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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Valentine

Maternal mentoring Part 1

The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. - Steven Spielberg

Down through the years I have been so blessed to have women in my life who took the time to guide and direct me. I don’t know that they would call it mentoring per se, but there is a direction that comes with the sisterhood that naturally guides you to share your story, no matter how mundane you think it is. Sharing a bit of experience will encourage and uplift someone headed that way.

My Aunt Katie was our next door neighbor throughout my childhood. She was a wife, mother and entrepreneur, in that order. I really didn’t think about her as an entrepreneur until I started to appreciate what she taught me, in a very indirect way. She took home economics and hair dressing in school so her house was always clean, no matter what time of day you visited. We had washing machines in our apartments, but no dryers. You could take your clothes down to the community laundromat (my brothers grumbled about having to take our diapers down to dry them) or you could hang your clothes on a pulley clothes rack that hung over the tub. Most families also had a free standing clothes rack for a second load. When I tell you my aunt’s clothes were hung so neatly on those racks!

I also learned a lot from her when she cooked. Most women were serious about making their meals stretch. In addition to her husband, she had two growing boys. She would make each of their plates and served it with bread and butter. This was her way of saying, this is your dinner. Don’t come back for seconds because that is tomorrow’s dinner. She didn’t spend a lot on herself. As a matter of fact I watched her drink lemon water to ward off her own hunger pains. Her house dresses were sometimes thread thin. She was always kind, loving and considerate. We enjoyed many beauty parlor sessions in her kitchen for Easter or other special occasions. I learned how to take care of my hair from my sessions with her.

Then there was Ms. Lu, short for Lucille. I was assigned to her when I was a freshman in college. She was the secretary for the nursing department. (I had a nursing scholarship as a freshman and sophomore in college.) Ms. Lu was a stern, no-nonsense women who also had 2 sons. She was a devoted wife and respected professional. Ms. Lu and I worked hard, but there were times she would share things with me. I remember her talking about her sons when they were babies. She said she laid down the law with them when they were little so they knew not to make too much noise. I thought this was fascinating and while I didn’t have the moxie to enforce it with my babies, I did use it when they were toddlers. She had a way of getting her point across without being outlandish. She shared a story of her husband being misdiagnosed by his doctor and as a result, he was going to succumb to the illness within a few months. She was going to be a widow and although a part of her wanted to give the doctor a piece of her mind, she knew that the doctor had not intentionally misdiagnosed her husband. She answered the doctor’s call in three stern matter-of-fact acknowledgements – “Yes, doctor, Yes, doctor, Yes doctor.” And as much she wanted to cry, she knew she had to be strong, not only for her husband, but for her sons.

Both of these ladies have been gone many years, but their instructions have sustained me all of these years. Who has influenced, guided, directed and encouraged you?

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