Monday, March 31, 2014

The Sound of Silence

Mornings are not the most pleasant time of day around here. 

We have a teenager. 

(I understand you're tired. I realize you were up late studying math. I apologize that school starts at 7:50 am. I know life sucks. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.)

Today, as usual, my teen daughter grudgingly got herself out of bed and was puttering about in her room. I don't know what she does up there. The alarm (her second) goes off a few minutes before 6:30. Her father drops her at a friend's house at 7:05. In-between, I make her breakfast and lunch (the high school cafeteria "blows"). And, like clockwork, at 6:55, I call upstairs.

"Breakfast is ready."

Today, she came down and started one of those conversations that I hate, the ones where she requests that I change something we've always done. (BTW, she does this in a really condescending voice, like she's a Nobel Laureate and I'm the village idiot.)

"Mom, can I ask you something? I think I've asked you before."

"Um. What?"

"Can you not call and tell me breakfast is ready every day? I really hate it."

I had a hundred snappish comebacks on the tip of my tongue. For example ...

"Well, I wouldn't have to if you got down here faster. And, by the way, your room is a disaster area."

Or ...

"Well, excuuuuuuuuse me for trying to be a good mother and slaving away in the kitchen and making you a nice meal."

Or ...

"Well, that really hurt my feelings. I don't see why you have to be so hateful when everything I do is for you." 

Here's what I said instead ... 


That's it. Really.

I'm so proud of myself I could burst! I feel like I have reached some heretofore unattainable peak of maternal zenliness. I am patience. I am tolerance. I am composure. Look up "grace under pressure" in the dictionary and you will likely see a picture of moi!

My daughter is downright surly in the morning — that's on a good day. And, I do crave appreciation. (For the record, my breakfasts and lunches are quite nice.) But, if she wants to wallow in ... er, I mean ... ease into her busy sophomore life in silence, why shouldn't she? 

There's the rub. The silence is what kills me these days. When my daughter was little, we had such a happy, chattery routine. It included two-way conversations in the early hours and books read aloud together in the evenings. After I tucked her in, we had that little ritual beloved by so many moms:

"I love you.

"I love you more.

"No, I love you more."

Now? No more. 

As often as not, I go to bed while my daughter's still doing homework or studying. I give her a kiss (usually on the top of her head before she can pull away or grimace), wish her "good night" and get the hell out of dodge. When she isn't working, she's engaged with friends online or streaming a show on the iPad via Netflix. I used to get a few back-and-forth words in when I drove her to the stable every other day. But, with her brand new license in her eager hand, she heads off alone now.

When my daughter was little, I missed the quiet I had known before she came into my life. Now, I miss her stories, the jokes, the affectionate banter. I try not to sound desperate or repetitive. I try not to fill the quiet with gentle mom nags: "Have you got everything? Did you remember your permission slip for the photography field trip?"

I try to be silent.

After all, Thomas Carlyle said "Silence is golden." 

We choose our battles, and this ain't one of them. From now on, I won't announce that breakfast is ready. 

Or, as Belinda Carlisle (no relation) said, "Our lips are sealed."

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

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