As the mother of two adult children, I am continually discovering their individuality with wonder, amazement and pride. I am sharing their lives with them and very few things on this earth make me happier than that. I realize that not all adult children include, or even want, their parents in their lives. Parenting adults does not come without its challenges – It is a fine line between concern and meddling. Like most parents, I have raised my daughters with all the resources, information, knowledge, wisdom and love that I had, and no doubt, I made mistakes along the way. The good news: both of my daughters grew into incredibly kind, compassionate, loving human beings, despite the growing pains.
My oldest daughter has been a traveling Registered Nurse for just over 10 years now. She has committed her life to caring for others under conditions and circumstances that would give me nightmares. My internal anxiety filled-dialogue has mellowed over the years as Janelle has become a seasoned nurse. I occasionally still worry about all the germs and other hazards that she’s exposed to in her profession. However, I always have to remind myself that she’s smart and uses good common sense and has learned a lot in her 10 years. So now, I mostly focus on all the good that I know she’s doing as a nurse and how blessed families are that she is taking care of their loved one. In the decade since her nursing graduation, I have watched my oldest child grow into a woman of uncompromising moral character, intelligence and an ever evolving self-confidence that is unshakable. In keeping with her adventurous spirit and desire to travel for work and pleasure, she has just booked her first solo vacation to the Dominican Republic. Now, this is not her first out-of-country vacation. On the contrary, her passport has several stamps. However, this is her first vacation…alone.
Over the years, she has vacationed internationally with friends, her sister and even with me. But there have been times when she’s wanted to go away again and, for many reasons, no one was able to go with her. She would postpone the trips or cancel altogether. But what I began to see was an evolving soul emerging in her – one that would no longer wait on others to accompany her in seeing the world. She talked about doing it and finally she booked her first trip as a solo traveler. Now, of course, me being a mother, my first thoughts were of her safety! Yes, I want her to continue her growth and be the independent young woman that she is, but we all know that this is a crazy world and not often a kind one to women.
I listened while she talked about traveling alone and began to feel better when she assured me that women were doing it by themselves all the time. Admittedly, I felt even better when I began to research out of curiosity and found this to be true. My desire has never been to put my fear into my children’s lives – I want them to live out loud and fully – but I want them to be aware and cautious and, most of all, safe. Yes, I was worried a bit – it’s a foreign country, and she’s a beautiful woman traveling alone. However, I’ve chosen to change my perspective of this new adventure of hers. Instead of being afraid for her, I’m feeling very excited! I can imagine how completely therapeutic, empowering and amazing traveling alone would be. Going on your own terms and being completely confident and independent with her decisions and choices. And isn’t that what I’ve always wanted for my children? Absolutely! So, do I have her ENTIRE travel itinerary with phone numbers highlighted on my phone and computer? Damn right I do! I’m mom, so I get to be a little anal about this – no apologies! But the joy, pride and admiration that I feel for her courageous decision far outweighs any fears at all. Janelle, you inspire me and I hope this is the first of many wonderful adventures in your life. You have one of the toughest jobs on the planet and you certainly earn every vacation you take. ENJOY and HAVE FUN, my love!!
My younger daughter is a Flight Attendant. Yep, she travels for a living as well! Mel attended college with the plan of becoming a teacher. Wow, what a tremendous decision to devote herself to educating our youth! I was so proud of her, but I won’t lie: I often prayed that she’d work in a private school or one of the better public school districts and not get assigned to a rough area. C’mon, we all hear about the things teachers have to put up with nowadays: classroom violence (and let’s not forget that some idiots suggest that teachers pack pistols), disrespectful kids AND their parents! Low pay, bureaucratic red tape, and all-around thanklessness for a vocation that requires tremendous commitment, patience, and a love for teaching in order for it to be done successfully. I have none of these things and applaud those who do.
Fast forward a few years and my baby girl has now been sharing her brilliant smile and congenial personality with air travelers domestically and internationally. I’m not exactly sure when she made the decision to become a flight attendant (FA for short so I don’t have to keep writing it all out), but I was thrilled and excited about her decision!
Once again, I looked at my adult child and realized that she has a mind of her own along with a fearless spirit. Her sister and I encouraged her and proudly and loudly showed up and cheered for her at graduation as we watched her get her wings. She was ready to fly the sometimes “unfriendly” skies and see the world. As always, the mother in me thinks about safety first. And, once again, I found myself not wanting to project my crazy fears upon Mel’s life. So, l did and continue to do what I’ve always done when it comes to my children: I pray for their safety and leave them in God’s capable hands. When it comes to adult children, many times that all we can do. They are no longer children who we can protect and lock away. I raised them both to go out into this world and live their lives on their terms.
Almost two years in and Mel is an amazing FA! She flies everywhere and loves her job! Recently, while visiting me here in Atlanta, she met up with some friends and hung out with them for the weekend. When she returned, naturally I asked how her weekend went and what she and her friends had done. Mel told me that they had decided to go to a Korean spa here in Atlanta (one that I’d never even heard of). The spa wasn’t just any spa- it was a “sauna for well-being”. I asked what that meant and she told me – oh boy did she ever! It’s called the Jeju Sauna and it’s open 24 hours. They serve Korean food, body massages, body shampoos, hip baths, vaginal steaming and…wait, what did she say? Vaginal steaming? What the hell is that, I asked?
Jeju Sauna, Mel explained, is a spa with gender segregated rooms. These rooms have hot tubs, showers and hot saunas. She said that she and her friends were completely naked with their belongings safely locked away in provided lockers. They were surrounded by other naked women (and girls) who enjoyed everything from hot tubs, to steam rooms, swimming pool, mineral rooms and even sleeping quarters with wide-screen televisions. Yes, you can stay overnight! She then explained that the vaginal steam spa entailed her sitting on a sterilized stool – naked – while her vagina was exposed to a soothing heated stream of warm steam that is supposed to rejuvenate and cleanse the coochie.
I listened to her in stunned silence and my mouth opened. I was still processing the fact that she’d actually gone to a sauna, stripped naked and walked comfortably around friends AND strangers. This from a shapely, curvy young woman who often felt insecure in her bathing suit when we went to Jamaica. Now, here she was casually telling me that she was butt booty naked among strangers! After I processed it, I laughed out loud and began to ask more questions. I was thrilled that she had been so brave and challenged herself to move outside of her comfort zone. I quizzed her on what others were like. She assured me that every size, shape, nationality was there and how amazingly clean and sanitary everything was. And most of all, she said she the experience was transforming, holistic and exhilarating. Once again, another daughter stepping outside what she’d always done to do something new and different. **Sidenote – I told her if she ever refuses to take off her towel or cover up at the pool/beach again, I’d snatch it off myself and push her in the water!** Bravo, Mel, my baby love!!
Now the truth is, I may OR may not ever visit that sauna. I may OR may not ever travel alone to a foreign country. I don’t know. I have learned, however, to NEVER, EVER say NEVER (I’ve eaten a LOT of Nevers). But what I CAN say is this: My daughters absolutely ROCK!! They are bold, adventurous, fearless, empowered, bodacious badasses who are living and experiencing life authentically, un-apologetically and on their own terms – no limits! And as I write this loving tribute to them, I am smiling and feeling so joyful inside because I get a close-up, front-row seat view of their lives and I am grateful that they continue to inspire me to live my very best life in whatever way that is right for me – right here and right now. Thank you, my daughters!