Mothers and Daughters

It is a glorious thing

To have a daughter

To be a daughter

Last October I had the chance to go to Hawaii with my mom for a reunion

And to bring my daughter

My mom had gone to high school there

Her dad stationed at Pearl Harbor

So we packed our bags and flew to Oahu

So fun to feel like you have traveled the world

Across the wide blue ocean

Only to find you are still in America

Just not in the “Lower 48”

So many things familiar

While so many other things entirely unfamiliar

That it is a beautiful breathtaking place

Goes without saying

But I am not writing about Hawaii

I am writing about my mother

And my daughter

It was in Hawaii seeing my mom

With her high school friends

Many now married or even divorced and remarried

Some alone or widowed

Enjoying reconnecting

Laughing and reminiscing

I try to imagine my mom then

Sad to have left Massachusetts

Where she had just become a cheerleader

A lifelong dream

Not making the squad at her new school

Becoming the captain of the pep squad instead

Small consolation

Yet so like my mother

Always the optimist

Moving on from the hard thing to do the next best thing

Trying to see the joy in it

Staying present through the hard

Choosing the path of freedom

Not resentment

And I marvel at how

More than 50 years later

There are no jocks and cool kids, no geeks and surfers

No cheerleaders and non-cheerleaders

They are just people


Who went to high school together

Who lived a shared experience

So many of them from military families

Who learned to make connections quickly

Because you never lived in one place for long

And I thought about how that shaped my mom

Even as it shaped me

The constant moving

The needing to look forward not back

The living in the moment

I am not as optimistic as my mom

My dream was never to be a cheerleader

But I admire her spirit

Her love for people

Even ones she hasn’t seen in decades

But this isn’t just about mothers

It is also about daughters

I watched as my brave and confident daughter

Rode a surfboard into shore over and over again

Even though she was doing it for the first time

Watched her plunge into the ocean with the sea turtles

Snorkeling right alongside my mom

My mom who is also fearless like her

I was happier staying on the boat

I remember as a child enjoying adventures with my mom

And that inevitable shift that happened in high school

When I began to separate from her

Becoming my own person


I’d been dreading that shift with my daughter

Even knowing it would come

As it always does with daughters

I had seen glimpses of it already

Before Hawaii

But it became more pronounced there

My daughter whose enjoyment of a place seems entirely dependent

On how many friends she can bring with her

For while I see many similarities between us

There are also many differences

She much more extroverted than I am

And it is the differences she is exploring right now

I know that this is a season

So I wait by the water my toes in the surf

Even when the waves are rough and she seems like a dot on the horizon

She is so far out at sea

Believing one day she will care more about the similarities between us than the differences

Just as my mom’s classmates no longer care who was a jock and who was a cheerleader

Just as I now love things about my mom

I once never even noticed

It is just like that with mothers and daughters

Though I am the only one of my mom’s three daughters who came in again to shore

I’m so glad I did

So glad I can appreciate the rich tapestry of who she was before I was born

Who she was as a mom

And who she is now

I joke with my daughter that I hope she goes easy on me in counseling

As if the counseling will be inevitable

I can think of dozens of ways I could have been a better mom

One of the ones who packed kale chips instead of oreos in her lunch

Who listened more and spoke less

I pray that what I got wrong will be covered over by God’s grace in her life

And that I will still be good at saying I’m sorry when I get it wrong

Because we all get it wrong sometimes

I pray too that she will have a daughter one day

There is nothing like having your own daughter to humble you

To realize the glory and the pain of having a girl child

A pain that goes beyond childbirth

But a glory and a joy too

It is a glorious thing

To have a daughter

To be a daughter

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