Dear Rachel,

I have a very strained relationship with my mother and I always have. Perhaps it is that we are so different, or maybe that we are so similar, but we are rarely able to spend time together without us both blowing up. I do love my mother but I have a hard time being around her. For Mother's Day I wanted to do something special, but I am worried if we spend the day together as she requested, that instead we will end up fighting. I certainly don't want to ruin the day for her by fighting, but if I cancel she will also be upset. What do you suggest?

Worried Daughter

Dear Worried Daughter,

Sometimes the closer you are to someone the harder it can be to get along I don't think a mother/daughter relationship exists which doesn't have some kind of strain or challenge. If we are fortunate, we have a loving and warm relationship with our mothers. Yet even then, sometimes the closer you are to someone the harder it can be to get along. You write that you have always had a strained relationship, which makes things even more difficult.

So now your dilemma: if you keep your plans and spend the day together you are worried that you will end up fighting. If you cancel your plans, you are worried that you will hurt her feelings. I think that canceling will definitely cause a tremendous amount of pain to her. If you hadn't made plans to start with, that would be one thing, but being that you have already made plans to spend the day together, we need to figure out a way you can do so and not fight.

For starters, two people can only fight if both people allow themselves to do so. Here is a great opportunity for you to exercise incredible self control and work with yourself not to get upset. Chassidic philosophy teaches us that the mind is able to rule over the heart (moach shalet al halev). There is no question that emotions can run high and you may want to scream or cry, but your mind knows better. Intellectually, rationally, you know that you love your mother. You know that you are spending the day with her to honor her and to thank her for being your mother and for the life that she has given you. That is a pretty tremendous gift, and one that you should be grateful for. Focus on that. Focus on your love for her and how fortunate you are to have your mother in your life. And let your mind run the show. When you feel that you are getting annoyed or upset or that you are losing patience, tell your heart to cool off and let your head lead the way. For one day, you can keep yourself collected regardless of how frustrating the circumstances may be.

Emotions can run high and you may want to scream or cry, but your mind knows better And secondly, plan your day in a way that will minimize stress. You know what makes you tick and you know what makes your mother tick. Plan the day around what she will enjoy but try to eliminate things that you know will drive you crazy. If your mother loves shopping, but you want to pull out your hairs because she is indecisive and tries on a million things, don't go shopping! Or maybe give her a gift certificate to a store that she can use at another time. Come up with plans that you both enjoy, and maybe include things that you can do together which don't require you to always be speaking. Perhaps find a museum that you would both enjoy walking around, or take a drive to the beach where you can sit and relax and each read a book. Do not pick her favorite restaurant if it will be mobbed on Mother's Day and you know your mom gets anxious when the service is bad. Think through the places and situations that would be enjoyable to you both, and the least stressful. And perhaps start the day with a bouquet of flowers or her favorite chocolate. Everyone loves gifts and having one delivered that morning would be a nice surprise, and a great way to start off the day.

So before your day with your mom, do some soul searching to keep your emotions in check, and do some planning to come up with the best way of spending your time together. And remember the most important things: she is your mother. You love her, and no matter how frustrated you might get, you must respect her. Enjoy your day together!