A parental epiphany in Myanmar.

stairs Traveling with your (almost) adult child can be truly enlightening. I had many, many moments of enlightenment (and a few dark, gloomy hours) on my trip to Thailand and Myanmar this past December to visit my 22-year old daughter Lulu, who is teaching English in a small city outside Bangkok.

Welcome to Nathon Pathom!

My dramatic welcome to Nakhon Pathom, where Lulu — and these big fellows — are located!

First came the stupefying realization that my child was actually being seen with me in public on purpose .. and didn’t seem to feel the need to walk 30 paces behind me, or refuse to respond to me in the hopes that nobody would realize we’re related. In fact, she even proudly introduced me to her friends, students, supervisors and co-workers. Mon Dieu!!

Teacher Lulu waving across the school lake...

Teacher Lulu waving across the school lake…

Second, despite all my maternal inclinations to nag (I mean advise), I didn’t really have to remind Lulu to do anything that she was supposed to do. In fact, I started to experience a disconcerting sense of role reversal.  At night, while I spent precious hours welded to my earbuds obsessively watching pirated episodes of “Homeland” that I’d missed, Lulu was flopped on the bed grading papers, checking her notes, and humming quietly to herself. She was the one who chose the restaurants we went to and deciphered the Thai menu so that I didn’t end up ordering goat brains. The one time I decided to helpfully do a wash, I managed to thoroughly launder the camera that was tucked in her pants pocket, and wipe out all the photos on her flash card. How could I be so careless??!

On the road, when we got an after-hours tour of the Grand Palace in Bangkok… at the palace2

or hired a guide to tour the fabulous Temples of Bagan…

Hitlo Minlo Temple

or climbed the craggy steps of Mt. Popa… Lulu & Mt. Popa

or took an all-day tour of the water-logged towns of Inle Lake… lake house

inle fisherman

couple on river… why even then, Lulu didn’t slump down in her seat and refuse to look out the window lest she be intellectually bombarded with facts …NO! She was right on board, taking photos, listening intently, drinking in the remarkable sights, and being truly awake in the moment.Lulu & Buddha

Lulul listening.comFinally, when I – the presumptive parent – acted like a jerk when I didn’t get the room with the fabulous view of the temples that I’d obsessively searched out, requested, paid for and prayed for..morning balloons

…but instead was given a room with a view of a cement wall and scummy pond…

In my defense, this was the bad view from our room....

…I’m sorry to say that I did complain bitterly and pouted and under-tipped the sweet bellman and even kicked my shoes in frustration.

Then my beautiful global daughter (whom I’ve routinely bombarded with counsel on good manners and appropriate behavior) called me out for being a spoiled brat who doesn’t understand Southeast Asia or grasp how  good I actually have it, and then threw in the clincher: why are you bumming everybody out with your crap attitude over things that you can’t control and won’t change?

And that is when the Buddha – Buddha2(and believe me, by this point in the temple-laden trip, we’d seen plenty of that smiling, placid, peace-loving, he-knows-something-you-don’t guy)  –Buddha… had the last laugh.

Buddha3I suddenly got it.Nanpaya Buddha

The knowledge was sweet and a little bitter – but I realized inescapably that my baby girl is all grown up. my pretty girlShe’s smart, competent, courageous, and knows how to carry her own weight.

Lulu hauling water

In fact, she’s grand. lulu in doorwayNow I’m going to go put myself in timeout till I can deal with that.

(And if you’d like to hear Lulu’s perspective on this trip, check out her delightful blog at memyselfandthailand.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/christmas-on-inlay-myanmar-pt-2/)

30 thoughts on “A parental epiphany in Myanmar.

  1. Just loved it Betty!! Ha!! Been a little busy with meeting the next generation of my family!! Ha!! Now I am re-learning the infant things I completely forgot!! Definitely, pat your self on the back. Lulu is incredible and so blessed to have your encouragement to experience more then our over protected indulged life in the US. The children who have had a great example set, are going to do great things. The hardest thing for a mom is “letting go”. The reward is amazing when you see your incredible child grow and blossom even more then you thought possible. Be so proud of your job well done!! AND, at 60, when we have worked so hard to make everything right for everyone we love in our world, we have a right to get grumpy when things don’t work out. It is the bouncing back from the grump that is important!! Ha!! Anyway I would hate to cheat my daughters from the need to correct my behavior!!

