This week I’m finishing a book I started reading shortly after Christmas. It is a memoir written by a mother and daughter. The mother, Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, wrote Traveling with Pomegranates. As they traveled to Greece, Turkey, and France together, they struggled to develop their individual identities as women, and their changing identities as a middle-aged mother and a young-adult daughter.
The references to Greek gods and sacred religious statues, sites and icons mostly go over my head. What made the most impact on me dealt with the defining and redefining of the relationship between mother and daughter. The mother, Sue, at the time of the events in the book is nearly the same age as I am now. Even though Ann is older than my daughter, her struggles to find herself and the life she was meant to live is very similar to the struggles I see in my daughter as she is looking at high school graduation (2012) and picking a college.
Sue and Ann spend time tiptoeing around each other, serendipitously watching each other, trying to figure out what to say and what not to say. Sue fears saying the wrong thing or intruding in Ann’s life and thoughts that will not be helpful. Ann struggles to figure out what she can and cannot share with her mom. As the mom in my relationship with my daughter, I am struggling to be and do what is appropriate for the changing relationship with my soon-to-be-young-adult daughter. I don’t get it right often, maybe even more often than not. My intentions are good. My expertise is lacking. It’s not the same as it was with my son at this juncture, so I’m in uncharted water.
For anyone who is reading this hoping for some answers, I will disappoint you. I’m carefully, and without trying to interfere, watching my daughter. Sometimes I still have to apply some discipline because she is still living in my house and certain behaviors are expected. But mostly I’m here, waiting and ready if she needs help (but she has to ask for it; she has to want my help.)
And, like Sue, I’m trying to figure out what life looks like apart from being a mother. I still ask myself what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve walked along several life paths, leaving one occupation or vocation behind as I move forward toward something else. I’m still going to be a mom, but what that means will continue to evolve as my children become adults and parents themselves. I don’t know what lies ahead or what life will look like on the other side of fulltime motherhood. All I can do is keep walking, climbing one hill at a time patiently waiting to see what is in the next valley. And still keep walking. No profound words here. Just keep walking.