my fifteen-year-old daughter, Alison, stood in the middle of her room, surrounded by piles of T-shirts, shorts, tennis shoes, still-dirty laundry, and toiletries we'd just purchased.
"Don't you think you ought to take a rain poncho since you'll be camping out? What about tucking in the stuff we bought?" I asked, a bit time-pressured since she needed to leave from the church in an hour.
"I don't need your help packing, and I'm not taking any of that stuff, especially the poncho," Alison answered, irritated at my interference. Within a few minutes, our conversation escalated into anger, and an uncomfortable silence accompanied us as I drove her to catch the church van headed for camp.
What happened to that good relationship Ali and I used to have, Lord? I asked on the way home, my heart sinking. Snapshots of the after-school conversations we'd shared over hot chocolate and freshly baked donuts drifted across my memory. Maybe that's why the tensions of mid-adolescence came as such a big surprise. Suddenly, my suggestions on homework (or just about anything) were met with an argument. When her room looked like nuclear fallout, she resented my reminders to clean it. All I had to do was say "Mom things," and Alison found me irritating.
The mother-daughter relationship can be one of the most intense, loving, and strainedespecially during adolescence. As moms, we try to prepare our daughters for what's ahead, hoping they'll accept at least some of our advice. All the while they're trying to spread their wings. So what can we do when mother-daughter conflicts erupt? For me, the first step toward a better relationship was on my knees. As I spent time talking with God about what he wanted for Ali and me, God revealed some "majors" to focus on: the need to listen and accept our differences, and the need to stop exerting control in areas he pointed out were "minors."1