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Published:March 7th, 2011 12:06 EST

Putting on Big Girl Panties

By Donna Cavanagh

One of my favorite sayings I used on my daughter through the years was "Put on your big girl panties and deal." I was not trying to be flip or minimize her many dramas, but I was trying to make her strong and capable of handling life`s little and not-so-little obstacles. I figured the sooner she could think on her feet, the better off she was.

Now, I will admit I have broken the big girl panties rule on several occasions when it comes to her.  I have accompanied her on most of her job interviews. Please understand; I don`t go in the interview with her. I just drive her there, sit in the car and wait for her to be done.  In my defense, her first job was at a Dairy Queen, the summer after her freshman year of high school before she had her license, so I had to take her. When she got that job, she considered me her good luck charm, so the tradition continued. I have to say that whenever I did driver her to an interview, she succeeded in getting hired. 

My role as a good luck charm with job interviews has strong roots.  When my older sister would go on interviews during high school, she would make me go with her and keep her calm during the drive to her potential place of employment. 

Again, I would usually sit in the car, but sometimes, plans would go awry. For instance, when she was hoping to snare the cushy receptionist job at Wild Bill Coyote`s Dodge dealership, I took my usual supporting spot in the parking lot. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of a heat wave, and one of the salespeople insisted I go into the dealership to stay cool. Well, before I knew it, he ushered me into the break room where I spent an hour with a dozen of Wild Bill`s mechanics as they ate lunch.  For a 15-year-old, this was an awkward experience, and you would think it would have taught me some kind of a lesson, but as we all know, teenagers can be stupid, and I learned nothing.

The very next week, I accompanied her to a factory that made dryer sheets, and I sat in a dumpy waiting room while she learned what skills she needed to possess to make the anti-static products. After 45 minutes of listening to the stimulating conversation the two women in the office were having about how they hate crabs (and not the sea creatures kind of crabs), I told her I didn`t get a good vibe from this job.  Since I insisted she turn this position down, I agreed to go with her to take a math test to be a department store cashier. 

This was the most fun of all her employment opportunities to me.  We sat in a classroom with all the other applicants who were there to prove their math wizardry. I looked at it as practice for the SATs. My sister looked as if she was going to barf.  She was so nervous about taking this math test that she forgot how to do percents, so I did the work and fed her the answers as quietly as possible. The chick behind us was not amused and threatened to tell the proctor that two people were taking one test.  So, to keep her quiet, I took the test from my sister and finished it myself.  We got a B+.  

Before you give me too much credit for being a good sister, let me tell you when I failed to put on my big girl panties and be there for her. Picture it: we were in Brentanno`s bookstore. We were getting ready to go on vacation to the Jersey shore and so, we were stocking up on our sex and violence romance books. I don`t know how she did it, but my sister got her purse or sleeve or something caught on one of the big racks that held the books. As she moved away, the rack fell over and caused a domino effect with the two racks next to it.  They all came tumbling down in a loud crash; the books flew everywhere, and my sister lay underneath the debris. I saw her hand reaching out of the pile, and then I heard a faint " Help me."

I would like to tell you that her cries for help made me run to her side, but they didn`t. In fact, they made me run out the door. I left her, and to this day I do not regret it. There was no way in hell I was going to stick around and face that humiliation. The store was packed, and everyone was starting to gather.  I am not good with embarrassment.

You will be happy to know that this brief lapse of sisterly loyalty is still fodder for our family dinner table. Yes, they all forget about the Cling Free factory experience or the fact that three of those mechanics at Wild Bill`s Dodge kept in touch to see if I needed a prom date that year. Yes, they forget all those things, but they hold onto the memory of me bolting from the bookstore.

Anyway, maybe I did her some good. Today, she is a champ at wearing big girl panties. She is successful and can handle herself and be there for everyone else without missing a beat. So, I guess I don`t have to worry about my daughter not seeing the benefits of wearing her big girl panties. She has good role models to show her what happens when you slip them on and face life with enthusiasm. She also knows that my love knows no bounds--except maybe in bookstores.