Encouraging words work better

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

It seems that many people I have run into lately have been busy attending graduation ceremonies and open house parties for the graduates. I have been to a number of these events as my daughter, Theresa, graduated from Blooming Prairie High School this year. She is going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison this fall. We spent two and a half days in Madison last week attending orientation and Theresa registered for class. The school received 21,000 applications for fall 2003 and 5,700 were accepted.

It's a big school with large classes and a beautiful campus, I hope Theresa will be happy there. She's my fifth child going to college, and she was the baby until Timmy came along when she was 8 1/2 years old. She's ready to spread her wings and we will miss her when she leaves.

My mom was relieved when each of her children graduated from high school.

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Our house was small and there wasn't enough room for the 13 people in our family. I never had a room of my own and I never slept in a bed alone.

Privacy was something I would seek out in a closet when I wanted to read a book by myself. Mom especially pushed the girls out of the house when they graduated. My sister Kate came home from an all night party after her graduation ceremony from high school to find her bed gone. Mom had come upstairs to the bedroom early in the morning and my sister Mary and I woke up to the sounds of her tearing Kate's bed apart. We begged mom to leave Kate's bed alone. But she ignored us and tossed the mattress out of the upstairs window and hauled the iron frame out to a shed. Kate was shocked when she came home and saw her bed gone and started to cry. Mom said she had to do it this way so Kate wouldn't think about moving back home. Kate moved to St. Paul that day to live with my sister Joann and her husband and infant daughter in their duplex. Kate didn't come home for several years. If she did visit, it was for only a few hours and not overnight.

My six brothers came home often for extended periods of time and their rooms remained untouched for years and none of their beds were removed. Mom made special meals for the boys, prepared each one's favorite dessert, did their laundry and picked up after them.

When I graduated from high school, I moved to Boston in the fall to attend school and work. I moved in with my sister, Kate who was going to school at the University of Massachusetts. Mom drove me to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport for my flight to Boston. I was excited about starting a new adventure. When I unloaded my bags from the car at the airport and turned to hug mom goodbye, she said, "Don't come back for a long time. You put me through hell." I didn't feel like hugging her very much after this comment and I couldn't wait to get out of Minnesota.

A year after I left home, my sister Mary moved to Madison to attend college. My parents drove her to Madison and dropped Mary off at curb by her dorm with her luggage and left. I always wondered why mom was so tough on us girls. I found out years later that she had wanted to go to nursing school, but her parents wouldn't let her. She was raised on a farm by Ellendale and moved to Clarks Grove when she was 20. She married at age 22 and always regretted that she had never become a nurse.

I think by being so cold and heartless to her daughters was her way of giving us a push. I have had to learn that it is OK to be supportive of my daughters and my sons and to not be angry when they start on their journeys of leaving home for the first time. They have lots of opportunity and I see what confident young people they are. Kind words of encouragement I have found work better to give them that boost in life.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at :mailto:newsroom@austindailyherald.com