Any intelligent person (well, any intelligent person who's actually been there) will tell you that parenthood ain't easy. Some people say it's "the toughest job you'll ever love."
But, when my now teenage daughter was a toddler, I was pretty smug about the whole thing. Basically, I thought I had nailed it. After all, the "terrible twos" weren't terrible at all. My sweet little girl was compliant, agreeable, bright, and a pure pleasure to be with. As far as I could foresee, things would never change. I would always be her best friend.
Oy vey, was I naive!
These days, I can't even tell you what half of our fights are about. Everything seems fine and then suddenly we're sparring. This morning, for instance, I went in to wake her up (yesterday's experiment letting her get her own sweet self out of bed was a non-starter, literally) and she turned away from me, rather abruptly, which was when I noticed that she hadn't in fact washed her hair last night as she had promised to do.
"I didn't have tiiiiiiiiime," she whined.
I was tempted to berate her, to make ultimatums, to express my very real frustration.
Instead, I walked away.
Before you think this is me shirking my responsibilities, let me explain how far I've come. Just the fact that I can vacate the premises, exit stage left as Snagglepuss used to say, when a full-fledged fight is brewing is a huge step forward. Huge, huge, huge. (Did I mention that it's huge?)
And, besides, is the world really going to come to an end if she goes to the stable with dirty hair? I mean, isn't it going to get dirty there pretty damn quickly anyway?
I admit, the stakes are low in this particular case, right? But, that doesn't ever seem to matter. In fact, we tend to fight more about stupid things like dirty hair or dirty laundry, texting and too much cookie dough than anything of substance. I suppose I should be grateful for that.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal ran a story called "Why Mothers and Teen Daughters Fight." With comments from several experts, it boiled the issue down to two opposing objectives: moms want their daughters to stay close and daughters want to break away and be themselves. In a way, the story was encouraging. I'm not alone, this is all normal developmental stuff, and (apparently) there's not much I can do about it.
On the other hand, it was a bit depressing. You see, despite the fact that I'm not alone and this is all normal developmental stuff ... THERE'S NOT MUCH I CAN DO ABOUT IT!
My resolve for the summer and the coming (senior, omg!) year is to choose my battles. This isn't always (or ever?) in my control though. So, I'll just have to practice walking away.
I'm already getting better at it.
If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my book Lovin' the Alien at www.lovinthealien.com.