SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAMonths of endlessly pestering my mother had finally paid off. Christmas was coming in two weeks, and I was determined to get an early present, even if it killed me.

In 1965, I was thirteen and completely flat. While the other girls flaunted their lacey symbols of womanhood under crisp, white uniform blouses, I sported a cotton tee shirt. I was what people called a late bloomer. Spring’s first bud had yet to form on my scrawny body, but I was adamant– chest or no chest– to get my first bra!

“You don’t need one,” my mom said gently. “It’s not your time.”

“But Mom!” I cried, “I feel like such a baby. I want to be like everyone else!”

“If I say yes, does that mean you’ll ask to shave your legs and wear nylons too?”

I had thought about that too, but I kept my mouth shut. I had to accomplish one task at a time, and not push my luck.

“No, just the bra!” I squealed, watching her acquiesce.

Unable to stand my whining any longer, we went to buy my unmentionables that afternoon. My mom sighed as she handed me over to the store clerk, “Lucy, set her up. She’s driving me crazy!”

From behind the counter, Lucy pulled out a measuring tape that could encompass ten women. Placing a fraction of it around my shivering ribcage, she got the dimensions needed, went to a drawer labeled “Young Teen” and pulled out a white non-descript, flat training bra. There was no underwire, no cup, no padding. There wasn’t even any lace. Just a tiny pink bow sewn in the middle, and I was thrilled beyond belief.

Walking out of the store, I noticed tears brewing in the corner of my mother’s eyes. “Mom, this is nothing to cry over,” I said softly. “Girls get these every day.”

With her typical all-knowing look, she hugged me as if she was about to lose something precious, and said, “One day you’ll understand.” Twenty years later her statement came to fruition.

Having children is a momentous occasion in any parent’s life. We instinctively know they’ll need food and water for growth, as well as an unconditional love for a healthy soul. Discipline, education, morals, and values are also important; It took me longer to realize how crucial support was and continues to be for their development.

I knew they’d want encouragement when it came to schoolwork, playing sports or exploring artistic interests, and was thrilled to be their number one fan. I wasn’t ready, however, for the daunting moment when they appeared to stop needing me. That ripped my heart out.

Looking back, I now realize how difficult that day at Lucy’s Lovely Lingerie shop was for my mother. She wasn’t ready to let me grow up. I was slipping through her fingers, and she wanted to freeze-frame my childhood. Ever a wise and loving woman, my mother knew she had to release me to mature into adulthood. The day was about supporting her child- not my chest. It was time to let me fly.

This Christmas I plan to give my kids an early gift. I will fill an empty box with encouragement for the road ahead. I will line the edges with a promise to assist them whenever I can, and top it off with approval for choices that are perfect for their lives (even if their decisions might take them far away from me). And it will be tied all together with constant cheering over their accomplishments!

I learned from my mother those many years ago, a child (no matter how old) will always need the love and support of their parents. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.