October 3, 2007

Giving Children Wings

My mom's combination of fearlessness, faith in God, and experience with five brothers made mom a wonderful mother of boys. She didn't worry; she didn't clip any wings. She didn't let little things like sons on the roof or a son out of touch hiking the Appalachian trail for months upset her. Joe and Andrew look so pleased with themselves without any fear they might fall off or get in trouble. Her shy, timid, anxious daughter was a mystery to her:) I was annoyed that she didn't complain that my brothers forgot her birthday or mother's day, called once every two months.

Giving my daughters wings has been a bigger challenge for me, but I have not infected them with my anxieties. My oldest daughter was a bold adventurer from birth. From her company's web page: "Anne arrived at IPA after spending a year in Kosovo working with the UN Population Fund, having previously consulted for UNFPA in New York. She spent several months with the Centre for Conflict Management in Butare, Rwanda, where she was a researcher on the gacaca tribunals. She has also spent several years as an economic consultant in the private sector. She has traveled to over 65 countries, and has lived in Niger, Rwanda and Kosovo. " When she was 23, her boss wrote: "Anne can handle herself anywhere in the world." At the time she had to tell people: "look for the 16 year old in the hotel lobby."

On our living room wall is a huge world map, with push pins marking all the places my girls have traveled to. I recall asking another mother whether are grown children live close by. She told me no, one was 10 miles away and one was 20 miles away. At the time Anne was living in Africa and Michelle was in Australia on business for three months.

My daughters honor my anxieties. I have disciplined myself to worry when they are actually in flight, not on the ground. They send me their itineraries and call me when they land. I follow their flights on flight tracker and never sleep well when they are in the air. Two years ago Anne was on an 18-hour flight to Singapore; I couldn't sleep when she was in the air. My daughter Rose, the human rights lawyer, has promised me she will never visit her law firm's Iraq office.

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