Seeing Mother-Daughter Relationships in a New Light

Every August, nestled on the shore of the beautiful Flathead Lake, is our annual mother-daughter retreat.  It is a time and space created with the intention of connection, fun, being together, making new memories, and healing relational space. As a witness to the process, I stand amazed at the amount of courage that was required to hold the coupling tension of both fear and bravery from start to finish. Mom’s coming with just a packing list and directions to camp, with little else to go off, unknowing of how this would roll out. The simple knowing of going “back to camp” in an unfamiliar place, with only one truly familiar connection – to your daughter. And for the girls; the anticipation of being with mom, which holds a mixed bag of history and meaning, and is a unique story line for each. The same is true for mom. That sounds so much like real life. We each bring to the table a unique and individual history and story, and yet we are all connected by this tension found over and over again in life. Life in the mix of the known, and the unknown. The bravery and the fear. The what has been, and the not yet. Here we all find ourselves in the present

That said, it’s no secret that mother-daughter relationships can be full of challenges. They can also be warm, sweet, nurturing, and connected. Often, they are in the tension of all the above or some combination. Again, isn’t that how life is? One is truly alive in the tension as a human, a mom and a daughter.

The high ropes course is an epic picture of life in that tension space. Alone but together, outfitted to survive, and wired to thrive…in need connection, belonging, and place. The power of mindfulness, and the forethought of planning. The importance of being present in the moment, and the anxiety of the potential outcomes. Facing fears, and overcoming them, even when one believed it to not be possible. Challenges not yet seen, and yet are felt from looking below, ahead, above, or around. Again, a metaphorical snap shot of life in the tension. The now, and the not yet. The now, and the what has been.

Over and over the annual mother-daughter retreat provided an experiential setting in which to be found in this space. Everything from hiking, to canoeing, groups, meals, sleeping (uncomfortably), high ropes, boating, spontaneity, conversation, laughter, tears, and reading bed time stories. Mom’s with daughter’s; mom’s supporting mom’s; girls with other mothers, observing other mother-daughter relationships, girls encouraging each other, ultimately all being with and being for. The synergy that emerged from this experience created the tension of real life with new experiences. Each relationships present was in the process of growth, just as we all are from day to day.

What was felt in this retreat was the healthy risk necessary to make these connections while also living in this named tension space. This was palatable. It was the experience of one family as Chrysalis made up of growing, healing, connecting mother-daughter relationships within the setting of a beautiful landscape.  Mind-body-spirit connections emerged over those few days there on Flathead Lake. As one who offered support through this process, I came away inspired by the beauty found through life in the fray, in the gray space that is vulnerability, emotional, mental, spiritual, intellectual, and physical risk, and all without knowing the end of the story. For two and a half days, it was refreshing to do it with mother’s and daughter’s who continue to bravely show up, be seen, and risk a lot in order to find their way back to one another, even if it is found in the tension.

Chrysalis School