May 10, 2012

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.