Dedan K. Bruner
A Tribute to Bobbie Jean
I recently read a quote that said, “Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a mother.” Fortunately for me, my life came with Bobbie Jean— a true southern girl at heart from Louisiana. Today at the age of 76 my mother represents all the things good in my sister and me. As I begin to embark on my own journey to motherhood at nearly 8 months pregnant, I reflect back on what I respect most about my mother…her foresight and wisdom when it came to two concepts: maturity and motherhood.
My mother, like so many other women of her time, was not afforded the educational and professional opportunities or advances that my sister and I have today. My mother never went to college. Nor did she read books. She was raised to work hard with her hands. My mother intuitively knew higher education was a good thing, but never tapped into any long-term educational opportunities for herself. After she married my father her focus was to give her two daughters the best love and nurturing foundation she possibly could— and boy did she!
The joy of my early childhood memories with my mother cannot be explained into words. My mother engaged my sister and me in adventures every weekend at the park, museums, in sports activities, swimming lessons or at home with arts and crafts. On the weekends when we had nothing planned she would surprise us with a picnic, playtime with the garden waterholes on hot days, or allow us to help her make her infamous homemade vanilla ice cream. For her, the idea was not about keeping us busy. It was about my mother learning what her daughters liked to do, did not like to do, and allowing our curiosity for different activities to grow naturally.
As engaged as my mother was, she was not interested in having the spotlight as a #SuperMom. As we got older, our interests grew in separate and specific areas that were foreign or unrelatable to my mother. While she was always present in plain sight, she often made a choice to step back from her daughters as-needed to allow the space for another family member, God-parent, friend or mentor to step-in, teach, and fully guide us towards new opportunities connected to where we wanted to go or do next. As you can imagine, a mother taking a step back was not easy. Every parent wants to be in a position to give their children all they need without having to ask anyone for help. My mother’s act of stepping back in key moments often took courage, a lot of trust, and a big spoonful of humility. My mother was wise enough to know and acknowledge when something was not her reality or skill set. What my mother fully understood then as a parent was that where my sister and I wanted to go, she didn’t have the tools or resources to get us there. However, what she did have was power in her encouragement. During these same key moments, my mother never told my sister nor I “no” to anything we wanted to try. She led with a many “yes” or ending statements like “you want that, then go do it.”
Over the years, I have grown to admire my mother’s grace in realizing she could not do it all herself and for the seeds of curiosity, she planted in my sister and me. Those seeds have served us well. They led me to become the first person in my immediate family to graduate from a 4-year college plus two Masters programs and led my sister and me to become entrepreneurs.
My mother has no shame in giving credit to other family members or mentors that helped us along the way. Yet in the end, she deserves the credit for being a wise parent with an open heart and an eye always focused on her children’s future. A parent that didn’t let pride get in the way. I can only hope to have this same wisdom and foresight with my daughter as a future mother.