In our family, we have a tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve.
Rachel insisted I open her gift — of matching Star Trek shirts — because she wanted us to wear them in the morning when we opened the rest of our gifts.
It was mother-daughter solidarity at its best, and symbolic of how our relationship has grown and matured.
To understand the significance of these shirts, you need a little background.
When Rachel was a child, I wanted us to wear matching outfits for Christmas, Easter and other special occasions. We did when she was a toddler, but after Rachel turned 4, she would have nothing to do with my desire to wear mother-daughter dresses.
I never really gave up this quest, suggesting to Rachel until she was almost in middle school that we occasionally dress alike.
In time, my wish became family lore, and Rachel would roll her eyes whenever I pointed out how endearing it was when I saw other mothers and daughters in matching outfits.
So, when Rachel gave me the matching Star Trek T-shirts this year, it was a gift of love that only she could give.
It was Rachel’s idea that we wear our matching shirts to a movie Christmas evening. At age 24, she was no longer reluctant to publicly acknowledge that we were together, both in our love for Star Trek, and as mother and daughter.
Those of you with adult children know what I mean.
Through the teen years and into early adulthood, your child doesn’t want to spend time with you outside of family obligations, and when they do, are often embarrassed to be seen with you.
But in time, your conversations begin to change, and one day you realize you are talking to your child as an adult, even discussing topics where you can disagree without raised voices.
Rachel and I have arrived at that stage.
Our relationship has transitioned from the parent-child hierarchy, to one of a mother and her adult daughter — on a plane of mutual respect.
Our daily phone calls are an enjoyable two-way conversation, with Rachel asking me as many questions about my life, as I do about hers.
I must say, this transition feels very good. It’s climbing the top rung of parenthood — proudly watching your child become the caring, contributing, successful adult that you nurtured for so many years.
It also reminds me of when I first developed an adult relationship with my father after I moved from Minnesota to Florida, when I was 25.
I remember feeling so proud to be fully independent of my Dad, and sharing with him the excitement of moving to a new job in a new state.
As we talked about my experiences and challenges, Dad asked questions and shared stories of his youth that helped guide my decisions.
What Dad didn’t do was talk to me like a child. He didn’t lecture, tell me what to do or offer his financial help. He let me make my own decisions, learn from my mistakes, and assured me that if I worked hard and made the right moral choices, I would be OK and ultimately come out on top.
And so, now I am in this same spot with my daughter.
Isn’t it fascinating how life’s lessons evolve so naturally from one generation to the next?
I’m proud of the adult relationship that Rachel and I share. I enjoy our conversations, and value how accepting we are of each other’s goals, dreams and relationships with others.
Of all the phases that we’ve gone through as parent and child, this phase is the most fulfilling of all.
After all, it is the end game of almost 25 years of parenting.
Nothing could be more rewarding than seeing my daughter as the caring, committed and compassionate adult woman I hoped — prayed —she would grow up to become.
Published January 18, 2017