Of course, I’m not younger than I was seven months ago when I began working with my personal trainer. But, I feel strong, light, energetic and confident…traits we associate with youth. I could almost forget how old I am, but hands do not lie. I am 58 years old and my daughter is twenty-one. And, this picture reflects the story of our life as mother and daughter.
Natalie is wearing a ring that belonged to my mother. My sister was given a jewelers bag filled with small treasures after mom’s death and passed this on to Natalie. I’m wearing a ring with my birthstone (aquamarine) that my husband purchased for me on a trip to Maui many years ago. There is both pain and joy reflected in the gifts of those rings.
My mother missed the opportunity to know her only grandchild who now wears her ring. She was a deeply troubled woman and I have no regrets about my decision to exclude her from my life or that of my daughter. But, she gave me life and I am grateful for that gift.
The life my husband and I built with my daughter gave me purpose. Today I revel in both the wisdom of my years and the strength of my body and spirit. My life is so much better now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and one of my greatest joys as I age is watching my daughter mature, too.
When a woman gives birth to a daughter, I believe she consciously, or subconsciously, believes her daughter will resemble her in many ways. But why? It is an odd assumption upon thoughtful consideration. Why should she be more like her mother than her father? I’ve asked myself that question now for 21 years.
My daughter is her own person, but she is more like her father than she is like me. I can accept this…despite the fact that it took 28 hours of hard labor followed by an emergency c-section to bring her into this world!
I wonder at the differences!
ambitious but not competitive; I am competitive but not ambitious
reserved, i burst
quietly thoughtful, I am obviously opinionated
forgiving and patient; I try
lace and florals; I like stripes and animal print
teal; I love pink
Thunder Mountain; I love It’s a Small World
Harry Potter and Jane Austen; I love Tinker Bell and Danielle Steel
But, we do share some common opinions and interests. We are both feminists, but she does not like to wear it on her t-shirt. We love donuts, doxies, Disneyland and Maui. We are happy when we are shopping at Lululemon or Target, walking the streets of London in rain or shine and sipping from English china while perusing beautiful books.
And, most importantly, we still love spending time in each other’s company. I hope that never changes.
Is your daughter very much like you, dear reader? Or is she more like her father?!
My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.
I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.
“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.
He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”
If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:
“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”
Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.
It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.
I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.
Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!
* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!
I visited my nearly 21-year-old daughter at college this weekend and over dinner I looked at her and said: “I like who you are becoming.”
She paused and so I felt the need to explain my random, motherly comment.
“You know… you are evolving, becoming an adult,” I clarified.
“Thank you, Mom,” she said. “But aren’t we all becoming someone?”
Well, that’s just the way my daughter is….wonderful and wise and inspiring! Indeed it would be rather boring and depressing if I were not also continuing to become someone. In fact, it is our shared evolution that binds us even closer.
I talk to her about my new adventures in the blogosphere and she shares the challenges and rewards of renting her first apartment. We hold each other accountable to the fitness goals we’ve set. She shares her academic successes and I recount how proud I feel when my puppy Winnie piddles in the appropriate place. We dream of our next trip to London…she to study and me and her dad to sightsee. I can see that even our relationship has become something new and beautiful. I’ll always be her mother, first, but it’s great to feel the warmth of her understanding as a friend, too.
I love that she reminded me that the joys of evolution are not simply for the young.
No, that’s not a typo in the title! It’s Friday and thank god for it …TGIF! But, alas, today I’m also feeling grateful for Target. How did we ever accomplish anything major before this retailer came to our rescue? Thank God for Target! They’ve got shower curtains and small desks, frozen lasagna and iced coffee in large jugs, shower curtains and toaster ovens, laundry detergent and first-aid kits and lots of storage options: bins, boxes and baskets of all sizes.
On Monday night, I hit the sack at 10 p.m. I was up at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday at my pup Winnie’s insistence and again at 4:30 to provide puppy relief. I loafed until 6 a.m. and then headed south down Highway 101 to help my daughter move into her first off-campus apartment. By 11 a.m., we’d made our first trip to Target. You may wonder: how many Target trips does it take to set-up a new apartment for three students? I’ve got the answer; read on!
Day one was devoted to kitchen set-up; we’ve got our priorities straight! Things went smoothly until we discovered the garbage bags did not fit into the very old trash compactor and we’d need a stepping stool to provide access to upper shelves to maximize storage. We started a list and prepared for trip #2.
We began the trip with a detour to the in-store Starbucks. Iced tea in hand, we headed our separate ways to divide and conquer. I found myself in the pop-up “Dorm/Apartment Kitchen Essentials Department” where I encountered three young men debating the attributes of two different silverware trays. I stopped to eavesdrop…just because I find the young amusing. In the end, they decided they didn’t really need a sorter.
