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Are These the Little Girls I Carried?

As my youngest turns 65, I celebrate the capable and interesting women they are and the families they have raised

By Lyla Blake Ward

Last week, when my younger daughter Belinda turned 65, I suddenly realized: we are all seniors. Amazing and wonderful -- but weird, right? 

Of course, this didn't just happen. I've known for a long time she and her sister Gina, 68, were growing up. I couldn't help but notice Gina, teaching her twin grandchildren to ride their bikes, is the spitting image of the girl I taught to pedal her first tricycle in what seems like another life. Or that Belinda, with the shelf full of Emmy Awards for her work in children's television in her living room, bears an uncanny resemblance to that young girl who won a prize for an essay she wrote in fifth grade.

A mother sitting next to her two daughters on a bench outside. Next Avenue, daughters, mother
Lyla Blake Ward with her daughters Gina, left, and Belinda  |  Credit: Lyla Blake Ward

If you find yourself, unbelievably, the mother of could-be retirees, your first instinct may be to wring your hands and wail: Where has the time gone?

Since I am one of the lucky ones whose memory is intact, I don't have any trouble recalling times gone by; my problem, in relation to my daughters, is reminding myself, at this point, they know as much (well almost as much) about life as I do. 

If you find yourself, unbelievably, the mother of could-be retirees, your first instinct may be to wring your hands and wail: Where has the time gone?

Although I've always been a strong believer in nature versus nurture, I did use our times together when they were children — maybe 9 or 10 — to let them know how I saw things. Some might even call it indoctrination.

Very often, one or the other or both would hang out in the kitchen with me as I prepared dinner. The audience was not exactly captive, but I did have their undivided attention as I advanced my philosophy on money: money is not a value, it's a commodity; on marriage: always marry for love without regard to race or religion and on feminism: equal rights forever!

No strong words — just easy conversation as I mashed the potatoes or strained the linguine.

Surprised At All They Have Learned

Some of that must have stuck, but what continues to surprise me is how much they've learned on their own.

Each one has a boy and a girl. I could always relate to the girl part, but I never had a son — I am not sure I could have survived the many trips to the ER with my older grandson or consoled the small middle school boy who had yet to achieve the height of his classmates.

I never had to stand by, biting my tongue, while my child played Tarzan in the trees. My daughters, each in her own way, managed to bypass their genetic makeup and raise two boys who made a most successful transition into manhood. 

Their Lives in the Working World

A good part of what my daughters know, and I do not, is the result of their having been in the business world. While I wrote freelance stories from my sweetly decorated home office until the girls were in high school, they have dealt with sometimes difficult bosses or decision makers, negotiated contracts and met new associates as they traveled to Europe, to Australia, to Cleveland, wherever the job took them.

Working moms, they learned the ins and outs of doulas and nannies and dog sitters. I was at home with the family pet and a plateful of chocolate chip cookies when the girls came home from school.

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Every time I am in their homes or around their families, which have grown exponentially, I am aware of the independent paths their lives have taken.

Because they followed my subtle advice and married only for love, their husbands come from different backgrounds, bringing their own family traditions along with them.

Because they followed my subtle advice and married only for love, their husbands come from different backgrounds, bringing their own family traditions along with them. One son-in-law showed us how a Christmas tree is trimmed; the other, the way Hanukkah was celebrated on his kibbutz. 

We, of course, continue baking the cookies and cakes we have always made for these holidays.

That is, I continue to make the same butter spritz cookies and turnovers my mother did, but each year I see something new on the holiday table -- a nutball here or a pfeffernusse there — recipes that have not been handed down to them, but that they are handing down to their children, adding new traditions, and, incidentally, some very delicious cookies.

What can I tell you? I have to recognize that my "girls" are now women. They have had children, run households and had long successful careers.

I have complete confidence in their ability to handle the most delicate situations. Yet, every so often, when one of these undisputedly mature women is helping me load the dishwasher after dinner, I have the uncontrollable urge to say: Don't forget — anything plastic goes on the top shelf. 

Contributor Lyla Blake Ward
Lyla Blake Ward 



At 93, Lyla Blake Ward of Somers, N.Y. is still writing and speaking out about subjects that amuse or concern her. Her op-eds and social commentaries appear in newspapers and magazines across the country.
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