“And Mom, for my 18th birthday . . .”
The rest of my daughter’s sentence sounded like an adult in a Charlie Brown special. Anna spoke clearly enough, but I focused on the impending reality of those last four words.
I looked up at my daughter. “I’m sorry. . . . What? What were you saying?”
She shook her head and her eyes narrowed. “You weren’t listening, were you?”
Anna, like many young women, is a self-proclaimed Daddy’s girl. Throughout her life, he’d been the go-to parent for her. “I’m just like Dad,” she would explain. “Besides, Nathan is your favorite anyway.”
Ouch. I didn’t want to be accused of playing favorites. With my husband’s recent death, I held both my children closer than ever. How could I improve my relationship with my adult daughter and point her to Christ?
Recently, I asked Anna, now 22 and a senior at Covenant College, to give me nine things a mother needs to know about her adult daughter. So she and her friends crowded around a lunch table. Much of what they said, to me, looks a lot like the practical application of Ephesians 6.
1. Daughters take in more than you may realize.
You were our first teachers. We watch how you treat your friends and strangers, but most importantly, our fathers. We learn from you what a godly wife looks like and how men should treat women. Yes, we learn from you, not just from our dads, how men should treat women. Mothers who tolerate destructive relationships often produce daughters who enter abusive relationships.
2. Listen to us.
Put away your smartphone, your to-do list, and your keys. Sit down and look at us when we’re speaking. Sure, we complain a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we need you to fix it. We often need love, not advice. Listening is love. Haven’t you explained the same thing to your husband? Ditto with us.
Oh, and yes, sometimes we don’t listen well, either, so how about we both try to be better listeners and agree to help each other on that one, okay?
3. We have something to share.
While you are busy sharing your wisdom, remember there is much we can teach you too. That dress you paid too much for? It looks just like the outdated one you already have in your closet. You may know a lot about dressing modestly, but we know something about fashion. If we pool our knowledge, we both might end up looking better. Seriously, though, asking our opinion on what may seem incidental shows us you value our thoughts and think we’re smart. As we grow into adult shoes, asking our opinion helps us call you friend as well as mother.
4. Trust us.
We get so frustrated when you hover, critique, and worry about every little thing. If each time this happened were a brick, we could build the Great Wall of China. We don’t see it as love. We see a mom who doesn’t trust us to do things well or trust God to lead us. Be it something as simple as cleaning the kitchen or as important as making a career choice, remember you have already raised us. We will do the right thing at least some of the time, so don’t be a control freak. Trust the God who is always in control. He’s got us. You said so. It must be true, then.
5. Model forgiveness.
We need to learn forgiveness by seeing you ask for it. You taught us we are all sinners, and Jesus stands ready to forgive. If you go first, we will follow. Don’t be afraid to show us the mom Jesus died to save. Be courageous by never being afraid to admit when you are wrong. Rumor has it, this skill will come in handy when we get married—if we get married—but we digress. That’s covered in point 7.
6. Affirm us.
It does not matter how old we are, we hunger for your words of encouragement. You don’t tell us often that you think we turned out pretty great. We may brush off your praise when you do, but we’ll remember your words when fear invades our souls. And it does invade us—all the time.
7. Leave the boys alone.
Why can’t you stop nagging us about dating and marriage? If we are single, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten. We know you want us to get married, and most of us want to be married, too. But pressuring us to date won’t guarantee a godly marriage, okay? In fact, your well-intentioned nagging can cripple a dating relationship. Oh, and the side comments and jokes hurt—a lot. We get enough dating pressure from the world. Please don’t add to it.
8. Ask about our spiritual walk.
Please ask us about our Scripture reading and tell us about what you’re reading too. We want your expertise and opinion. Accountability works best when we feel safe. You were the first person to shield and protect us. If you talk with us about our spiritual walk now, you’ll be the person we come to with doubts and questions. And we will have them, just like you did. Especially on Sundays.
9. We forget to thank you often.
We know moms are incredible human beings, and we fail to thank you often. So . . . thanks for the late nights and long hours, for being the taxi driver, the chef, the maid, the shoulder to cry on. When we become moms one day, we’ll thank you all over again, and so will your grandchildren.
In his commentary on the letter to the Ephesians, John Stott notes that Paul’s emphasis falls upon the restraint, not the exercise, of parental authority. He writes, “Children are to obey . . . yet they have a life and personality of their own.” I wonder if these young women and Stott aren’t on the same page.