I’m writing this column en route to my daughter’s college graduation. (I’m not driving). I’m actually penning it on the only paper I could unearth in my dumpster of a car: a Google map leading right to a golf course in Virginia. Ha. I get some kind of sick satisfaction from defacing this paper.
As the miles drone on and it becomes apparent that incontinence is my middle name, I become a tightly-wound ball of anxiety. My daughter is almost 22 years old, but we mothers all agree that our first-born spawn is the one we worry about the most.
By the halfway point, I’ve convinced myself of two things: 1.Having children has ruined my bladder plus its overcoat, my stomach, forever and 2. My parenting over the last two decades has not had an impressionable effect on my daughter. I agonize over whether she’s absorbed all the lessons I’ve forced upon her which will propel her from her matriculation directly into her big-girl life of knowledge and happiness.
As we plow down Route 80, and after two more bathroom breaks, I obsess about the things she needs to know, all of the segments of our shared mother-daughter tutorials that she probably fast forwarded through in her mind, as I do for any one of my husband’s taped favorites, such as “The Shawshank Redemption” or, ick, “Scarface.”
But, here is what I know for sure:
I taught her from the time she could speak that this world needs to be a place of equality and love and color blindness. There’s no need to describe a person in terms of skin tone or orientation, ever. We’re all what we are born to be - people amongst people. Live and let live.
I pray that by the time HER children are of an age that they start storing their own seedlings of life lessons, we may become a nation more tolerant of differences and let everyone marry whomever they want, even if it’s a bullfrog. Live. And let live.
I know I’ve taught her to “kill with kindness.” She had no choice amongst the bats in the horrific belfry that was high school. Instead of allowing her to change schools, we wanted her to learn to bypass ignorance and bullying, to keep calm and carry on. Smile and walk on by. We thought this built strength and character and prepared her for a life filled with such idiots. I hope I was right.
I know I taught her that common courtesy and decency are the currency with which to sail through life. Good manners open a door wider than ignorance does. You can turn around an ugly situation with kind words, parsed carefully and with accurate aim. And no throwing that finger, ever.
Having said all that, I’ve also taught her to not be a doormat. Be kind, but affirmative. Gentle in your forcefulness. Right a wrong and never tolerate intolerance.
And, here is an important lesson that my own father handed down - Don’t drink cheap liquor. No need to further elaborate on that little gem.
I taught her to not make a promise she cannot keep. No one ever enjoys or forgets a disingenuous person. Don’t be that person. Instead, choose integrity.
She’s been fortunate enough to be gifted with a preponderance of brains. I pray I’ve taught her to never, ever make anyone else feel stupid, inept or less worthy. Like her brothers. (Too late for that, actually).
I’ve taught her to treat the people she loves with unparalleled kindness and a vastness of respect. Don’t speak to them in any way that can be construed as embarrassing or belittling. Oh, except if he golfs. Then all bets are off.
We sat at her graduation and I have to be honest – I was busy writing this column and playing Sudoku. But I did catch one piece of wisdom doled out by the guest speaker: “Life is not poetry. It’s not fluid. It doesn’t follow a pattern. You don’t know when it starts or stops. It follows its own path, the way it’s meant to be. Follow your path.”
It made sense.
My daughter is a dynamic, phenomenal human being whom I try to emulate every day. I must’ve done one or two things right. Right? Her life will follow the road it’s meant to, even if it’s the road less travelled, the road with detours or the narrow road. She will succeed in this life, no matter how many glaring parental faux pas I may have made or road blocks I have unintentionally put in her way.
On the way out of Penn State, there was a banner hanging in front of a church. It read: “Love Wins.”
It was a sign!
Love does win.
Maybe that’s all she needed: -our love.
Maybe all these lessons, because they were couched in so much love, will be forever written upon her soul.
As do stronger bladder muscles.