Lately, a couple of girlfriends have been lamenting the upcoming going of their children. Both will see their oldest graduate from high school shortly and edge closer to a life independent of Mama.
There have been several lunches and many more phone calls when one or the other has become weepy and said, “I know it’s going to be OK, but it’s so hard. I can’t imagine life without my baby at home.”
Both of the children are choosing colleges away from home and one has even chosen to go clear across the country to a university in California. Now, not having children has never deterred me from offering advice on the subject of raising children. In fact, I have seen it as my patriotic duty to present a totally objective point of view. Sometimes my thoughts are welcomed, but mostly they are not.
“But you don’t understand,” one whimpered the other day. “You don’t have children so you can’t possibly know this agony.”
I took no offense for I am basically a reasonable person. Unless, of course, you are a security officer at the LAX airport and you have suggested that perhaps security regulations give you the right to claim my Chanel lip gloss. My last tube, no less, of a now discontinued color. Then, I’m not completely reasonable or rational. However, in the matter of my opinion on children being ill received, I can understand her point.
I hung up the phone, though, and found that all afternoon I was thinking about that moment in time when I declared my own independence from Mama and left home to chase adventure in a far away land. She never cried. She never protested. She never complained. She took it very matter-of-factly and saw it as a rite of passage.
“I will tell you what my daddy told me when I left home,” she said as we talked during the last lunch we would have as a mother and her dependent. “It was good advice then and it’s still good advice.” She looked me steadily in the eyes. “Forget not to assemble thyself in the house of the Lord.”
And that was that. With that mandate, I took a plane to Washington, D.C., cradling my newfound, precious independence in my lap. Now, there were times when it was not fun to be on my own and in charge of my own bills and problems. But I quickly found that when I needed a shoulder to cry on or a prayer prayed, Mama was there, eager and happy to help.
In reflection, I am amazed at Mama’s strength in shooing her baby bird from the nest. She sensed that I was different in flight than her other three birds and that I craved big adventure and far away places. So, whatever my dream, Mama was there to encourage me with a slight smile and a resigned shrug of her shoulders.
It was a lesson she had learned well from her own mother. At 18, Mama was bold enough to step out of a small, quiet world in the mountains where all she knew of big city life was what she heard on a hand cranked battery operated radio. It was 1937 and children knew a lot less of the world than children know today. She knew, though, that she wanted a better life than the one offered by the Depression-smothered Appalachian foothills. Just like Mama, my grandmother did not cry, protest or complain. She hugged her daughter, who was all dressed up in her best home-made suit, and sent her off to find a better life.
And a better life, indeed, is what she found.
It’s a good Mother’s Day lesson, don’t you think? Sometimes you have to bear a little hurt in your heart in order to give your child an armload of love and a path to a brighter future.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter here.