My dad and I sat across the table from each other at Thanksgiving talking about life — life since my mom passed away, what life was like when I was little, what life will be like for my baby girl. Somehow in a roundabout way I don’t even remember, we landed on the subject of young adult children not listening to their parents’ advice.
“Sometimes no matter what you say, though, she’s not going to hear you,” my dad made the comment and swooped right into the next sentence. Probably so that I wouldn’t come back with a rebuttal. I knew who the “she” was in his statement. He was referring to me.
After college I started dating this guy I grew up with. All through high school and college we were the best of friends. We hung out during the holidays and any time I was home. We even went to church together with his family. It seemed natural when after college we decided to start dating.
The only problem was there were some red flags. He had some issues that those closest to me knew I should be cautious about. I talked boldly to my then boyfriend about these concerns I was hearing. He adamantly denied it.
So I trusted him. And we dated for four years.
At the end of those four years, by the grace of God, we broke up. He then revealed that he was in fact my parents were right about their concerns.
If I had the opportunity to ask my mom about it today, I’m sure she would tell me that she warned me. Even though I knew my parents were suspicious, just like I knew other people were, I don’t remember having any serious conversations about her concerns. I don’t remember any heart-to-heart conversations. I don’t remember her pleading with me to end the relationship. If she did, I simply didn’t hear her.
As my dad sat across the table from me this past Thanksgiving and heeded advice about children not hearing their parents, I immediately thought of my side of the story.
If you want your daughter to hear you, build a relationship first.
How many countless stories do we hear parents tell about their young adult children starting out into the world making one bad choice that then leads to another and then another? The parent sees the consequences as if they can predict the future with pristine accuracy. And typically their fortune-telling is indeed accurate.
Maybe they sit their children down, tell them what they see, plead, even cry. But even though their children are listening, they don’t hear them. The mistakes continue. The writing on the wall continues to be written.
I take complete responsibility for my dating mistake – or sin if you want to be honest. God told me something wasn’t right. God told me to get out. For many reasons I didn’t listen. I disobeyed, and I own it.
However, now looking back as an adult woman with a baby girl herself, I can’t help but wonder what my mom’s words would have sounded like had we had a relationship.
You see, my mom and I weren’t estranged, but we never had a relationship where deep, personal life lessons were shared about dating and men and marriage and sexuality. Our relationship was more of a “How’s the weather?” type. We simply didn’t talk about life’s deep, confusing questions. And I would never have brought them up for fear of being misunderstood.
I’m just starting off on the whole motherhood journey. My baby girl is only 14 months old. There’s no doubt I know practically nothing about being a mom to an adolescent or a young woman. But I do know what it’s like to be a daughter. I know what a daughter needs because I know what I needed.
I needed a relationship with my mom.
A relationship that didn’t start when life got messy.
A relationship that was built over years.
A relationship where roots of trust and unconditional love and acceptance grew deep over time.
I can’t help but think that if we had the relationship built deep over time, I would have had ears to hear my mom when it was most important.
Yes, this is the opinion of a young mom who’s hopeful that my baby girl will one day hear me. But it’s also the longing of a daughter who wishes she had a mom who invested into a relationship with me when I was young, so that I would have had ears to hear her at the most important times of my life.
If you want your daughter to hear you, will you spend the time to build a relationship with her first?