I am a difficult, prickly mother, heavy on pep talks and paperwork but light on emoting.
I’m also a firm believer that excellence is required at all times.
Did the kids get any slack when they were small, sad, ill, or adolescents? After a death, during a breakup, or because they were immigrants? No.
When I say they were not allowed to complain, I actually mean I couldn’t hear them if they tried. Moan or mope or whinge: I literally did not listen, not to a single word. Not when they were infants, and certainly not as they entered adulthood.
It is a wonder they talk to me at all.
I required civility, but never fealty. Discipline, but not deference. I raised them to be autonomous, knowing that meant they might reject everything about their upbringing. I boycotted my own family of origin; it would not have surprised me to be rejected by my adult children.
Yet here we are, on the other side. Everyone is old enough to make their own choices. I am surprised to find that they talk to me every day, no matter where they are in the world. They tell me funny stories, and laugh at mine. They ask for my advice on navigating bureaucracy, and ignore my advice on almost everything else.
Scheduling conflicts mean we’re rarely in the same place but when we are, we gravitate together, sitting as close as possible, chattering and mocking.
My youngest child just moved to London to start grad school at a conservatoire affiliated with the Royal Opera House. The cliche about time going by too fast really is true: one minute they’re babies, the next they are gone. They’re also exactly who they always were: this is the child who asked for musical instruments as soon as he could talk.
It has been an honor to know them and watch them grow.