The relationship of parents to a daughter is similar in many ways to that of a son but, it seems to me there are important differences. The basic elements of a healthy parent/daughter relationship are, sadly enough, not something I experienced in my own upbringing. As I said last week my mother raised me as though I were an extension of her. In some ways I benefitted from that self-love. She had the resources to give me material things that she didn’t have as a child—clothes and dolls and a frilly bedroom. But it also meant that she treated me as though I were identical to her, that is, I couldn’t have thoughts or feelings that differed from her own. I was in fact a very different person but was never able to explore and express those differences until well into adulthood.
My father was involved in his career and seldom engaged with my sister and me at all. It was typical of many fathers of that day. There were times that he wanted to be with us but I really don’t think he knew how. So my memories of him are as a distant figure with a few spotty moments of time spent together. I remember seeing a movie with him. It was Bad Day at Black Rock—a great film with Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan. Tracy played a man with one arm that was disabled. Another man was taunting him in a diner. He took it as long as he could and then proceeded to beat the crap out of him. My Dad and I mutually agreed that we would watch movie again just so we could see that scene. I don’t even remember trying to please my father. That ship had sailed before I could even remember.
So the supportive engaged relationship that I am advocating in my book Family Entanglement: Unraveling the Knots and Finding Joy in the Parent/Child Journey (www.createspace.com/4008162 was simply not present. Next week I want to talk about the elements of a healthy relationship, particularly with a daughter.