I’m Teaching My Daughter to Live Without Me


I’m teaching my daughter to live without me. 

My mom hates it when I say this.  She hates it because the phrase automatically exudes gloom and doom.  And that’s not what I mean at all. 

It’s not because I’m ill or expecting some disastrous outcome. I’m teaching my 8-year-old daughter, Ava, to live without me because it’s important to me that she feels comfortable in her own power.    

I want Ava to be eager to live.  To have a voracious appetite for experiences and adventure.  I want her to eat life up with as much enthusiasm as she has for Taco Tuesdays.  I want her to hunger for it. Have a healthy affection for curiosity and creativity so she’s always exploring the why while creating and owning her now. 

I help her stay curious by encouraging her inclination for the unfamiliar.  I have many proud mom moments, but one of my top five is her willingness to try new foods.  It seems like a small marker, but for me, it’s a huge testament that the seed of this “self-sufficiency” I’ve been nurturing inside of her is taking root. Her appetite has never been an issue for me, even when she was a toddler.  I joke that Ava has a more mature palette than I do. It’s the truth. You can salmon and mashed potato me most days of the week, and I’ll be satisfied.  But not her, she’s more daring than me when trying new foods.


Another thing that makes me proud is Ava’s negotiation skills. She pushes the envelope, and I don’t mind it because she does it respectfully. And if I’m not careful, I could sometimes miss that she’s doing it all. I think it’s a top-tier attribute for sure. Almost reverse psychology, now that I think about it.  The push and pull of the bedtime routine, or the request for an extra treat, is often resolved with real-deal negotiation tactics.  I allow her to reason with me. She offers to eat a couple more pieces of broccoli in exchange for a Cotton Candy Dum Dum. Or she’ll request 5 more minutes of Netflix in exchange for her sleeping in her own bed.  Wait.  That last one might be manipulation, but a win is a win when it comes to me getting my bed all to myself!

The point is that she looks for alternatives. She seeks out ways to get what she wants AND ways to please the powers that be, me. But she understands that it’s not just about me, it’s about her, too.  I love that for her. I just read a quote that said:

“Treat yourself well, without harming others.  Treat others well, without harming yourself.”

As simple as the idea is, I think it’s a lesson that is often said, but not executed well.  Especially for women. It’s a space that I’ve not always found myself comfortable in. 

These are lessons that I am just now, in the middle of my life, fully accepting.  Maybe that’s why I admire it and nurture it in Ava so much. I am in a position in my life to teach her early what I learned late. I am cognizant of not ever trying to live vicariously through her, but helping her, slowly and carefully, unearth a path that is uniquely her own. I feel it’s my duty as her mom.

And while I’m preparing her to live without me, I want to be her co-pilot for as long as I can. A part of that is her knowing that she doesn’t have to do it alone. When those moments come, when she has to summon courage, insight, or trust in herself – even at 8 years old, my prayer is that she does so with confidence, stability, and the understanding that she is not alone, even if I am not standing next to her. 

Those are the lessons I want her to learn so she can live without me.  How to be open to the unfamiliar. How to negotiate so she can get what she wants.  Knowing that self-neglect is not an option.  That denying herself or being a martyr is not a worthy award to seek out.  I’m teaching my daughter to live without me so she can be the most self-assured and self-affirmed little girl now and adult woman in the future.

I also allow my daughter to question me.  This is a challenging lesson to allow, to be honest, because it’s vastly different that how I was reared.  I remember having a conversation with a friend about our childhood. We weren’t allowed to question our parents or any elders. Asking “why?” was deemed disrespectful and grounds for a tongue-lashing. As an adult, I understand our elders were doing what they were taught. It stemmed from a long tradition of teaching kids to be seen and not heard.  But as a mom, and as a mom to Ava in particular (because all kids are different), I understand now that not being able to question and be curious with the people who I knew best, made me second guess myself with certain decisions as I grew older.  For my friend, he shared that always being told what to do and not being able to question it, made it harder for him to make decisions as an adult. When discussing with another friend and mom, she shared that not being able to question her parents forced her to find answers among peers. And those peers oftentimes were unreliable resources with little to no experience and precarious advice.

If there is no space to lovingly inquire as a kid, it’s hard to create your own trust circle for yourself as a teen, and then finally as an adult. The lack of self-trust stalks us our entire lives. We unknowingly wear it as a second skin, a covering that hides our true inner voice.  Not being able to question as a kid, robs us of the most important relationship we’ll ever have: our relationship with self.  I can admit to making some poor decisions because I didn’t trust myself enough. I was insecure and self-conscious, which resulted in a lack of boundaries for myself and others. My hope, in  allowing Ava to question me, helps lay the framework for her self-trust, positive self-talk, and self-encouragement.

So yes, I’m teaching my daughter to live without me. Not in the way of paying bills, keeping a home, or finding a career … while that’s important, that’s not always living.  I’m teaching her to live without me so she can hear her own voice in her mind when she needs an encouraging word.  I am teaching her to live without me so when she seeks a warm heart and a shoulder to cry on, she is accustomed to checking in with herself first, then branching out to others for fellowship and comfort.  I’m teaching my daughter to live without me so she is grounded and bound tight with love of self. May the seeds that I am nurturing now turn into runways that lead her to fantastic travels with sticky memories, amazing friendships with people with genuine hearts, a life of wanderlust, self-discovery, and endless Taco Tuesdays.  



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