Mother Knows Best,

Or So I Thought.


by Kathy Cooogan


I once wrote a letter to my daughter that began, “Dear Esmeralda (not her real name), I love you but…” She was away at college. She was making a choice that I was compelled to disagree with. I wanted her to use my forty-seven year old brain to make her decision instead of her nineteen year old one.

Very confident that my letter was a Masterpiece of Motherhood setting out the Pros and Cons of my benevolent wisdom, I called a friend and read the letter to her. I waited for praise.

Jezebel (not her real name) was silent on the phone.

“Hello, hello. Jez, are you there?" I asked.

Jez said to me, “I’m here. Um, one question. If your mother had sent you that letter how would you feel?”

It was my turn to be silent. I never listened to anything my mother said.

“Read the first sentence out loud,” Jez said.

“Okay,” I said. “I love you but...”

"Stop there,” Jez said. “Read that again.”

“I love you but.”

“So how would you feel if your mother wrote you a letter that said, “I love you” then erased it with a but?

She didn’t give me a chance to reply.

She said, “Read the one where you said, “You are a smart girl.”

I scanned down the page. I read, “You are a smart girl but…”

Jez said, “Now read the one that said, “I trust you, Honey.”

My hands were getting sweaty. They stuck to the page a little as I scanned down to, “I trust you, Honey, b-but…”

Jez said, “Still want to send it?”

I got defensive, “But what about all my Pros and Cons?”

Jez laughed. “What did you just say?”

“I said, 'But what about my - oh.' Oh God.”

“You really want to know what I think you should do?” Jez asked.

“I guess.” I said.

“Butt out,” Jez said as she hung up.

Postscript. I didn’t send the letter but I wanted to. My daughter made her decision and lived to tell the tale. I kept Jez as a friend but - whoops, there I go again. Old habits are hard to break. I kept Jez as a friend. Period.

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