Here I am, exactly the place I’d thought I’d never be. The one that a mom of a teen referred to when my toddler daughter planted a big kiss on my forehead. “Oh, just wait until she’s a teenager,” the mom would say in a foreboding tone.
Now, I’ve arrived at that place in time.
It is midnight and my 17-year-old daughter is sprawled across her bed, texting away. I ask who she is texting so late at night. She continues as if she didn’t hear me. I repeat myself and she brushes me off with one word answer: “friends.” Reluctantly, I’m getting used to one word answers and conversations that happen on a keyboard clutched close to my daughter’s chest.
I have just one more year before my daughter leaves the nest and I thought I could escape the stage that comes after eye rolling over my choice in music and embarrassment that my shorts are too high or too low. I know it’s my daughter’s job to move on beyond the universe of telling me everything, of including me in her circle of secrets; it’s the progression of life. So this is less about her and more about me. I am grieving a very particular loss: the loss of the “little” in my little girl.
Just a few years ago, my daughter and I would take long walks at night. We would giggle over how crazy it was that Katie liked Josh. “You know, he doesn’t even brush his teeth everyday,” she would tell me .
Just how am I supposed to mother this person who no longer thinks I should even know that Katie or Josh exist in her universe. Of course, now, Katie and Josh are having sex and my daughter is horrified that I might overhear her discussing it. My questions are met with shrugs, or worse, I’m told I’m being nosy. In many ways, I understand. I told my mother less than a hundredth of what my daughter confides in me.
This is natural,” a friend with older kids assures me. “I’m surprised it’s taken this long.”
When I’m feeling mature, I can agree. I can tell myself it’s part of my job to let my daughter build bonds with her friends, share intimate conversations and become a young woman. In my less than mature moments, my feelings are hurt. I am being shut out.
I’m not saying that I’m no longer close with my daughter. Or that my daughter isn’t an amazing person, even in her worst moments. I’m simply saying that my little girl’s not coming back and I, like the mothers of teen daughters before me, need to stand on the periphery for now and understand my role, letting her set the tone for what she is willing to share. I’m here for support, giving her persistent reminders that I’m on her side and trying to strike that delicate balance between friend and mother.
No one said it would be easy.