. Free at last!

How delightful that learning to love my daughter unconditionally has become a special present for each of us, both of us.  And that’s why unconditional love is the best Mother’s Day gift of all.


Comments 10

  1. Well, good! Now you can pick your battles according to what is important. Your articles about “Tiger Mothers” began a journey. After a period of a few months I came to realize that the problem is the only concern “Tiger Mothers” have is economic. What about social and spiritual development ? Here there was nothing. Nothing! No concern whatsoever! It is good that you have come to the realization that Control is not an idea that is achievable or can bring happiness. You will probably have a few years left to enjoy Gabi. Not a lot of time left when you think of it. There is plenty of time for those happy surprises that will come if you look for them.

  2. Happy Mother’s Day Betty. I’m of course remembering my own mother, passed away many years ago. She was a good person. There wasn’t a mean bone in her body – or, unfortunately – a brain in her head. She had absolutely no ability to judge the effect of what she said and consequently tended to say the most outrageous and upsetting things to people and then be mystified as to why they were shocked or angry. I recall one appalling occasion when she lost her purse and proceeded to tell everyone she knew “I’ve lost all my money and just don’t know what I’m going to do.” “All” her money constituted about $20 in pocket funds. Well, the story was repeated and of course, grew in the telling until suddenly a car pulled up to the house piloted by two aggressively well-intentioned, middle aged ladies from a local church who began unloading a station wagon full of groceries for us! I was absolutely mortified, furious and horrified! Further, the ladies were not inclined to believe me when I tried to explain their charity was absurdly misplaced. They immediately preached me a sermon about false pride! I was virtually speechless with rage. They left in a huge huff when I threatened to set the dogs on them (actually, all we had was an elderly cat, at the time, who really wouldn’t have been much help, but the ladies didn’t know that.) I was so furious with mother I couldn’t even discuss the issue. She, on the other hand simply couldn’t understand the problem. She commented “they wanted to give us a turkey? Well, that was nice of them. I gave Mrs. Robinson a jar of my watermelon pickle just last week and SHE didn’t get upset. I don’t know what you are going on about this for. You get out of sorts too easily.” Now, all these years later I can laugh about it. Who was it that said words to the effect “we love our parents and eventually, we learn to forgive them.” My father, by the way, wonderful man that he was, thought the whole episode was hysterically funny – me getting so upset not being the least of the humor.

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    Aha! Brian, you nailed me — tiger by the tail. I purposely didn’t get into my tiger culture issues because the problem of demanding, selfish, “loving” parents is not unique to the Chinese. Although, the Chinese have elevated this sorry behavior into an art form.

    Toby, I would be mortified if my child ever described me the way you describe your mother! Then again, what would my own mom — and dad — think if they were still on this earth?! What’s most interesting about your comment is that even after all these years, your emotions about your parents come through loud and clear. It’s really true: our parents never really leave us. (But when they’re dead, hopefully we have more control — haha!)

  4. You are a great mother, Betty. I’ve witnessed, first-hand, numerous times, your unconditional love for Gabi. Perfect Mother’s Day reminder for me.

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    Oh, Judy. Thanks. But you weren’t there for the fights where I cursed her out! Not nice of me. Once when she was little & I yelled at her for no good reason, I told her that I wished I could eat my words. So I wrote down with a pencil what I had said on a little scrap of paper. It was something like: “You can just go live with your father if you don’t like it here!” And then, I ate it.

  6. inspirational! you’re on to something wonderful. good for you! and good for gabs. happy mommy’s day to you both, xox

  7. Happy mother’s day, Betty! The message behind this post will definitely stay with me. I love your mantra “I always make time to love someone who needs it.”

  8. Hi Betty,
    I love my (Tiger) mom, but sometimes I wish she were more obvious about loving me unconditionally! I hope the two of you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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    Helen, we could all use more unconditional love, right?

    Charlotte, I’m a lucky mom — Gabs is a great kid!

    Alice, taking time to love someone who needs it really helped me to be more generous. I do think it retrained me. But I think I’ve been generous enough! Now I need to focus on my baby more.

    And Gigi, you get it. Imagine if we had to do nothing and we could still count on getting hugged. Well, it’s something we can give to our loved ones now.

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