My friend Laura Lynn Brown published “Everything That Makes You Mom” last year, but I didn’t read it until this year. What follows—last Wednesday and today—is a review of sorts. Laura’s book is part memoir, part writing exercise. She offers memories of her mother, interspersed with questions for you to answer about yours, such as “How might she deal with animal intruders?”
I never could figure out which house of Hogwarts I belonged in (although I leaned toward Ravenclaw because I adore Luna Lovegood). While reading “Divergent,” I had the same problem with knowing what faction I would choose. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I were Divergent, like Tris?
Divergents are people whose testing reveals they could belong to more than one faction. Tris qualifies for Erudite, Abnegation and Dauntless. That means she’s smart, selfless and brave. Divergents are dangerous to the authorities because they can’t be controlled.
“Mom, how do you know about Divergence?” Tris asks her mother. “What is it? Why …”
“I know about them because I am one,” she says as she shoves a bullet in place. (In the movie, this is when Ashley Judd gets her gun and saves the day.)
After a bit more explanation about factions and her personal history, Tris’ mother says, “I wanted you to make the choice on your own.”
The hardest part of being a mother is letting our children make the choice on their own.
In Laura’s book, she asks this question about mothers: “What simple pleasures did she invite you along on?”
I remembered our trip to New England together when I was 15. It was supposed to have been a romantic vacation with my dad, but he couldn’t go because of work. So, she asked me to come along on a quiet adventure through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Not having my dad along forced Mom out of her comfort zone to do all the driving and deciding. I was her navigator backup, which was a tragic mistake. One day we were heading for Freeport, Maine, and we knew we had taken a wrong turn when we saw a sign proclaiming, “Welcome to New Hampshire!”
Clearly, Navigation is not a faction I would qualify for, if such a faction existed in any society.
During that trip, my mom confronted me about my anorexia. When we got home, she arranged for me to get counseling. And when that didn’t cut it, she found a place for me to get treatment.
As “Divergent” unfolds and Tris confronts her divergence, she realizes that Abnegation and Dauntless share a quality — bravery. It is expressed differently in each faction, but even selfless people can act bravely in order to save someone else. Or, as Four/Tobias puts it, “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”
That makes my mother Divergent. She was selfless and brave. She didn’t just fight her own battles, but mine, too, as much as she could.
Next year my 15-year-old daughter is going away to a boarding school — her choice. I’ve never seen her work so hard for anything in her life. I hope she becomes convinced of her own strength. I hope she sees that bravery takes many forms, especially selflessness. If she is Divergent, it will require more of her than she can imagine. It might even be a little dangerous.
I know because she is so much like my mom.