Sunday, September 30, 2007

Home Sweet Cuckoo's Nest

When I return to the workforce I am seriously considering working at a mental institution. Not because I would fit in (I’d have a uniform), but because I have come to the conclusion that pubescent behavior is akin to bipolar disorder.

Remember when our kids were cute and little (maybe yours still are. In that case, sell them now while they’re still retaining their sticker value) and they had difficulty with segues? When my oldest daughter was in first grade or so, I remember helping her with her language homework. I went over the importance of starting each sentence with a capital letter, ending with a period, exclamation point or question mark, and all the commas and semicolons in between. One typical day, after describing in excruciating detail the finer points of exclamatory sentences, my little girl looked up at me and lisped, “Did you know I have 74 cat stickers?” (only it was stheventy four sthickerth). Back then, it was cute. It warranted a call to my cousin or best friend and we’d collectively giggle over how quirky kids were.

I’m not giggling a lot these days, and unless you’re my husband presenting me with a gin and tonic, an updated passport and a briefcase full of unmarked bills with the instructions to “Go get lost for a while,” it’s unlikely to be a common occurrence for me in the near future. Like until I die.

The other night I had gained entrance to my preteen’s room during the bedtime hour. It’s rare to get an audience with a receptive adolescent, much less one that wasn’t solicited or demanded upon pain of death. I sat there on the edge of her daybed as she readied herself for the evening, the strains of music coming from her bathroom informing me that sexy is coming back. From where, I’m not sure, perhaps a trunk? With junk in it? But I digress. She came out, smelling of Clean and Clear, toothpaste, and brown sugar. She carefully turned her back to me as she slipped her pajama top on (because that would be shocking, you know. To actually see the embryonic mammaries of the young girl that sprang from my loins), and joined me on the edge of her bed.

What followed was initially delightful. She chattered on about school, about girls in her class, about volleyball. She asked me questions. She told me that junk in one’s trunk was passé and that I was to use the more de rigeur, yet slightly retro phrase referencing the booty. I told her bottom was just fine with me, and she endured my old-fashioned-ness without screaming that I was trying to turn her Amish. It was wonderful.

Then, the clouds began to roll in, the waters became a bit more choppy. She told me that the 8th grade girls said she was too skinny, calling her “el skelato” in jest, but that it hurt her feelings. Stupidly, blindly, I was still looking behind me, to calmer waters and the last ray of sun peeking out from the angry, purple cloud. “Oh, honey. They’re just saying that because they’re probably a little bit jealous. Not everyone can look like you, you know.” I reached over to touch her arm as I said this.

Mayday! Mayday! The ship of mother-daughter bonding was fast sinking and I had no idea why. Why? She was so happy, just 1.5 seconds ago. Without warning, she whipped a scowl at me and the gale force of her words slapped my skin. “They’re not jealous! They don’t want to be a STICK.”

I quickly scanned my mental bank of life preserving phrases to bring us back to tranquility, but then the stern went down as she warbled in agony, the last breaths of the sweet natured girl gurgling in my mind as she shrieked, “When are my boobs. Going. To.Get. BIGGER?? I floundered, not sure which way was up, then was hit again.

“WHY can’t you be one of those cool moms? The moms who don’t care where their kids are? [Mixed metaphor warning] Why are you always so on my shoulder about where I’m at?"

I was beached outside her door before I knew what hit me.

Several nights later, she had a friend stay the night. This young girl is adorable, yet slightly tough and savvy in a way that makes me nervous around her. She’s just the right combination of smart and unsupervised that I don’t like. Over dinner at our kitchen counter, I discovered that she lived with her mom and step-siblings in a very small apartment, that her father had committed suicide, and that her mom would sure like to come see my pretty house one day, only she works a lot and doesn’t really do that. As in see where her child is staying the night. I wanted to scoop this little lost bird up, feed her homemade soup, read her Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and get on her shoulder about things.

As the girls exited the kitchen to get ready for the movies, my daughter turned and looked at me. Were we to have a moment of understanding? A look that said, Thanks, mom, for how fiercely you love and protect me in this wonderful home?

My heart skipped, as my little girl mouthed the words, “Isn’t she cool?”

