It has been said that a daughter is a ticklish possession.
We experienced delight and wonder at the historic all-women’s conference on March 29 — a stepping aside from the frustrations and inconsistencies of the world — to bask in the spiritual oneness of being daughters and mothers.
There is a unique beauty in womanhood — and you can see it in the faces of 8-year-olds as well as in the faces of women who are 20 and 40 and 80.
One of the things accomplished by this unique conference was an opportunity for mothers to see their children as young women — full of beauty and promise — and for young women to see the still-youthful beauty, the spark of love and intelligence in the faces of their mothers!
Our motherhood goes back to the very beginning, to our very real connection with Mother Eve. As the mother of all living, she bore the first sons, the first daughters, and began the chain, or the eternal round, of the family of humankind.
She is a noble and worthy example of what we want to become, what we desire to emulate. She lived in beauty. She lived in faith. She lived in harmony with the commandments of her God, the counsel of her husband and the elements of the magnificent world that had been given to them.
Every woman is a daughter. As daughters, we feel the challenge to bring honor to our mothers, to fulfill their hopes and dreams for us, to fulfill their faith in us. We do not need to understand them; we do not need to overlook their weaknesses, or agree with everything they do. But we are foolish if we do not learn from them. And we miss out on much pleasure if we do not enjoy sharing our lives with them.
I have five daughters — and, of course, have learned much. One daughter when she first became a teenager shrank from the idea of being "in public" with me and was horrified when I once unthinkingly attempted to slip her arm through mine while walking in a mall. I waited it out — but did not expect some of the blessings that came.
Only a few years later, this same daughter (along with her younger sister) had taken me to run an errand and then was supposed to drop me off at home to continue my writing while they went on to the mall together. As we talked I realized that the car had passed our street.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"Oh, we’re kidnapping you," my daughter replied. "We want you to come with us."
She little knew what joy that moment brought, or how many afternoons of writing I would willingly give up just to be in company with my daughters!
Mothers are not the only ones who need to be patient; who need to love and forgive; who need to share.
My mother never understood me — and told me so often. I was constituted in so many ways entirely different from her. We loved one another, and we grew closer through time. But she had been far less than a perfect mother, especially during my growing-up years. Ah, what is it that has been said a hundred times? As Jill Churchill put it: "There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one."
It was not until the last challenging year and a half of my mother’s life that our hearts entirely opened to one another and intertwined.
It was when I had the opportunity of serving her, having her in my home for a season, then traveling with my husband and daughter from Provo to Salt Lake every Sabbath for a year to bring her a good meal and spend the remainder of the day together that her faults and failings diminished before my eyes. It was then that I saw her in all her tenderness and beauty and felt honored to be able, through service, to express my deep love for her. When she lay dying I was the one she called for — I was the one she turned to for counsel and strength.
We may not all have the opportunity to be actual mothers during our mortal state. But whenever a woman bends down to lift and help — whenever she opens her heart to give and serve — she is doing it with those eternal qualities of motherhood that live, always have lived and always will live, within her.
What can we do as mothers to accept, teach and lift our daughters?
• Teach them the basics, and offer no excuses about it: how to clean a house, do laundry, prepare a meal — and the extra bits that enhance both cleanliness and beauty. Take pride and delight in work, and your daughters will, too.
• Respect her opinions and desires. Listen to her — anytime, anywhere. Acknowledge her fears as well as her gifts. Laugh with her. Listen to her music. Help her to make her own decisions, and teach her to make them through the safety of prayer. Then respect and support what she decides to do.
• Praise her. For years, my daughters would roll their eyes and say, "Yes, I know, he’s half in love with me. You think every boy is." They would also accuse me of over-enthusiasm whenever they did something, anything, noteworthy or interesting.
• Teach her to be beautiful and to appreciate beauty in everything. Help her develop the confidence and delight of true femininity, grace and poise. Teach her the power of being her best self at all times.
• Teach your daughters to love and forgive and to think of others. Let them see the joy that is found in this. When my sisters and I were growing up, our family had very little money, yet our mother was always volunteering us to babysit for free so that struggling young couples could have a night out. She also told us (not asked us) that we were to respect and be gracious of the older people in the ward who loved to corner one of the youths and talk, talk, talk for what seemed like hours on end. While friends slipped past, we stood resignedly and listened. We grew to feel good about what we were doing and to appreciate their appreciation. I have had a fondness for older people ever since.
• Pray with your daughter. Read scriptures with her. Share your faith — and some of the fears and desires that brought it to life. Be humble and teachable. Delight yourself in the things of the kingdom. Let her learn by what she sees — by what you are.
True, this is a very partial "list." So especially remember through it all to simply love her and enjoy her. Daughters can be role models, too. I have gained spiritual insights and strengths from my daughters. I have learned skills from my daughters. And my life has been enriched by their interests, hobbies and pursuits — as well as by becoming part of the places where they have made homes. How many outstanding people I have met in far-away communities, how many ward families I have become a small part of because of the paths my daughters have taken in their own lives.
"A mother’s children," it has been said, "are portraits of herself." Despite the differences of individual gifts and personalities, this is true.
We are a part of all our mothers and all our daughters. I have a cherished granddaughter who is so delightfully her own, yet is in many ways a perfect copy of all that is uniquely me. What of a great-great-great-grandmother who went before — dim in the distance of time into which I gaze — but part of me still, perhaps very like me someone I will especially love and remember when earth life is past.
Mothers and daughters. There are so many of us — living and learning, waiting our turn, doing our part — all bound together, past, present and future. We have great cause to rejoice!
Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books and has published screenplays, a book of poetry and lyrics, including two songs in the LDS hymnbook. She has six children. She blogs at susanevansmccloud.blogspot.com. Email: [email protected]