If I am being honest, my daughter came into this world pushing me away. She was independent from the moment she was born. Sure, she relied on me for food and a diaper change, but rarely for affection. I have always needed her more than she has needed me.
She is an introspective person, born an old soul. She seems to take great pleasure telling me what she thinks I am doing wrong – constantly reminding me that we MUST be taking the long route; there is DEFINITELY a closer parking spot. It feels like I am going over the speed limit. I let her brother have a piece of candy before hockey practice once and she told me, and I quote, “this is not what proper parenting looks like.”
She was 7 years old at the time.
When she turned 9, she started referring to me as “Mother.” She’s skipped right over a more emotionally acceptable “Mom” into a designation reserved for backwards Southern men to call their wives. Ninety-eight percent of the time, when she answers me at all, it is with the phrase “I know, Mother.”
We seem to be in a constant tug-of-war – one step forward, two steps back.
Now she is thirteen and her shift into the official teenage years has further driven a wedge between us. Most afternoons consist of me holding my breath, trying to gauge her mood, while she blocks me out. Her phone is always inches away from her face, her headphones permanently attached to her ears.
I still have this need to stay in her life. I am constantly on the look-out for opportunities to bridge the gap between us, to find moments we can share. We caught a sneak preview of Yoga Hosers the other night, a film by my idol, Kevin Smith. It was a rare mother-daughter date night, sandwiched delicately between her busy social calendar, and I’m so happy that we saw it. I’m not sure if all the stars aligned in the universe or if Smith’s most absurd film plot yet shifted something seismically, but it was the first time in a long time that we sat and laughed together. We laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, we laughed at the ability to identify with the characters, and we laughed at the fact that we were finally able to sit together in peace.
It felt refreshing to just “be” for a while, without the heaviness that comes with being the mother of a teenage girl.
After the film finished, we had an actual conversation. She didn’t rush to pick up her phone; I didn’t turn up the radio. We talked and I made her laugh with all of the teen jokes I didn’t understand. In between her giggles, I tried to tell her the message I wanted her to take to heart, now that she was listening and not shutting me out.
Go out and live your life with no regrets, my girl-child. Like the Colleens, treat every day as an adventure. Use that boldness and strong will to do good for others. Find your people, the ones who really get you and hold onto them with both hands. Don’t take yourself too seriously, because someday something truly bad will happen in your life, and you will realize how very little of the every-day crap really needs to be taken seriously. And, like my favorite line in the film says, “destroy everything that threatens anyone or anything that you love.” Because that’s all you really have – all you can really count on – is those few in this world who really love you.
I hope she heard me.
I want so much to stop arguing with my daughter. I want to quiet the constant worry and stop second-guessing her decisions. It is my job as a mother to ensure she is equipped with all of the knowledge I can bestow upon her, to safeguard her from all that can go wrong in this world. But my desire to protect her from it all doesn’t always permit me the opportunity to give her what she really needs: someone who will talk to her, not at her, and tell her I remember, too.
I remember what it’s like to worry you won’t fit in and to spend more time being interested in boys than you do on being interesting yourself. I remember believing someone else’s opinion of me actually mattered. I remember weeding through countless counterfeits before discovering a friend who had my back, believing I would never find what it is that makes me tick, that would motivate me to really begin living. And I remember being in such a rush to grow up that the effortlessness of youth went by unappreciated.
Maybe, just maybe, I will find more days to connect with her like this. With books I enjoyed at her age. Or with a movie, like this. Or some other olive branch from my past. I hope I can, because I can feel the time I have with her slipping away.
At least I can take some solace in knowing that, for now, no matter what battles we are fighting out loud or in our heads, we fight them together.