My mom's influence on my brother and me was enormous. She always wanted us to have a positive attitude, to always try to do the best we could. My mom's name is Gladyce, but it's no accident that her friends all call her Hap, short for Happy. She's always seen the cup as half full, and taught me to approach each day with a smile. Mom tried always to teach us to be fair, to care, and to have integrity. So when I think of these virtues today, I think of my mom.
I also got an incredible sense of confidence from her. She was always her own person. Mom never allowed someone else to shape her convictions. Perhaps the quality that I am most grateful to her for instilling in me is never holding a grudge. It's such a waste of precious time, a drain of energy, and it solves nothing. She believed in kissing and making up, forgiving and forgetting. If we had a disagreement, Mom insisted that we talk about it, get it out, and let it go, and it was never long before she would be at my door with a smile on her face, as if it had never happened. I loved that. I consider that one of the greatest attributes I got from my mom.
Sometimes, it's almost frightening to see how much a mother can shape her daughters. My oldest daughter, Jamie, is very much like me--driven, competitive, hard on herself. She desperately wants to make her mark on life (not to mention save the seals, the rain forests, the world, and everything else). Interestingly, Lindsay reflects different aspects of me. She's nurturing, caring, and the person who sees to it that everyone else is happy and cared for. Sarah embraces the "no limits" concept, and, boy, does she know how to enjoy each moment of the day. She has a great sense of humor, and perhaps because she is the youngest, never lets fear stop her. Her enthusiasm for life is truly contagious.
The profound influence of mothers on their daughters is revealed in each story in this moving film and book. Mothers candidly describe the challenges of raising children and the importance of providing their daughters with the support they need to develop self-confidence. Perhaps most touching, however, are the many mothers who describe their awe at the achievements of their daughters, their daughters' strength and drive and ability to handle, with both grace and resolve, the most stressful situations. Their stories underscore how much mothers learn from their daughters.
The importance of being a good role model is also made clear. If you are a strong enough role model, you can teach the importance of empathy, of putting yourself in the shoes of others less fortunate, and you will create caring, loving adults. And in this society, where unfortunately there seems to be a need to diminish accomplished women, I want my three daughters to always challenge this notion. I want them to have a voice, to believe in themselves, to feel pride in their accomplishments. I want them to think for themselves, to shape their own lives, and to search for their strengths.
My mother always reminded me to reach for the stars and to believe that I could do anything. I have passed on this belief to my girls. By example, I am trying to teach my daughters to find a passion, to make their own choices, and to be willing to take risks. If I can teach them to have confidence in themselves, then they will be able to do anything they think they can do. It's taken me a while to learn this, but that's what finally transforms a daughter into a mother--your years of experience, maturity, wisdom, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
The Story of Mothers & Daughters project is poignant commemoration of all aspects of mother-daughter relationships--the joys, difficulties, triumphs, challenges, and tragedies experienced along the way. The documentary and book reveal--through the personal stories of the mothers and daughters who participated--the many levels of the mother-daughter connection. Also reflected is the way these bonds change through the course of our lives. This bond is unspoken yet deep, a mystery that can never be explained but one that is understood by every mother and every daughter. Each of the photographs and stories in this book celebrates this intangible yet powerful force.
Excerpted from The Mother-Daughter Book Club, Copyright (c) 1997. Reproduced with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
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