Advice to my Grown Daughter
by Susan Rudnick
Standing on West 56th Street in Manhattan, I give myself a moment to look across the street at Carnegie Hall before heading to my dentist’s office to have my mouth numbed. My cell phone rings, and “#1 daughter” comes up, the way she had jokingly entered her number on my phone. And she is #1. My only one.
Motherhood came to me late. For so many years I had longed to be one but wasn’t sure I would be able to make it happen. It was a miracle gift when my daughter’s birth mother entrusted her to me and I became a mother through adoption at age 43. I have loved being a mother through every stage of my daughter’s life.
My daughter is 31 now, and recently married to a lovely man. We live over an hour away from each other, so it has been through phone calls that we have some of our most meaningful conversations. I have received calls in the gym locker room, in my car just about to go somewhere, at 11:30 in the morning and 9:20 at night. It might be “just saying hi”, or it’s the “do you have time to talk?” In two seconds, when I know it’s the latter, I have learned to listen, and to weigh in judiciously if given permission.
I have learned to regard these calls as little windows to pass on whatever wisdom I can. Lately, as my 75th birthday approaches, I feel more of an urgency to share whatever wisdom I have. How much longer will I have to be there for her? What have I not said that would be helpful? What does she still need from me?
In the past, there were many calls about whether she should break up with a boyfriend who had addiction issues. “Of course,” I would want to say. “You deserve better.” But I knew that until she was ready to let go, that wouldn’t work. I chose instead to remind her of all the efforts she had made to help him stop.
Thankfully, we are now past those calls. We are dealing with the trip to Georgia to visit her in-laws or the contractor who walked away without finishing a project for the business she is starting.
I have said these things before, but would it be helpful to say them again?
- Your in-laws are your husband’s parents.
- Listen to your doubts, they have something to say.
- Don’t let anyone talk you out of what you feel is right.
- Try not to take things personally.
- For everyone who disappoints you, there will be an unexpected gift of someone who shows up for you.
- If you decide to become a mother, know it’s for life.
- I will always be in your heart after I’m gone.
I press down the key.
“Mom, do you have a minute to talk?”
“Of course,” I say.
Susan Rudnick is the author of the memoir Edna’s Gift: How My Broken Sister Taught Me To Be Whole. She is a published haiku poet, and her recent essay appeared in the NY Times: The Power of a Name: My Secret Life With M.R.K.H. She has been a psychotherapist in NYC for the past forty years.