The Mother’s Handbook

I sent my “baby girl” off to California this morning where she’ll be working for the next 10 weeks as a lifeguard/recreation counselor at a Christian Church camp.  I know it shouldn’t be a big deal saying good-bye as she’s been away at college for the past two years.  Somehow this trip feels different because we’ll have little or no communication with each other for the rest of the summer.  Unlike college which was only a two-hour drive away, this camp is a six-and-half hour drive in another state altogether.  

We’ve never gone more than a day or two without texting, emailing, instant messaging on Facebook or talking on the phone.  In fact, most days we talk or text frequently.  The next 10 weeks promises to be a bit of a challenge as she’s at a camp in the mountains where cell phone service is questionable and there is no free Wi-Fi.  

As we said good-bye this morning I found myself clinging to her a little longer than usual; putting my whole self into a hug that has to last us both 10 weeks.  My silent tears communicated a thousand unspoken messages, in spite of my best efforts to hide them.  I didn’t want to send her off under a cloud of my own personal fears and worries.  She’s a passionate, daring and adventurous young woman, yet she fought to maintain a brave façade in an attempt to disguise her underlying fear of stepping blindly into something new.   

Because she boarded an early morning flight at the crack of dawn this morning, I spent most of yesterday drilling her with the standard warnings of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ from The Mother’s Handbook and Big Book of Rules.  

You know the one I’m talking about, as you’ve either issued these warnings yourself or had them pounded into your brains from your own mothers.  It’s where things like never run with scissors or in the absence of toilet seat protectors in public restrooms, always paper the seat with toilet paper.   (Sorry, but that just makes good sense!) 

These little pearls of wisdom and common sense nuggets have been handed down from generations past from our ancestors and their ancestors before them.  These commands are generally issued with the standard finger waving inches from your nose and the mandatory eyebrow scrunch designed to strike fear in your adolescent brain.  (Oh wait; maybe that was just my mother!) 

 When I was on the receiving end of these wisdom appetizers I found them a little hard to chew on.  As a typical rebellious young girl, my reaction generally produced an eyeball roll so severe I’d swear I could actually see the inside of my skull and out the backside of my head.   So imagine my horror when yesterday I found myself issuing these stern warnings with the requisite finger waving and eyebrow scrunch and my daughter perfectly mimicked my severe eyeball roll in the back of her head!  

Good Lord … when did I morph into my own mother? 

As a mother, quite naturally we want only to protect our children.  What I realize now that I didn’t comprehend as a teenager, was mothers don’t really like having to be the purveyor of strict rules and regulations. The metamorphosis into motherhood just happens

Something mystical and unexplainable ignites deep within the female reproductive system that explodes during childbirth as babies are sluicing down the birth canal that dramatically alters our DNA.  That dormant mother bear protective gene which up until this point has lain sleeping somewhere between our uterus and our brains awakens and revs up rocketing from zero to sixty the second the fruit of our womb greets the world with its first cry.  

This phenomenon overtakes us causing to us to utter words we previously swore we’d never repeat when we became mothers.  Things like: because I said so; it’s for your own good; this hurts me more than it hurts you; wait till your father gets home; were you born in a barn or my all-time favorite classic stop eating that cookie dough – you’ll get worms!     

It’s likely my daughter hated the speech I gave her yesterday about wearing clean underwear in case the plane should crash.  But not nearly as much as she hated my dire warnings about not talking to strangers in the airport and be sure you’re not swayed by some handsome young guy you’ve just met who wants to give you a ride to camp.  Because after all, she’s a beautiful young woman and a prime target for perverts who want only to kidnap her and sell her as a sex slave in some third world country.  

Hey these things happen all the time and I want only to protect her!  Doesn’t she know that while she’s off having the time of her life working at a summer camp which basically translates to a vacation with pay, I’m at home imagining every worst case scenario ever conceived by womankind?  

No she doesn’t get it; the same way I didn’t get it when my mother issued similar warnings to me when as a 20 year old bride I wanted to move 3,000 miles away to the wilds of Alaska.  But someday when she’s a mother, she will get it and then she’ll understand that mother’s must say these things because not only is it imprinted in the fine print of every woman’s birth certificate – it’s in The Mother’s Handbook and Big Book of Rules.  

We have to let them go someday and it’s comforting to know that when they do leave they’ll have clean underwear on; they’ll steer clear of the perverts and they will always wash their hands after using the restroom!

The guy in the following video link isn’t a mother, but he’s a dad (which doesn’t come with the same handbook as a mother), but if you watch this video, I think you’ll agree he gets it; this whole parenting thing.  Not only does he get it — he says it far better than I ever could. 

Spoiler alert – be sure to grab the tissues when you watch this!