Among the nearly 15,000 relatives and friends who filled Cole Field House for the University of Maryland commencement last Friday was one mother whose mind might have been on the justifiable pride she could feel in seeing two of her children graduated that day.
Instead, however, Beatrice Youngblood was thinking, "When my next daughter graduates, perhaps I'll have my 40 credits."
That kind of thinking is the secret, she says, to raising eight children, four of whom will be in college this fall while one is in medical school, two are working and another is in elementary school. She has raised her children, she said, by growing with them and by setting parallel goals for herself.
"I feel very strongly about parents growing up with children mentally," said the 47-year old Youngblood, who is a part-time student of psychology and works full time as a secretary for the University of Maryland's school of veterinary sciences.
"I started studying at a time when they were still in school, and I could contribute to their knowledge," she said, "I feel I can keep two or three steps ahead of them by going to school at this time."
Beatrice Youngblood does not think about being a superwoman -- mother, wife, employe and student. She does not "run" her family. Rather, her husband Robert Sr. and the children help her run it so that she can have work and study experiences as they do.
She took her first college course 10 years ago when she began working at her secretarial job at the University. "It was a family decision," she said. "They had to understand that if they had one turn doing dishes, they might now be having two turns. I didn't think it was fair for me to say "well, now you'll no longer have a mother. I'm a student now.'"
The children applauded her decision, although she thinks they didn't grasp all the ramifications at the time.
Her husband, an analyst with the Defense Department, took over the grocery shopping -- 16 bags every two weeks, including 10 loaves of bread and 15 half-gallons of milk -- and the children all learned to cook,
The family overflowed the small living room of their Lanham home when they gathered there to talk about their educational achievements. Stefan stood on the half-flight of stairs leading to the front door and twirled a basketball; Lisa sat cross-legged in the hallway. Robert Sr., a quiet man whose children say he seldom has to reprimand them twice, sat at the kitchen table.
"When they were in elementary school, we talked about college but the idea that they had to go to college was never enforced," said Beatrice Youngblood, who is looking toward a career in counseling once she gets her degree. "When they were in high school, we thought it would be nice for them to go if we could arrange financing. But now we feel it is an absolute necessity in today's job market."
"Maybe it was just growing up in the suburbs, but everybody expected to go," said Gwendolyn, 22, who received her second bachelor's degree last week, this one for a double major in biology and chemistry. Last year she earned a bachelor's in chemistry but, failing to get into medical school, she went back to college for another year. Meanwhile she has been accepted at both Temple and Howard universities' medical schools and has not yet decided which she will attend.
Gwendolyn said she wants to become a surgeon, and studied during the summer of 1978 with a heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey in Houston. "I was reading through a book on how to get into medical school and I learned about this program in Houston, so I applied," said Gwendolyn.
"I went to college because Robert and Gwen went," said William, 21, who last week received a degree in urban management and already has started working at the Xerox Corp. in Rosslyn, Va., as a credit representative.
The eldest child, Robert Jr., 23, is teaching special education at E. Brooke Lee Junior High School in Silver Spring and is only a few credits short of a degree from Maryland in elementary and special education.
Franchesca, 20, is a junior at the University of Maryland majoring in physical therapy. Kristina, 18, is a freshman at Howard University and Lisa, 16, will enter Prince George's Community College in September.
Stefan, 19, attended Livingston College in Salisbury, N.C., for a week, Catawba College, also in Salisbury, for a semester and the University of Maryland for a day. He'll enter the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Winchester, Va. this fall.
Christopher, who is 12 and a sixth grader at Ascension Lutheran Elementary School, insists he hasn't the foggiest idea what he wants to do.
"He's raising lizards right now," Stefan explained.
Beatrice Youngblood is majoring in -- of course -- child psychology. "I always find myself observing, listening and then regrouping my thoughts and analyzing," she said.
"I feel very comfortable, the way it is now," she said. "I feel I've raised the family and can do something for myself now. And I could contribute to their knowledge."