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Daughter's compliment puts relationship in focus

Perhaps the greatest compliment a daughter can give her mother is to say, "Mom, I'm turning into you!"

Several months ago my daughter, Katie, did just that. I received what sounded to me like a frantic phone call. I immediately assumed something was wrong.

"Mom, I'm turning into you," she wailed.

I wondered if she was talking about physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

"I have to wear bifocals," she retorted. "I'm getting the progressive lenses."

"That's not so bad," I reassured her. "My fun began with trifocals. Kindly refer to the copy of my column of a year ago. You'll get the hang of it."

Katie was not so easily mollified. She is 29 and thought this was much too soon for this to happen. I tried to convince her that wearing bifocals was really small potatoes compared with all the other things out there, lurking in dark corners.

But this column is not about wearing glasses. It is about my daughter, of whom I am very proud. She is married, lives in New Jersey, and is the mother of a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. She is not a doctor, a lawyer or a college professor, but has accomplished something I have never been able to do: She is a stay-at-home mom.

Before her halo becomes too tight, we have to go back a few years. She was a delightful little girl, an only daughter who went everywhere with me. She started talking early and could have, if there were such a thing, won an Olympic medal for non-stop verbalization. When she was 4, she chose to view the world from under the table at a fast-food restaurant rather than above it.

We then fast-forward to her teenage years. Suddenly, her mouth no longer worked. I never incurred words of wrath and discontent from my daughter, as she chose to speak only to her friends. It was a quiet, peaceful time. (She was always polite and respectful, knowing she had a mother and a grandmother "who took no prisoners.")

Katie also passed on options such as cooking, laundry and ironing. The cooking I did with pleasure. The laundering and ironing of her things I left to her own devices. Looking back, I applaud her for her ingenuity in these matters.

Marriage did wonderful things to her. She had her own house and became meticulous in her housekeeping. A washer and dryer were high on her list of priorities. She placed many phone calls to Mom for cooking instructions. She is now doing it all very well.

When I was younger, and my children were little, I knew my limitations. I loved my children dearly, but I always found myself headed back to the classroom (to deal with other people's children) within a matter of months. I was blessed with sitters who would not only watch the babies but clean the house and have dinner simmering on the stove. Although I was able to move onward and upward in my career, I was still able to keep a perspective on where it fit in the scheme of things. My children and I spent much-needed time away from each other, doing our "own thing."

Despite this difference in lifestyle, she and I are a great deal alike. I know that some day my daughter will return to work outside the home. She has excellent skills in her chosen field and can command a good salary. In the meantime, she is doing what she feels is most important to her, and I applaud her for that.

We all march to different drummers. Today she may be following Big Bird and Barney; some day, if she chooses, she will be leading her own parade.

_ Joyce A. Liberty is a freelance writer living in Largo.