It’s an unwritten law: there will be scraped knees and hurt feelings. Hearts will break, exhaustion will set in; someone will get cancer. One of my three girls will grow up to hate me, maybe all three, hopefully not all at the same time. But then they’ll love me again, won’t they?
I’m reading this article in the Sunday New York Times magazine called The Mother of All Problems. It’s about teenage girls and how they turn on their mothers, become unreachable, utter profanities about us behind our backs to their friends. Hate, hate, hate us. My husband’s out of town, which makes it a Tuesday, which makes it a small victory that I’ve actually found a few minutes to read anything at all in the Sunday New York Times before the next Sunday rolls around. Dinner, my least favorite chore, warms in the oven; I think about the arugula salad – totally manageable – and so I take my magazine and settle myself on the daybed at the end of my dining room, where the light is right.
Outside my oldest, Ella, juggles a soccer ball while Lilah, the youngest, giggles and dribbles her own little ball across the grass. I can see them out the far window, two of my three glorious, drive-me-crazy girls. The sun sparkles in the middle of March and I finally accept the truth that we’ve had no winter here in northern California and the time for it is gone. The laughter and sunshine meld together in a fantastical way. How could anything ever go wrong?
But then there is this article. The words of this mama writer, so erudite and smarty pants, sprinkled with literary references, spooks me and I think: “It’s lies, all lies. Bald faced lies.” The thought of my sweet-faced girls as the enemy, monsters, dangerous creatures riles me up, gets my indignant panties in a bunch. No way, not mine, no how.
I know I am a Polly Anna when it comes to what the future with my girls holds. I know I have no idea what’s in front of me, that everyday brings me another day closer to when I’ll have to venture across the border into Teen Land. I see my big girl seething when she can’t find a pair of black leggings – no, not that pair! I watch anxiety skip across her face when she sees two of her friends hanging out without her thanks to a post on Instagram. I feel myself growing old in front of her, sliding surely into the realm of my own generation, a place of no significance to her even as I find more and more relevance and comfort anchoring myself there with Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure, my Dailey Method class and my sauvignon blanc and just enough technology know-how to plug in and make use of about 40 percent of the iPhone 6. I’m getting comfortable here in my resting place, but my almost teen daughter is moving on at top speed, outpacing me, widening the gap between us, swiping furiously at her screen while I turn my notifications off.
I reach out to her in all the ways I know how – with patience and advice, by making space but also making rules I hope will make her feel safe and loved, not jailed and kept. When nothing seems to work, I just hug her for as long as she’ll let me, breathing in her teen spirit, leaving a little of my Gen X scent on her skin.
I put the article down, that piece of gloom and doom, and head outside. “Mama!” she squeals when she sees me. “Wanna pass with me?”
Of course I do. I do, I do, I do. Even in my new metallic Birks, even without my sunglasses. Even though it’s almost 6 o’clock and dinner isn’t quite ready which means people will be hungry, the little one will go to bed late. Even though I’m vaguely worried none of us is wearing sunscreen.
She kicks the ball to me hard and precise. I find my feet, trap it, set it up and kick it back.
“Nice one mom,” she says, her caramel colored ponytail swinging, catching the light. Lilah lolls in the grass, the dog licks her face. We wave to the neighbors walking by.
This is where I need to be.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s prompt is “The chore I hate doing the most is…”