To my female students: You are a complicated lot. Every year, I learn more about myself through your eyes than perhaps I ever have in any class or seminar. In you, I see the young teenager I once was, including the pettiness, grudge-holding, gossipy side, of which I was often on the receiving end. But in most of you, I see young ladies who are so intelligent, kind hearted, honest, and generous of soul and spirit. It is your confidence in your voice, and in your futures, that you perceive as weakening you — but don’t you see? That is really where your strength is! When you share a wish, a hope, a sadness–you are so strong in the risks you take, and all I can say is I will stand back in awe at the women you will become someday.
Many of you complain about your mothers. The complaints are as old as time itself: Your mother doesn’t trust you. Your mother is over-protective. Your mother is mean, yells too much, dresses too old, dresses too young, or doesn’t remember what it was like to be your age. I know. Being around you girls constantly has me in a flux, as well: you make me remember what it was like to be a middle-and high-school girl, and it was most certainly not without its share of drama. I am the oldest daughter of a family of three girls. My mom and I could have some blow-outs. And, as it happens to so many women, the older I get, the more I am like her, and the more I shrug off her quirks, because they are my own. We inherit more from our parents than eye color or a propensity for pistachio ice cream. Right now, I can’t really remember why those battles were so hard-fought. Is it because the bad choices girls make are so much more damaging? Forgoing education for a fickle boyfriend, or that the mythology of MRS degrees are false and dangerous?
We see in our mothers, as daughters, the women we may become. And sometimes we don’t really understand what we’re seeing, so we push, claw, bite, and kick emotionally to be something else, to be someone else. But since we’re still trying to figure out who that is, therein lies the rub.
Look in your own mirror, and sort out the goodness, the intelligence, and the capacity for your own choices and their consequences, but please, respect your mother. She has seen around a few corners, and has fought the battles before, and for, you.