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With Love, from Mom

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With Love, from Mom

A tribute to my daughter.
Iyanla  Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant More by this author
May 04, 2011 at 10:00 AM

My daughter Gemmia had one boyfriend her entire life. She met him when she was 15 and dumped him when she was 30. She was in the middle of that separation when I was leaving the Iyanla show. As with almost everything, Gemmia kept her challenges to herself.

Most people thought that Gemmia was quiet and shy. Shy she was not. Quiet, I’m not sure. My experience was that she chose her words very carefully. She was observant and wise beyond her years. Her wisdom had certainly saved me many more times than I care to remember.

Gemmia was grounded and centered in a way that I often longed to be. She had always said that when she grew up, she wanted to be like me, clear and spiritually on purpose. Yet, in her presence, I felt that she was the master and I was the student.

What Gemmia had that I did not was an absolute shut-off valve. When she was done, she was done. The day that I stood up to the executive producer at Buena Vista Television was the day she knew she had to make a decision. If I could take a stand like that for myself and risk everything I had ever worked for, she said, surely she could tell a mere man that she no longer chose to endure his bad behavior.

I had no idea that my adult child was inspired by me. I knew she deeply loved and profoundly respected me, and yet to think that my behavior encouraged, instructed, or supported her was something I hadn’t considered. In fact, we often joked that she was the real mother and I was her child. Gemmia taught me so much about myself, life, and how to be my most conscious self.

Gemmia was an avid fashionista and once told me that I looked like I was stuck in a 1960s time warp. Shortly thereafter, we took a field trip to Bloomingdale’s, where she taught me how to dress. I had to admit, the outfits Gemmia chose made me look ten years younger.

I taught her how to cook. She raised the basics I had taught her to new heights. I taught her how to fry chicken. She taught me how to oven-fry it. I taught her how to bake a cake. She produced a different flavor cake, in a different shaped pan for my granddaughter Niamoja every holiday. While I stuck to the basics and mastered them, Gemmia ventured out, experimented with different spices and herbs, and gave her meals more depth and dimension.

There were so many things Gemmia knew that I did not. I often watched her deal with angry and upset people with a smile on her face. She was an expert at handling people. She rarely responded to their upset with anything other than a smile. Someone once said to me that anytime they spoke to her, it sounded as if her words were smiling.

Gemmia was also an excellent mom—way better than I had ever hoped to be. She was patient and gentle with Niamoja, her one and only princess. She made a point of having specific days when she and Niamoja did special things. Tuesday was baking day. I always got the benefit of their Tuesday-time on Wednesday.

Most Fridays, when Gemmia wasn’t working or traveling with me, were movie nights. They popped corn and slept on the livingroom floor in front of the big-screen television. They also went to the theater and museums together. Sometimes they would invite me. Most times not.

One day I asked Gemmia where she had learned to be such a good mom. Without batting an eye she said, “I only had one mother. Where do you think I learned? You always focus on what you did wrong, but I am alive because of what you did right.” I left the room and wept.

If you asked me, I would have said that I taught my daughters absolutely nothing good about relationships. Gemmia would beg to differ. Every now and again she would remind me of something I had said about men or done in my relationships with them that had taught her a powerful lesson. I expected to be perfect. Gemmia accepted that I was human. According to her, she had learned a great deal from my humanness.

Gemmia told me she knew that standing up to Bill Geddie at Buena Vista was a stand for my independence, not from men or from domination, but from fear. Fear that I would lose something; fear that he would hurt me; fear that I could not make it without him. She said that those were her fears also. Those were the fears that she had been dealing with in her relationship with the only man she had ever been intimate with. She loved him, and she knew that his behavior kept her in bondage. When I pressed for details, she gave me her Gemmia look and changed the subject.

Gemmia, my daughter, mother, teacher, and best friend, opened my eyes, heart, and mind in a way that few people ever have. It was very strange to know that my daughter and I had come to the very same place in our relationships with men, and that I didn’t know how to guide her or myself to the next step.

About Author
Iyanla  Vanzant
Iyanla Vanzant is the founder and executive director of Inner Visions International and the Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development. She is a Yoruba priestess and an ordained minister in Christian New Thought. The author of 13 titles—inc Continue reading
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