“Mom. I need to talk to you about something.” Uh oh. Curiosity mingles with dread. Does any parent ever want to hear this sentence?
“I’m going to try out to become a Soul Cycle instructor. I hate my job, Mom. It’s going nowhere. It’s boring and I barely make any money. I need something new, a change. I’m doing it Mom.”
I pause and let this sink in. Memories of not being encouraged to take a chance flood through me. And so I say…
“You know what Britt. Go for it. As long as you have health insurance we’ll support this decision.” I think I heard her gasp. And just like that our relationship changed.
“Really Mom? I never thought you’d say that. You and Dad are such sticklers for security and saving and.. and.. planning for the future.” She wasn’t wrong there.
I’d always followed my parents’ lead. Raised during the Depression, they had stressed-at times browbeaten-the three of us into getting an education, getting a good job, saving money and pretty much following a traditional lifestyle. Guilt was an oft-used tactic. “We are sacrificing so much for you. You need to follow our rules.” I knew they wouldn’t pay for my private, all-women Catholic school if I didn’t. It was only 30 minutes out of Boston so I could drive to my part-time job three evenings a week and on Saturdays. Money was THE primary factor and the one Spring Break I took cost $200 for a week in Puerto Rico in a cockroach infested hotel. I still remember the fun I had and I had tried to raise my own kids with less stress on making the safe choice and more on following their own path.
“Britt. Do it now. You’re 29. You’re single. Go do what I never got to do. I loved my teaching career and my Globe career. I love your father and I loved raising you kids. But risky decisions were not an option for me, Britt. You go take that risk, honey.”
That was the day my younger child Britt became my friend. Always our baby, yet always so independent, I’d learned that she made mostly sound decisions. At twenty-three she’d moved to New York City, found a job and an apartment, wasn’t prone to racking up credit card debt or living a dangerous lifestyle. I could trust her. And by giving her my blessing she believed in my trust.
She became the Soul Cycle instructor. She was transferred to Seattle where she helped open two studios there. She found her own apartment. She bought an electric car. At every juncture, I admired her tenacity, her willingness to take the risk. I often wondered if I ever could have been so brave. We were delighted when she moved back to New York…again, all on her own. Have we helped her out here and there when she needed it?.. of course we have, because that’s what parents do. Without guilting the child. (So we won’t discuss that $3500 cellphone bill she racked up in college while visiting her friend in Australia.) She’s 34 now, working back in finance and making more money than we ever could imagine at any age. Still single but this mom isn’t going to nag her into finding a husband or having a child. That cycle stopped with me.