Way to Go Egypt…But What About Anderson Coopers Mother?

Way To Go Egypt

Photo Credit - Tara Todras-Whitehill - AP

It’s definitely a side story.  Egypt is rocking the world in the best of ways and it is changing as we watch and hope so rapidly that there is no telling what it will all look like in a day or a week or another month from now.  And while I am cognizant of all this, another thread keeps weaving itself through my mind as I am watching the coverage Anderson Cooper struggles to broadcast.

What about Gloria Vanderbilt?  I think of the mother who, having already lost one son to suicide, watches another son rush repeatedly towards violence and danger, driven to witness some of the world’s toughest moments.  I like that about journalists, I think that a good journalist is one of the best examples of bravery there is, but what if it was my son?  Obviously I am not privy to their relationship, but it seems to be a very affectionate one, so how do you measure a woman who manages to get out of the way of her child’s need to live a life of dangerous adventure.  It seems to involve a bravery and respect for her child by giving him the endorsement to lead a life that is of his own making.

Could I give such a life to my own children? I have wondered it before. How would I respond if one of my children chose the military, or fire fighting or law enforcement as a career. Could I suppress the entirely self-serving moment that would need to keep them from harm’s way to let them live their most authentic life? Could I get out of their way and allow them to lead the life they need to?  I hope I could. That seems to me to be the purest form of love, letting them choose things that have meaning to them and them alone without having to calculate the cost to me.

I think it was Simone De Beauvoir who wrote to her mother from the Spanish Civil War in response to her fear that she was there, “If I had two lives to live I would give one to you, but I don’t…” that seems to capture it all right there. We all want greatness and success for our children, but how must Anderson Cooper’s mother fare, watching tape of him being targeted by the violence of a mob that threatened to turn deadly any moment?  How many mothers have stood back to let their children pursue the things their inner maps told them to pursue, sometimes knowing that they would pay with their lives?

We are not them. It was one of my first lessons as a parent as I watched my triplets fight for their lives in a struggle that all but excluded me from its outcome. Their lives and fate are their own. I can protect and guide them within reason, but where they ultimately ended up was not mine to control. They are they’re own people and they will fight battles that have nothing to do with me at times. I would do the one thing I could. Show up, stand shoulder to shoulder with them and tell them they were not alone. I can give them my belief in their ability to fight and win, but I could not fight the battles for them, nor should I.

And so while I watched Anderson Cooper fly in, and ultimately back out of Egypt, I thought too of Danny Pearl, and I wonder, how does Gloria Vanderbilt ever think of anything else when she sees her son under siege in foreign countries? Journalists die in situations such as that with regularity, and nothing that happens to AC can ever be anonymous anymore.  And then I thought of Anderson Coopers mother again.  I hoped that he would get home to her all right.

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Colonial Boy

    You support them unconditionally and you love them the same way; you advise them to the best of your ability, but your part in the scene is to “wind them up and let them go”- much like the Energiser bunny.
    You need the self-belief, and you have to rely upon the fact that, having spent their lives till the point of their fledging impressing and emphasising the placement of, and necessity for, reasonable boundaries, that they are then equipped with the necessary moral and social tools to adequately handle anything that the weird, wild, wide-open, wonderful world has to throw at them.
    But you NEVER stop wishing that your kids keep on being your kids, and you never stop worrying about them… and nor should you.

    February 14th, 2011

  2. Loved this post. As a military spouse, I have the opportunity to meet many Gold Star Moms who have sent their sons and daughters to war and lost them. Their suffering is palpable and, as a mother myself, I can’t fathom how hard it must be for them. It is difficult to send a spouse to the war zone. I’ve done it 4 times in 6 years. But I’ve known my husband only as an adult. A strong, capable adult. When we met, he was already in the Air Force. His mom, on the other hand, nurtured dreams of what he would become, how he would grow, the family he’d have, for YEARS before he joined the Air Force and years before he went to war. And in her mind, all that potential still lives on. Losing a son would mean losing not just the adult he had become but the little boy he was, too.

    February 15th, 2011

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