I posed a question to a friend, asking what was the best advise her mother ever gave her. She fumbled and struggled to find the words. I hadn’t meant to ask a loaded question. I was just curious of what other mothers had offered up and wondered if I had given similar advice to my kids. The conversation opened and closed quickly. So I presented the question to a wider audience on my Facebook wall. I was amazed at the response. A few responded humorously, some shared good advice, but most sent me private notes or pulled me aside for a face-to-face conversation. They expressed sorrow and disappointment that their mothers had not told them more. I knew I had touched a nerve.

Mother-daughter relationships are unique and complicated. The thought can bring a smile to one and tears of pain to another. Some are inseparable and others cannot get far enough away from each other.

When my daughter got engaged, a time clock went off within me. The looming date on the calendar was a mental deadline for cramming in as much parenting as possible. While we made lists, tasted cakes, studied flowers and met with caterers, I thought about my own experience of planning my wedding. I’d had little help and no words of wisdom offered up to guide me. I wanted my daughter to have a head start going into marriage. So with each outing some kind of advice or story would pour out of me, often with tears. We laugh now at all the unexpected knocks on her bedroom door with random information she hadn’t planned on hearing. Although I know there’s no way to cover every subject, I wanted to know I had tried.

Here are just a few bits of advice I gave her:

  1. Avoid talking negatively about your husband to your own parents. (They will worry.)
  2. Move away from your and your spouse’s families for at least a year to establish your way of working as a couple. (Much meddling will be avoided)
  3. Never withhold sex out of anger or to make a point. (It’s hurtful.)

The definition for advice according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is: a recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct.

One of the comments I heard repeatedly from the responses to my question was that moms weren’t the advice givers in their homes; it was the dads. This had never occurred to me, as conversations with my father had been so few. Some revealed that their dads told them how boys should treat them and what traits to avoid in men they dated. I have to admit I was a bit envious of such a father-daughter bond. Others told of their fathers showing them how to change the oil in the car or the importance of dressing respectfully. One friend told of how her father communicated his faith and often said, “You can’t out-give God!” She expressed that after her father passed away, how his words rang in her memory.

Maybe because my parents were divorced, my view of advice being given from “mothers only” has been skewed. No matter, this simple question, “What was the best advice your mother gave?” has caused me to ponder the dynamics of parent-child relationships. When I search my memory for some moment my mother gave me advice, I can’t remember one. I’d hoped to remember some profound words, but I keep drawing a blank. This troubles me. I don’t want to misrepresent my mother; she’s a good woman. But the facts are that I learned about menstruation from the school nurse. In fourth grade, a boy told a dirty joke, educating me on the birds and bees. These are subjects ideally learned from ones’ mother. I know some of you can relate.

So what was the best advice your mother ever gave you? Did she give you advice? Who told you about sex? How did you learn about boys and dating? Did someone explain to you about menstruation? These are all pivotal topics that can branch off into wonderful conversations of lessons learned. I hope this one question will encourage you to be the one to speak confidently and positively with your daughter so she can one day answer the question of what was the best advice you ever gave.

Here are a few of the responses to my questions about advice.

“What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you?”

1.  Never settle.
2.  Don’t ever learn to work the lawn mower.
3.  Honesty: you never have to work to remember the truth.
4.  Treat others the way you want to be treated.
5.  Marriage is 100/100, not 50/50.
6.  Not everyone will like you, and that’s ok. Be yourself.

 “What advice do you wish your mother would have given you?”

1.  I wish my mom would have explained sex and menstruation.
2.  I wish I would have been taught how to manage money.
3.  It would’ve been nice to have learned to chill out and learn to let go of control.
4.  No one ever told me about hemorrhoids and losing bladder control during and after pregnancy.
5.  No one ever told me how often husbands need to have sex.
6.  I thought that when I was “grown-up” I would have all the answers.