She was so cute as an infant! Such a roly-poly chub with a wispy tuft of white-blonde hair. I fought the good fight in so many ways to get her here. I remember when she started to walk. I wasn’t home. I was at work while she waited for me at my foster mom’s house. Not long after that I commented, “I can’t wait until she talks!”
And talk, she did. One of the first coherent words that she spoke was “beer.” I can say that and laugh now because she’s not using drugs or alcohol. When I first heard it, I was torn with a range of emotion from mortification to glee that she was already challenging the status quo.
Now, Meadow Bliss is 14 and still expanding people’s understanding of what they think is “normal.”
She’s 14 and we fight like cats. A week doesn’t go by without a spat. They’re not usually too serious; it typically ends with me telling her to keep her trap shut followed by a battle to have the last word. Tonight was different. Tonight ended with the two of us clinging to one another in the kitchen, crying our eyes out and apologizing.
What is it about mothers and daughters that makes it so we have to fight? My favorite school of thought believes that we fight as she is beginning to assert herself in the world and becoming independent. I like to think that if we didn’t fight, she wouldn’t ever want to leave home.
Wait, leave home? Eek!
Meadow doesn’t seem to know how deeply I’m affected by these fights. Maybe I don’t realize how they affect her. As the adult, I know it’s my job to approach every situation calmly and with compassion. As an educated adult who has successfully completed the obstacle course of adolescence, I know that it’s normal for my teenaged daughter to feel inexplicably irate at the smallest things. I know that she may be confused by what her compulsion drives her toward and what her heart knows is right.
I also know that we both act out.
It’s the ultimate betrayal, right? That our daughters somehow find a way to grow up. They grow boobs and they become women. Primally, another female in the pack presents competition. But what’s the competition here?
Am I jealous that my daughter might be more successful at being a teenager than I ever was? Am I worried that she just might fuck it up?
I had a tough adolescence. I ended it at 16 with pregnancy. I was messing with boys much older than me and experimenting with drugs as early as 12. Meadow, on the other hand, seems to be staying away from this path. So it seems that, I may be jealous that she is taking the right path. On the other hand, I’m worried that she’ll still end up doing those things.
The biggest frustration for me is the attitude. I know, I know — it’s what teenaged girls do best. Attitude is the new black, right? And hasn’t she shown it all along? I mean, she is the girl that, at two years old, said to her preschool teacher, “Jah Rastafari! Don’t oppress me!” And then she was busted at another preschool for dropping an F bomb in front of her teacher. Spirited child, indeed.
At the same time, her attitude is one of my favorite things about her. She’ll never take any shit from anyone. Including me. Gulp.
Tonight I came home like Pavlov’s dog. I was resisting conditioned response as much as I could. My husband James told me around three this afternoon that Meadow’s grades were slipping. I did some investigating on the school website and discovered at least 12 missing assignments, resulting in an F in at least one class.
I got through the dinner-making process, calmly talking to Meadow all along. Things escalated a little when the attitude kicked in. And then… they escalated a little more. Then BOOM! I lost it. I shouted, no, I screamed at her. I threw her school planner across the room. I was yelling, using foul language, telling her that I was sick and tired of the attitude and the lack of concern over her grades. My tirade lasted about 20 minutes. It left Meadow in tears at the table. At one point she told me that I was scaring her.
I wanted to go hold her and tell her how very, very sorry I was that I’d blown up like that. But I waited. I was too ashamed. I still am.
I told her to go to her room. Neither of us ate any dinner.
Shaking, I went outside for a smoke before going into my room and collapsing in tears. I laid on my bed thinking about what I’d done, and how I’d acted toward my daughter. I wanted to go hold her and tell her how very, very sorry I was that I’d blown up like that. But I waited. I was too ashamed. I still am.
After a while I got up and started cleaning the kitchen. Normally the kids are supposed to clean up after dinner but I think I was making a very weak attempt at apologizing for being a monster. While I was unloading the dishwasher (Meadow’s job), Meadow walked into the kitchen and offered to take over. I told her I would do it. She looked at me and told me she was going to go to bed. Then she walked over to give me a hug and I could no longer hold back the tears. They flowed out of us both like a tide of sorrow and forgiveness.
One of Meadow’s preschool teachers once told me that you know some huge developmental milestone is swelling inside a child when kids start really pushing your limits.
Maybe we’re on the verge of something special.