33 comments:

Orangeblossoms said...

yeah.... that's pretty much it, isn't it? Sigh.

Well, I think you're cool....

BetteJo said...

Doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary to me! Bipolar sounds pretty accurate, you're the one who is supposed to sail smoothly along no matter how many wakes you have to sail over! She gets to create the wakes. :) Good luck, sounds like you're doing fine.

Robin said...

No! Don't! Stop! Waaaaahhhhh!!!

I'm barely recovered from my own bouts of mother-daughter teenage angst, I am in no way ready for having to live through it from the other side. Maybe having a "challenging" young child will get me a pass and she'll turn out to be an absolutely delightful teenager (bwahahahaha). Or, heaven help me, she could turn out just like me. Run for your lives!

Sarah Lee said...

Your post brought tears, laughter and tons of sympathy. Thankfully, my daughters are still at the cute, no hormone stage. But, if the terrible twos have any reflection on how ones child will be as a teenager then I've a hell of a time ahead of me with my eldest!

Best I just enjoy things whilst the going is good and make an advance booking for the mental asylum!

Mary Alice said...

Robin said ..."I'm barely recovered from my own bouts of mother-daughter teenage angst, I am in no way ready for having to live through it from the other side."

THAT is the interesting part. The ultimate in humble pie ala mode. To remember how ridiculous you felt your own mother was and to have come full circle to a new understanding. I think it is called growing up and realizing just how little we understood...it is really rather frightening....my heart quakes as I try desperately to walk the tight rope between protecting them from the consequences of their own limited understanding and allowing them to gain independence.

Steffie B. said...

Just found you from Rony's blog.....I too have an 8th grade girl and can soooo totally understand every thing you just said.

~sigh~.....gotta love those early teenage years with a girl don't you?

Nancy said...

Fasten your seat belt Jen ... the every lovin' bumpy ride has begun.

Grab the windows of opportunity when they open and stay "an uncool" Mom ... she'll appreciate it when the ride is over =)

Queen Karana said...

Oh. I think you just described my future and it's only just a few short years away. *cry*

Gosh, it sure takes me back to when *I* was a teenager. Or a pre-teen. Except I wouldn't talk to my Mom - no way, no how.

Sophie's Mom said...

My teen has been 'bi-polar' since she was 5. I was hoping it would end early, since she started early. No such luck. Did I really act this way???

And we haven't even hit boyfriends, parties & drivers license yet. (sigh....)

Rimarama said...

You thound like a pretty cool mom to me! But then again, I'm 34.

MommyMommy said...

that poor girl!!!

At least that is my first thought, I too would want to scoop her up and give her cookies and hugs, invite her to help make bread.

But that's teenagers for you, they can make anything seem cool. Even if they are just trying to be tough through it all.

Innocent Observer said...

Aside from the fact that he is never away from me and has no money to spend, my pre teen is totally using drugs!

I feel your pain!

Kerry

dawn224 said...

Middle schoolers are rough. I think it gets better in high school. (Different problems, of course.) As a whole, high schoolers are starting to grow into themselves and I got a lot more fun conversations out of them when I was teaching.

jennifer said...

I just stumbled onto your blog. It is hysterical! You are scaring me though. My oldest is in the 6th grade, and we haven't made it to the bipolar stage yet. Not so sure I want to.

Flibberty said...

I don't have kids yet, but I totally remember how it felt to be a pre-adolescent/adolescent and how I would get ridiculously angry with my mom when she was trying to help me and I honestly didn't even understand where the anger was coming from. I just always felt like she was downplaying my emotions, when in reality she was simply putting grown up perspective on the. Man, I don't miss being that age, and I am nervous about having a daughter that age. You rock though, that post resonated.

Audubon Ron said...

First, your “back to the workforce” needs to include writing stories. You are a very gifted writer and I’m about as jealous as I can be of you about not having your skill. Not really jealousy, (he lowers the life raft as the stern begins to sink and he warbles in agony).

Secondly, I have one like that at home, only she’s, let say, 40 something.

Emily said...

Thanks for your kind words over at my blog.

