Cook column: What goes around comes around, especially for mothers and their daughters
Especially for mothers and their daughters
An uncle gave us some advice about 15 years ago, as our children were heading into adolescence.
Don’t worry about college, he said, explaining that he’d spent a lot of time as a young father fretting over how he was going to put his four children through college. Don’t you and Ed do that, he said. Things will work out.
I’m not sure if Uncle David found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or what. He passed away a few years ago, so I can’t ask. But he was right; we survived the tuition years. Youngest daughter Ginny graduated Saturday from N.C. State. Things did work out.
I have to say, though, this feels more like a beginning than an ending.
Will she get a job? Where will she live? What does the future hold in store for her?
That’s the way it is with motherhood. One all-consuming stage leads to another, starting the minute a woman finds out she’s pregnant. Is the baby going to be OK?
Replace “baby” with any later term for your child ó kid, adolescent, teenager, college student ó and that line is a multipurpose look into the mind of a parent. We train up our children in the way they should go, then step back and watch. Will she learn how to read well, get good grades, stay healthy, actually listen in church? Will she get into the college of her choice.
Will she be OK?
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Now I’m putting myself in my parents’ shoes in 1977, when I went straight from college to marriage with plans to settle in another state and get a newspaper job. What must they have thought?
I know they had reservations. Looking back, they just pitched in to help.
Gave us old furniture to use until we could buy something better. (Some of it’s still around.)
Let me keep the reliable car I’d had in college. (I stupidly sold it to buy what turned out to be a Lemon with a capital L).
Shared advice. ( “Don’t learn how to use a lawn mower,” Mom told me.)
Welcomed us home for visits and all holidays. (“All we want is to have you here.”)
They’re five hours away yet always there for us when we need them. They are my mental safety net, and the net has stretched over the years to include a growing family. They have four children and 10 grandchildren. More important, we have them.
What a blessing.
Through the years, Ed and I have fed, nurtured, clothed, housed and educated our three daughters. Now they’re all out of college and it’s our turn to be the safety net, to be there when they need us.
Or just want to visit.
I hope it’s a lot.
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You hold your children tight through infancy and pre-school. The grip loosens a little in elementary school. They pull away at arm’s length as they move through middle and high school ó especially once they get a drivers’ license. (It’s a lot easier to keep track of your children and their friends when you are their chief mode of transportation.)
By the end of high school, they cannot wait to get out of the nest.
In college, they’re testing their wings, still dependent on parents for tuition, living expenses and encouragement.
Then ó poof! ó they’re ordering a cap and gown and sending out resumés. Flying away.
It’s time to let go.
But you really never do.
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I remember the time I spotted a woman in a store mirror, wearing wrinkled shorts above sad-looking knees. It was me, of course.
Daughters grow up to become young women, young mothers mature into … moms.
I objected to a sexist joke recently. It involved a gullible young woman and an old man. I based my complaint, I told the joke-teller, on the fact that I am the mother of three young women and was once a young woman myself, and I found the the joke demeaning.
He told me to get over it, in so many words ó to agree to disagree.
We women have to stick up for each other, and nobody sticks up for us more than our mothers.
Talk about a safety net. Mom stayed with us for a week after the birth of each of our first two daughters. By the third one, she must have figured I had the hang of it. She came later and didn’t stay as long.
There’s a tie that binds ó a woman and her daughter, watching the grandchildren grow up. Grandmothers should be called “doublemothers,” because they go through the parenting ups and downs with you all over again, vicariously. Sometimes Mom fretted a little more than I thought was necessary (and still does), but more often she is the one reassuring me just by being on the other end of the phone time and time again.
Lately the roles have reversed a little, as I’ve taken her to the doctor and stayed with her after an operation.
She is grateful. But that does not earn me the right to mess up her kitchen without her supervision, apparently.
There she was recently, suggesting which bowl to use and how to cook the asparagus and, whatever you do, don’t clog up the sink. Politely reminding her that I’m over 50 years old does not help. She insists on “mothering” me.
Getting me through college was indeed just the beginning. I may have flown away, but she is not letting go.
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Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.