Let Her Strength Grow You Too with Shauna Gauthier
“Your story is not my story!”
Her words flattened the argument I had so carefully constructed and was right smack in the midst of delivering when she interrupted with utter exasperation. That single truth bomb she sent flying in my direction took my breath away. So I just sat there, breathless and therefore speechless, while she looked at me eyes ever-widening by the uncertainty of how this act of boldness might play out for her in the end.
I can only vaguely recall the details of the power struggle we were having before that pivotal moment in our mother-daughter narrative. I know that it involved a request for some leeway with regard to specific boundaries we had established around dating and curfews as she entered into her junior year of high school. As the oldest of our four daughters, she is almost always the one leading us into new chapters of our parenting adventure.
It’s an unavoidable reality for all firstborns because there is simply no other way for parents to gain experience. And believe me when I say that I have tried plenty of other pathways to gain insight. I’ve worked with youth since I was still a teen myself, later becoming a trained therapist with a keen understanding of adolescent development and family systems. I am a well-read parent always striving to keep up to date with new research and parenting strategies. But here’s the thing - in all the years of pursuing insight, nothing could have prepared me for the ways in which my daughters would reflect back to me the tender places inside my soul still longing for healing and freedom. Only their faces, only their reactions to my mothering, only their unique voices could have the power to reveal such profound insight.
I heard her loud and clear that day. “Your story is not my story!”
Just two seconds beforehand, I had been convinced that I was offering clear but firm boundaries that were for her good. I was certain that this was one of those times that I needed to be her prefrontal cortex and make decisions that her teenage brain was not yet prepared to make on her own. A mere five words out of her mouth and suddenly I was standing there as naked and vulnerable as Eve. I had the choice to run and hide behind some metaphorical tree, or perhaps I could have pretended that there was nothing to be seen there at all. I certainly could have thrown some shame in her direction and on my lesser days, I’m sure that I have done some combination of all of the above.
But I knew she was right. I was caught in that moment and my daughter was the one who pulled back the curtain to expose the truth. The rigid boundaries I was building a case for had more to do with my own past narrative, my own troubled teenage years, and ultimately my own fears than I wasn’t even aware of until that very moment. So there I stood, naked and a bit disoriented.
Like Eve, there are many other women who have gone before us into the terrifying lands of vulnerability and nakedness. The women I am most drawn to, biblical and otherwise, are the ones who sit with the truth of their nakedness. They realize that running from it leads to nowhere good, and neither does denying it or wearing it inauthentically like a badge of honor. And so in that moment, I attempted to sit with it.
“Your story is not my story!”
It took several minutes for a normal breathing rhythm to return to my body. Though I don’t recall the exact words I eventually offered in response to her truth bomb, I know that they went a little something like this…
You’re right. My story is not your story. And sometimes I forget that reality. Our stories are connected though. They are intertwined because we are mother and daughter. They are interconnected because we are a part of the human story. And so that means we will need each other to find our way. Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.
And so we did figure that one out together. She bravely spoke her truth and I listened and ultimately modeled how to engage my own vulnerability with grace - at least on this particular occasion. Raising strong daughters seems to be as much about allowing them to grow us as it is about us guiding and mothering them. How could they ever believe in the strength of their own voices and the power of their own discernment if we can’t make space for their truth in our own hearts and souls? Our increasing strength, our mutual growth, the perpetual process of our own becoming - it’s all interconnected in the grander narrative that binds us all together.
Shauna Gauthier is a self-described psychology buff, a fierce advocate for women all over the globe, an amateur theologian, philosophy lover, existential thinker, perpetual dreamer, mama to 4 little women ever-rising, wife, seeker and warm drink lover. She is a trained therapist from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology and currently works as their Alumni Outreach Coordinator. Shauna blogs at LittleWomenRising.com about the intersections of motherhood, feminism and faith as she catalogues her own journey raising four fierce daughters. You can also connect with her on Instagram, Twitter and in her Facebook group for Moms of Little Women Rising.