One of my dearest friends, Amy, came to me via the same path many friends have–my daughters. She is smart, witty, a touch acerbic, challenging, outspoken, honest and enjoys a good glass of wine as much as I do. She is 6 years my junior, the mother of six, a bit germ-a-phobic and a terrific writer. We are similar in enough ways to cement a deep bond, and different enough to chafe the other into an occasional rash, if not real growth.
Almost 6 years ago, our oldest daughters met while waiting in line for the 7th grade to begin. Roughly 6 weeks later, I met Amy at the birthday party she hosted for her oldest, Emily. In the last (almost) half-dozen years, we have supported each other through it all: deaths, moves, hormone changes, teenage dramas, job losses, etc. And, we have celebrated each other’s successes. (Did I mention she’s been published in the Wall Street Journal, writes for World Magazine and a personal blog, http://www.wholemama.com , and is finishing a book?) In best friends’ fashion, together we cry, we rejoice, we support, we laugh (a lot), and we learn from each other. (I probably learn more from her than she from me, but sshhhhh–I might end up chafing. 🙂 )
This past weekend she passed through not one, but two, of the most significant transitions any mother can pass through; Emily married and left the nest. Now, before you do the math and cry foul about “too young to marry,” hear me out. Better yet, hear the mother-of-the-bride out. I did and I was humbled by the love and grace she offered her daughter during this transition, a transition no less emotional for her than it was for her daughter.
In the last year, Amy and I had talked about the budding, and increasingly serious, relationship forming between Emily and the boy she had met through church. He is a good man, the kind she had hoped her daughter would one day find. We had talked about the likelihood they would eventually marry. What we hadn’t talked about was a wedding occurring only weeks after Emily’s high school graduation. Nonetheless, in the last two months, there was a proposal, an acceptance and, with a fast approaching departure date for the Air National Guard’s basic training, a wedding.
I wondered how Amy could do it; how could she allow her first-born to marry so quickly, so young? Didn’t she know the statistics? Didn’t she worry? Silly questions to pose to any mother, really. Of course she worries; she’s a mother. And yes, she knows the statistics. But, more importantly than statistics, she knows her child.
Was the timing ideal? Who knows? What Amy did know, and generously shared with me, is that she had the choice of rebuking her daughter’s choice and permanently damaging their relationship, or coming along side Emily as she made a life decision in the way she always has, as mentor, cheerleader, and counselor. Amy and Emily have been blessed with a beautifully close mother-daughter relationship. It has been nurtured in no small part by Amy’s willingness to give her daughter ample room to spread her wings, celebrating with her in success and offering a soft place to land in times of disappointment. She offered no less upon the news of a her daughter’s engagement.
Although I was a decade older than Emily when I married, my parents doubted my choice. They often struggled when their children made choices different from theirs. (Somewhere around my 12th anniversary, my father conceded that I may have gotten it right.) Though my father walked me down the aisle and he stood with my mother when asked “Who gives this woman to this man?” I still remember the hurt I felt knowing they did not fully support me that day. Even though I knew their concern was rooted in love, shadows of that pain lingered for several years.
As a parent, I now better understand their desire to protect their child from the potential pain of bad choices. However, as I once told my mother, if I make mistakes, they are my knees to skin. In the last 4 weeks I stood in awe as Amy released her first from the nest and into marriage. Regardless of personal concerns, and barring moral conflict, here was a mother supporting her daughter, valuing relationship over opinion, transitioning gracefully as her first left the nest. Might there be skinned knees along the way? There might be–but I have no doubts her mama will be there to help Emily through those days, too.
Thank you, Amy, for sharing so openly, for being the example of grace and love in a time of transition. May I remember your example when mine step out into the world.
On her way to the chapel, Amy shared some thoughts about early marriage and “completed books.” Click on the links below to glean more wisdom from a Whole Mama.