Like Mother, Like Daughter

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  • Most of the focus this weekend is on the multi-billion dollar franchise film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two.” But there is another film that hits the big screen this weekend that has been making quite a bit of noise at film festivals over the past year. Based on the book “Chanda’s Secrets” and a 2010 Cannes Film Festival favorite, “Life, Above All” takes a look at a mother and daughter dealing with the plight of AIDS in South Africa.

    Chanda is only 12 years old, but she’s already been forced to take on many of the responsibilities of an adult in her household. Her father is gone; her stepfather, Jonah, is an irresponsible alcoholic, and her mother, Lillian, has been physically and emotionally devastated by AIDS and the death of her youngest child. Despite Chanda’s circumstances, most of her neighbors offer little sympathy, believing her mother’s illness is the result of divine judgment against her.

    Click here to hear Nikki Woods’ weekly “What in the Weekend?” report.

    Critics say “Life, Above All” is a great movie for moms and daughters to see together. Not only to promote discussion around the most sensitive of subjects – sex and sexually transmitted diseases – but is also designed to highlight the unique bond that mothers and daughters form.

    With that said, the mother-daughter relationship is the most intense family of origin relationship. This can make it the most rewarding, as well as the most painful relationship. And it can extend through generations, woven with all of humans’ complex emotions – anger, resentment, competition and, of course, love.

    Sometimes mothers and daugthers are enemies, sometimes best friends. But if you’re blessed enough to have a mom, she’s the first one you call for advice. Go figure.

    I think every daughter can relate to this. I’d like to think that I have a good relationship with my mother now. But it hasn’t been always like that.

    I make no apologies for being a Daddy’s girl. My mother says I was one before I left the womb, but my sister was a self-proclaimed Mama’s girl, which kind of balanced things out. So, you see, the complication started early on. But as far as I’m concerned, I loved both my parents equally. And I’m sure that each of them loved both me and sister just the same.

    It wasn’t until after I had my own children that I fully understood what my mother’s unconditional love for me meant. All of the sacrifice, hard work and time investment that she poured into me came full circle with my oldest son’s first breath.

    But even with the change in my perspective, the relationship still takes work.

    Deborah Tannen, author of the best-selling “You’re Wearing That?” explains why the mother and daughter relationship is so complicated. There are four flashpoints in the mother and daughter relationship:

    1. Appearance: Women are judged by how they look, and mothers are judged by how their daughters look.

    2. Control: Mother sees daughter as a little girl.

    3. (Motherly) Advice: Every time mothers offer advice or suggestion for improvement, there’s an implied criticism. Mother sees it as caring; daughter sees it as criticizing. If mothers can’t learn how to bite their tongue, daughters need to learn to use humor to diffuse tension.

    4. Secrets: Daughters keep secrets from Mom if they sense disapproval. Withholding information is a daughter’s way to gain power.

    Tannen says that there is no magic formula to the perfect mother-daughter bond. But there are ways to make it work.

    1. Bite your tongue.

    2. Use humor.

    3. See it from their point of view.

    4. Use praise. It’s also a form of power.

    Add “respect” as a fifth tool in helping to mend or improve the mother-daughter bond.

    When I recently went to Jamaica to see about my grandmother, I stayed for about a week, and on the day before I was to leave, my mother flew in to be with her mother. We had less than 24 hours together, but I think those 24 hours told me more about my mother than the last 24 years.

    I realized that my mother not only sacrifices for her children and husband, but she sacrifices for her mother, her siblings, her friends and anyone else that needs her support or guidance. It takes a special kind of person to give so much of themselves without asking for anything in return.

    The morning I left, three generations of women lay in my grandmother’s bed. Our whispered goodbyes were filled with the special love and understanding that only mothers and daughters carry in their hearts – and it will stay with me forever.

    I was still misty when I arrived at the gate for my flight.

    My journey with my mother continues. It may not always be easy, but it’s not nearly as hard as it used to be. The one thing that will never leave is the respect I have for her as a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend.

    Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.

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