Tiptoeing into our hotel room just past 1 a.m., with her Bette Davis hazel eyes sparkling brightly, my daughter Jenni instantly became confused when I had an explosive “mommy moment.”
“Where in the hell have you been?” I yelled. Just like back in high school when she’d missed her curfew, I was furious. “This is Mexico, for God’s sake. Something bad could have happened to you and I wouldn’t know it.” Lifting up my cellphone and waving it wildly in her face, I continued, “I’ve been calling you for hours, but there’s no service.”
Biting her lower lip in an attempt not to yell back, Jenni took a breath and simply replied, “Mom, I’m 35. I know how to take care of myself.”
The year was 2018, and I’d won a fabulous, all-inclusive trip for two on Ellen DeGeneres’ TV show to the Hyatt Ziva in San Jose del Cabo.
Throwing the opportunity out to my four kids, asking who’d like to spend five days and four nights on a trip with their mother, Jenni enthusiastically raised her hand. And like all of the other highly social creatures in our family, on the very first day by the pool she made friends with other vacationers, who invited her out that evening.
Pulling the blankets over my face, I worked hard not to burst into tears as I thought, “Of course, she’s a woman. She’s been one for a long time.” So, after a feeble apology, I added, “I’m still your mother no matter how old you become, and mothers worry.”
As Jenni leaned in to kiss my cheek goodnight, she tried to soothe my emotional moment. “Mom,” she said, “I’m sorry, but I’ve been taking care of myself for years. You need to relax.”
Rolling over, I planted my face back into the pillow and wondered: Since when am I not entitled to worry about her? After all, I carried her inside my womb for more than nine months, pushed for three and half hours to get her out, fed and clothed her, and held her hand until she could stand on her own. And as the years progressed, every pain she felt became my pain, too. I had every right to my maternal anxiety. It’s the birthright of every woman when becoming a mom.
Crawling into her bed, hoping to save the rest of the vacation, she said, “I knew it wasn’t safe to come back by myself, so I got a ride from one of the couples. I’m not that stupid.”
Sitting with this latest episode with my high-functioning, self-reliant child, I was forced to think further. Maybe instead of constantly fretting over my kids and nagging them (which never helps anyway), I should have faith that they always listen to their inner voice that tells when a situation is dangerous. I’d like to think Jenni learned to trust her instincts from me, but some kids are just born smart. And she was right. It was time I learned to relax, at least in this department.
So, Jenni, going forward I promise I’ll try not to express my angst (“try” being the operative word). You have an amazing head on your shoulders and you’ve always kept yourself safe. You’re a woman now, and it’s time I let you be one. And should we get the lovely opportunity to go to Mexico again, and you make new friends, I won’t panic with your late return. Why my newfound bravery, you might ask? Because we’re both adults – and I’ll be coming with you!
To all who worry about their children: It’s your birthright; be proud you always care.