“Let’s just let it rattle around in the drawer,” the tall one said to the other two. They nodded and were off… presumably to buy a frozen pizza or something really “essential”.
I wondered silently: would I want my daughter to end up with a guy who felt he needed a flatware organizer or a guy who knew he could live without one?
I fell into bed exhausted that night and woke at 1:30 and again at 4 a.m. Ah, the puppy has ME trained! The “girls” all left for work early that morning after letting me into the apartment for some solo unpacking and organizing. I sat on the small couch drinking cold coffee that I had thrown into the cart on trip #1. The day ended on a sweet note, as well, when I placed the pillow I’d secretly purchased on the faux fur chair in the corner of my daughter’s room.
Day 3 began with a fourth trip to Target. Why hadn’t I bought an under-bed storage bin yet?! There were exactly two left in the store when I reached up to pull one from the shelf at the same moment as another woman. I looked at her with a slightly desperate expression that she seemed to understand.
“Oh, I only want one of them,” she said. “First year or second,” she asked.
“Third,” I replied proud of my daughter’s seniority. I pointed to the next aisle where the last two shoe organizers resided.
“Get one while you can, ” I suggested. (Well, I had seniority, too!)
It was the final day of my visit and we made a fifth trip to Target. This trip required a visit to the Customer Service Counter where we had to return the curtains that didn’t fit and the chair that clashed with the sofa. All went smoothly.
But, there was something bothering me. I’d been very smart and ordered a few key pieces ahead of time and yet they still hadn’t been delivered. Just as I sat down, with another glass of cold brew, I had the text from my husband: Lots of boxes deliveredtoday. They’re for here?!
In the end, it took six trips to move my “child” into her first apartment and I’m glad I was there for all of them! Parenting is a long journey and it’s a privilege to feel welcome in my daughter’s world as she approaches the big 21.
P.S. Hoping the puppy feels as tired as I do this evening!
I nearly collided with a jubilant young girl yesterday upon my arrival in the lobby of a large hotel. She was happily spinning about with her arms outstretched. “I’m flying Mom! I’m flying!” she exclaimed.
“Fabulous,” came her mother’s enthusiastic reply. “But, don’t fly too close to the stairs!”
I remembered my daughter at the same age. She was energetic, determined and curious. I could imagine her dancing beside me. She is now in Southern California, a 20-year-old college sophomore, earning excellent grades while working part-time. Today she made a deposit on her first off-campus apartment for next year. She is flying!
She is also studying abroad this summer. She received the good news that she had been accepted into the international program on March 22, the day the terrorist attack took place in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster in London. I was shopping for fun stuff for the girl’s apartment when I received a message from my husband about the Manchester attack two days ago.
Terrorist attacks are by nature appalling, but those that target children and young adults are the most heartbreaking. It’s hard to hold back tears when listening to a parent describe how they feel about their child’s death. This is not the way life should be. Parents should not have to face the death of their children. I wish there was something I could do to assuage the pain of those who have lost children and yet I imagine that there is nothing anyone can do. The pain will never leave.
Within hours of the attack at the concert, the Facebook page for college parents was filled with one simple question: Is your daughter/son still planning on traveling to Europe this summer? Though our “children” are young adults, study abroad is made possible by parents. So the decision to go or not to go becomes a conversation that begins with: “Do you still want to go?”
My daughter was upset by the news but does not want to “waste the opportunity.” My husband and I agree. As a young child we taught her to look both ways and to dial 911, and, most importantly, we tried to model responsible behavior. Thankfully, she was an inherently careful, thoughtful, observant girl and she did not cause us undue worry. Now that she is also an adult, we can discuss the fact that life is unpredictable which makes it that much more precious. One must fly despite the fact that the stairscan not always be seen.
Unless circumstances drastically change, my daughter will soon be on a plane heading toward a wonderful 7- week- long adventure…and my heart will be there, too!
As we drove home from Southern California yesterday, my husband asked me, “Does Mother’s Day upset you or make you sad in a way?”
I knew exactly what he meant, but the question still took me by surprise as I was quite happily surveying grape orchards and remembering the events of the weekend. If you know me from my blog, you know how proud I am of my daughter and the close relationship we share. If you are one of my dear friends, you begin every visit with the question, “How’s your daughter?” I love talking about my daughter. I simply adore her. She is my single greatest source of pride.
So, why should Mother’s Day in any way upset me? Well, the answer has to do with my mother. She died three years ago on the morning after my daughter had major surgery at Stanford Hospital. In life, my mom had loved being the center of attention and so the timing of her death seemed appropriate.
One of the nurses heard me take the call from my sister and she became immediately quite concerned about my state of mind. My daughter was scheduled to spend four days in the hospital, but she would need continuous home care for several weeks. The doctors and nurses, my husband and I soon realized, were training us to take care of her at home. Her release would be determined not only by her condition, but also by our ability to care for her. The hospital chaplain was alerted to our situation and within the hour began appearing at our door. My husband shooed her away several times while I snoozed, but she was determined to talk to me.