  2. I just love this post!!!! I think it is amazing your daughter is doing this at 22. You have taught her well with your amazing global adventures. I can only imagine what it will be like when my youngest who is 7 now is 22 and wanting to travel the world. I can see now how nervous my mom must have been when I left to live in France back then too. I hope to see the world with my children as well someday. You must be so proud of her and she must be so honored by you! 🙂 Lovely post.

    • Thanks so much, TEM — and I love seeing the photos of your little girl on your blog — it sure takes me back to those lovely snow angel days!! I know she’ll be picking up your love of travel, too — but treasure those days when your kids are young (as I know you do). They go so fast!!

      • Thanks! It is scary how fast time goes. I agree. Just ran into an old neighbor and I didn’t even recognize his 10 year old daughter as she had changed so much in the last five years! 🙂

  3. OMG! so this is what it will take? I’m gonna have to send both my children abroad!
    and wow yes, in some moment of the way, the story reverts itself and children no longer look up but look by themselves… undoubtedly you have done a marvelous job and now she’s putting everything in practice…
    this is fantastic I am so happy for you and Lulu!

    • Oh, Vivian — I wouldn’t say that I’ve done such a great job, but like you (and all the moms I know) I did my best, made a lot of mistakes, and mostly tried to correct them with love — but it is striking to me how things seem to shift profoundly in your mother/child roles once they grow to adulthood and they don’t really need you in the same way, but you still need to be a mom and be needed! What a challenge! Love to you & Guatemala!!!

  4. What a wonderful and beautiful daughter you have! You must be proud of her. Loved all of the photos, and I’m sorry you didn’t get the room you paid for.

    I suppose it’s about time for your time-out to be over now. Be good!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • You are so funny, Kathryn — Hell yes, I’m out of timeout! My time with Lulu was really spectacular – and it was so gratifying to see her so happy! BTW, as it turns out, we did get the great room-with-a-temple-view the second night — so all my belly-aching was just the result of the first night of disappointment. Goes to show you ….

  5. Betty – what a great piece – it’s wonderful to be around them as grown-ups though, isn’t it? They know stuff! They are entertaining, amazing people all on their own – and it’s glorious – if a little humbling. Sounds like a wonderful trip – mine does occasionally still need to be reminded to eat – and that reminds me that I do still have a place – but mostly I just enjoy them. Take care, – I echo the sentiment about the Atlanta freeway…

    • Thanks, Susan! And yes I agree, it IS wonderful–and surprising– to know them as grown-ups. They just exhibit so many startlingly cool things about themselves — I still find that I mourn the days when I needed to take care of Lulu, but that’s a small price to pay for the joy of seeing her really coming into her own! Miss you guys!!!

    • Kyla, omg, that was 22 years ago!! Lulu’s had a pretty sweet life so far, I hope, and only hope she goes through life with as many wonderful friends as I have been blessed with — like you & ROGER! Love your facebook posts!!!

    • Thanks, Joyce … although it’s always a bit disconcerting to think of her as a full-grown woman. I guess your kids will always remain children in some small place in your mind …. (and that’s what drives them crazy!)

  6. This sounds like an experience my mum and I had in Ecuador! I’m always super busy teaching summer intensive classes when my mum comes to visit Asia, but those few weeks of having her around and keeping her from ordering scariness in spicy sauce fuel me for the rest of the year!

  7. Wow! Betty, made me cry. What an experience, and how beautiful Lulu is, inside and out. And don’t beat yourself up for being a Mom who wanted to make everything perfect for her daughter at Christmas-time. Also, I bet you were tired and had low blood sugar.
    Hope you are not stuck on the Atlanta freeway…

    • Kate darling! Oh, you know my temper, so you can only imagine that once or twice on this two-week journey I did blow a (small) gasket — and of course, I did want it to be perfect for her! Luckily, we did get the good room the next day and everything worked out just FINE … Thanks for your kind words about Lulu — she really is a sweet girl with a really big heart, so I’m glad the photos captured that. As for the SNOW in the ATL — luckily, I was home with plenty of heat and a glass of wine — but omg, for those who were out on the ice-bound highways, it was horrific! Not like you intrepid Denver folks!

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