Girls just gotta have fun

In the 24 years I’ve been parenting two sons and the 21 I’ve been building a business, I’ve had (and seen) a lot of different experiences with “raising Arizona kids.” But there was always one experience I felt had been denied: the chance to feel a mother-daughter bond.

For the last five months, I’ve been blessed with even that.

My pretend niece Andrea (20) with my real niece Mandy (10) at one of Mandy

My husband and I welcomed my second cousin Sheryl’s daughter to our home this semester as she took a brave step in self-growth. Andrea, who grew up in Erie, Pa. and had never lived anywhere else, decided to transfer to ASU. She’d fallen in love with Arizona after a couple of week-long visits to “Aunt Karen’s.”

Though I worried a bit beforehand about how this arrangement would work out, I can honestly say her presence in our home — and in my life — has been tranformational.

With Andrea, I have had the best of a mother-daughter relationship because it came without the complicated layers and threads that bind real mothers and daughters. I could enjoy this young woman without a cloud of history — parenting through divorce, fighting through the teenage years or worrying when she stayed out too late. With this daughter-who-is-not-my-daughter I could truly be myself, without the second guessing and self-censorship that often comes with navigating tricky parent-child boundaries.

Best of all, I could laugh with someone who really “gets” me. After a lifetime with two brothers, a husband and two sons, that daily, joyful dose of female companionship in my home was exquisite.

Last week, Andrea wrapped up her finals, achieving a 4.0 GPA despite a tough course load that included organic chemistry. Courtney, her “best friend since first grade,” flew out from Erie to spend a few days with us before both girls flew home yesterday.

I got 24 text messages from Andrea yesterday and sent as many myself. It’s a girl thing.

Andrea worked with me at Camp Fair in February...

...where she got to meet a new friend of the reptilian variety.

Bonding with cousin David and "Uncle Dan" on the beach in Santa Barbara.

Hiking with Jess, a friend from ASU, in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Tubing down the Salt River with lifelong friend Courtney.

Saying goodbye to my girls before we left for the airport yesterday morning. Andrea would want me to add that it was very early and "I'm not a morning person."


2 responses to “Girls just gotta have fun

  1. Sheryl Collins

    It’s good to see Andrea enjoying the sun and finally living her dream with my wonderful cousins in AZ! Don’t worry, she’ll be back next semester!

  2. It sounds like you really have what is important to you down pat. Great job Andrea on the 4.o GPA and congratulations to you to finding the right balance in your life.


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