...And for about six months, (My oldest daughter is 10), I too have thought I'll be heading to the loony bin before I make it through this hormonal roller coaster ride, but in a completely different capacity from your planned trip. Be good to me on the inside.

flutter said...

oof my heart! That is so sweet...

Anna said...

Oh. So that's where this is all headed. I should relish wiping stinky bottoms while I still can?

T with Honey said...

This is why I am enjoying the terrible twos and thoughts of boarding school echo through the back of my mind when I think about Princess as a tween and then as a teenager.

It is not a pretty time for the mother-daughter bond, and my prayers are with every mother of a hormonal girl.

I remember those days of fighting with my mom. I have also watched my aunt happily send her 2 oldest daughters away to their college dorm or apartment. The teenage years were great for helping my mom and my aunt cut the apron strings and shove us out of the house.

Here comes the good part.... all 3 of us (myself and my cousins) celebrated college graduation by quietly giving mom a hug and saying "Thank you for being a pain. Thank you for being so old fashioned. Thank you for being my mom back then because now that I'm an adult you have done your job and we can be friends."

Lawyer Mama said...

Ouch.

And saying "you'll thank me for this one day" probably won't help, will it? Even though you know she will.

painted maypole said...

oh, it's heartbreaking, this girl.

You're a good mama. Stay on the shoulder. Hopefully your presence will keep the little devil off of it! ;)

(and if she is like me, I was a super skinny stick until I was 17, and then, as a friend of mine put it, it was like someone slapped me really hard on the back and my boobs popped out. Maybe that will cheer her up!)

Jennifer said...

I am both laughing my ass, er, "booty"?, off and sobbing in a heap on the floor here. This is all headed my way. SOMEONE HELP ME! PLEASE!

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am so not looking forward to this stage! I am seeing small glimmers of it, as we speak, with The Princess. It is just such a hard age!

Sounds like you are doing everything you can do! Hang in there....and drink a few more cocktails! :)

Mamma said...

Maybe three boys isn't such an awful thing.

Joanie said...

It is time to trade. I will send you my penis-obsessed shelf clearing screeching screaming [almost] 2 year old boy because you are completely down with that scene. And I will take the mercurial and tempestuous hormone poisoned preteen becuase no matter what, she'll be nicer to me than she is to her mother. I could revert to the old standby of Reese's peanut butter cup therapy if necessary! Let's book flights right now.....

Aubrey said...

I'm not a mom yet, but I am a daughter that thought her mom was way too protective and insane. I just wanted to say thank you, because there aren't enough moms out there willing to suffer through their children's fits of rage and hate in order to do what's best for them.

I am so thankful that I had a mother who wasn't willing to give in, even though I gave her hell and probably made her want to cry. Now, I realize what an incredible impact her parenting had on me and what a wonderful person she helped me to become. So, hang in there, and thank you for loving your daughter enough to let her hate you.

Kristi B. said...

She is so lucky to have you on her shoulder! hopefully it won't take her until she's 30 to realize it!

ablondeblogger said...

ROFL! You are hilarious! I love the way you write. I could so see you having a comedy book or column on parenting!

secret agent said...

oh hell,
yeah.... real cool.

as for the stick....every girl wants to be a stick, especially those calling others a stick
I wish I were a stick..... If I had one wish, it would soooo be that someone called me a stick.

thirtysomething said...

Holy Sh*t. Is THIS what it is REALLY like to have teenage girls?
I have been trying to mentally begin preparation for my girls tween and teen years, as they are now 2 and 4. (I am like the OPPOSITE of girle, so it will take me awhile to practice not going INSANE while surrounded by teenie boppers) I do not know how I will handle the chirpy giggles, the phone addictions, the whispered conversations with girlfriends that I will be dying to dissassemble and explain....
But, I think you might be onto something, I might consider selling them now while they are still soft and squishy, smell like fruit and baby lotion, and for the most part think I am Queen and do what I tell them (well, mostly).
But seriously, this was fun to read. I enjoyed the laugh (although the probability is that maybe it wasn't meant to be funny?)! Good luck, weather alert reports more choppy waters and rough winds ahead...;)

BOSSY said...

Oh lord, the gin-and-tonic thing made Bossy laugh.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Wow. What a great post and a reminder about why having a daughter frightens me so.