When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, I have to admit I felt a little panicked. I grew up in a household that was 75% female, and this was the root of my concern. Not because we hadn't all gotten along, but because we were so freakishly functional I had no idea how to handle anything that deviated from that unnatural norm. I feared I didn't have the magical power my mother held that enabled her to raise two daughters who both ended up such ridiculously well-behaved geeks. What would I do if I had a girl whose teen-age rebellion involved something a little more unruly than joining a religion that forbade sex, drugs, tobacco and Starbucks? What if she went through that normal stage of hating/being embarrassed by/fundamentally rejecting me instead of bringing all her friends home to hang out and occasionally cook for me? I struggled with friendships with adolescent girls when I was an adolescent girl. How was I possibly going to identify with a normal one, thirty years later?
In the time since then, I have asked my mom, repeatedly, how she pulled it off, but apparently whatever deity she made her deal with swore her to silence. She just says a bunch of stuff about how lucky she was to get smart kids, and be able to give them good opportunities, and some muttery stuff about it not all being sunshine and roses and something about a call from the Evanston police department. But I know she deserves much more credit than that. It's not an accident that her daughters are strong, confident women who believe they have the potential to do anything they put their minds to. It isn't coincidence that we both succeeded in school and in our professional lives. It's not pure luck that we have happy, healthy kids of our own. She had a part in all of those things, from the abstract advice to pursue the best education possible to the concrete act of bringing us food while we held our newborn babies.
When I try to analyze why I was such a "good" kid, the biggest reason I can think of was that I couldn't stand the idea of letting either of my parents down. I still don’t know the secret to get my own kids to give my expectations that much weight, but I know that the best chance I have as a mother is to follow the amazing example I was given.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.