“Ah, good, you’re eating!” she exclaimed as she approached me late that night in the cafeteria. “I’m Dusty, the hospital’s multi-faith chaplain and I’m here to see if you’d like to talk.” Really I just wanted to eat, but I was polite. I thanked her for her concern and let her know that I was tired, but fine, and that I knew exactly what I needed to do: take care of my daughter. “But,” she continued, “it’s hard to take care of someone else when you are suffering yourself.”
How could she know that was exactly what I’d told myself for years when I thought about my mother? She was simply unable to be kind or nurturing as she was in pain. The explanation served to protect me from completely absorbing the constant emotional assault she inflicted on everyone close to her. My mother died without having a relationship with me or knowing her only grandchild. “She’s no longer in pain,” I told Dusty and I left her to interpret the comment in any way she chose. I returned to my coffee and eggs as she left finally satisfied that she had done her job.
A week later I found myself speeding down the freeway to attend my mother’s funeral. I paid my last respects to the woman who had created me and who had, I think, helped determine the happy course of my life.
“You know we may not have Natalie if it weren’t for my mother,” I answered my husband.
I missed out on having a strong bond with my own mother; maybe that’s why I finally decided at 35 to throw away my birth control pills! We all make choices and those choices are often based on needs we may not even consciously be aware of. Maybe I needed a strong mother/daughter bond. I did not have that with my own mom, so I set about to create it with my daughter.
It has been many many years since I felt anything for my mother, but it took time and counseling to resolve issues from my childhood. It seems to me that it is still taboo to speak about one’s mother in anything but appreciative terms, but for those readers who can relate to my story, I’m sorry… and I’d like to offer the following book recommendations: Mean Mothers by Peg Streep and Mothering Without a Map by Kathryn Black.
I’ll borrow Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words to perfectly describe my feelings about my life: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else…”
I am so fortunate to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my daughter. Happy ending!
The woman at the Clinique counter turned out to be right. The day I visited her, I was 7 months pregnant…feeling a bit fat and looking for a “feel good” purchase. Lipstick is always fun! She rather ceremoniously uncapped a long, thin silver tube and twisted the base so that I might see the color. “Perfect,” she effused. I was not initially impressed, but, at her urging, I applied it and checked myself out in the mirror. Fabulous! Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a staple in my cosmetic bag ever since.
“So, are you going back to work after the baby?” she asked. I replied affirmatively to which she responded, “Ah, too bad.”
When I left her counter, I’m sure my lovely, shimmery lips were parted in an “um, what?!” expression. That was some opinionated salesperson. I was working in high-tech marketing and had received a promotion and stock options the year before. Not to mention the fact that I was, and remain, a staunch feminist. Of course, I was going back.
I did return from maternity leave, but lasted only six months… and that was a stretch! Everything had changed. The 30-50 minute drive to and from work was never enjoyable, but now it was a lost hour that could have been shared with my daughter. The early morning calls with the European sales force that I had once so enthusiastically anticipated created a logistical nightmare. The high level meetings that I had felt proud to attend seemed unimportant; I was no longer impressed with myself or anyone else in attendance. I did not feel the zeal for advancement or the thrill of competition that was fostered in the company. I found myself wondering who would be there to see my daughter’s first steps: me or the day care workers.
Home life was difficult, too. It was a mad dash every evening to retrieve my daughter within the approved pick-up time. My husband’s work in high-tech finance was demanding and he usually arrived a couple of hours later than us between 7 and 8 p.m. When he got home, he needed the same things that our baby and I needed: rest, relaxation, dinner, understanding, attention. We were all simultaneously extremely needy! And, very tired. We had only each other. There was no household help or familial assistance. It was just the three of us.
My husband supported my decision to quit working. We took a leap of faith together knowing that the budget was going to be extremely tight. And, it worked out just fine! Our daughter is a 20-year-old college student today and the three of us are very close.
In the two decades since I made my decision, technology has changed things so much. I see so many women who successfully combine work and family life. Neither my husband nor I had any flexibility in our jobs. It seems ironic that we were both working in the high-tech industry that has revolutionized life for so many, and yet our employers offered no allowances to accommodate family life.
Today, I have an empty nest and time to pursue my interests, but I don’t think I could fully enjoy myself if I didn’t feel that I’d completely embraced my role as a mother. I feel grateful that I had a choice; I know many women don’t. I have never regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom.
P.S. I wouldn’t recommend seeking life advice at the Clinique counter, but that saleswoman was wise! I recently read that the lipstick she sold me more than 20 years ago has become a cult-classic. Clinique now ships one Black Honey lipstick every two minutes.