Almost a Woman
Approaching adulthood can be a very special time. It can also be a very scary time. It is full of tension, adventure, and painful lessons.
My oldest is becoming a woman. In just a few days my baby will be 13. Not much of a baby anymore. She is now an inch taller than me (and I’m 5’6”). I remember the first moment I held her in my arms. I was watching on TV as investigators were examining the remains of a terrorist attack. What kind of world did I bring this child into? What would become of her? What would life throw at her?
I look at her now, and I see a child fighting against everything to be the adult she thinks she wants to be. I remember those years. The struggles to understand yourself. The fights with the parents as you try to stand on your own. The desire to be all grown up yet deep down inside scared of not being the little girl anymore.
Being the oldest has its hardships, too. She has responsibilities that the other two do not. She is expected to act more mature. But then the oldest child syndrome takes over and she begins to think that she is the mother of the other ones. And then the fights begin. She has to be the one in charge and control her siblings. It gets worse when she decides that she can get away with it in my presence. The fight is then decided.
I see the struggle within her. I see her eyes flash with anger when reprimanded. I see her challenge the rules and push the envelope. I see the potential trouble ahead of us. I see me twenty-five years ago. And I feel at a loss.
One day she wanted to cook dinner. The excitement within her was bubbling over. She wanted to show her love for us. It was so sweet. She refused any direction or advice (she usually thinks that she knows it all). Until she served the food. It was cooked properly but she made something that few of us good eat. It was way too spicy. Her face fell and she ran from the room crying. No amount of consoling worked. She is still upset months later about it.
The tension is mounting. She wants to prove to me that she is mature and can handle it all. I am extremely aware of her feelings and don’t want to embarrass her. When I have to correct her, I try to be subtle or very quiet. She takes advantage of that by getting more obnoxious. I give her one more shot. That usually doesn’t work. She wants it more public. I don’t mind giving her what she seems to want so badly. Then her anger at me goes on for several days as she proclaims how cruel I am to her in front of others. Dad becomes the villain then when he reminds her that she was given two chances to handle it maturely. She was the one who decided to be treated as a child.
I remember turning thirteen. That was the year I began to hate my mother. She was so determined to keep me under her thumb and not let me grow up. She would buy me old women’s shoes and clothes and give me perms that sent me into tears as I saw the poodle in the mirror. She thought it was all great. The resentment built up. It was only when my Dad stood up and said that it was about time I wore clothes for my own age.
My mom and I butted heads over the next three years as though there was no tomorrow. Screaming matches were not uncommon. I was me and she refused to see that. My interests were not always the same as hers. I was an individual. I liked different things than her did. My life was not to be an exact duplicate of hers.
It wasn’t until I had just turned seventeen and had to convince my father that I could go to the senior prom (I was a junior) with this guy he had not yet met. Mom was so supportive. She said that we were not going to ask. We were going to tell him that I was going. It worked. She was great. It was like a different person. She helped me get ready for the prom. She was there for me when he turned out to be a big jerk. She was there for me my senior year as I had to deal with a different jerk of a guy. But when my Dad had his heart attack we bonded like never before. We only had each other and we both grew up at that moment.
My relationship with my mother has drastically improved. I’m closer to her than anyone else. We still have tense moments (what mother and daughter don’t?). But I see so much of us in me and my daughter.
I try to keep in mind my daughter’s need to feel unique and special. I let her choose her own clothes with Mom’s final approval. (Today’s styles scare the daylights out of me.) If she is interested in a hobby, we allow her to explore it. I want her to know I understand and want to be there for her, but it all seems to be backfiring. But she is different than me. She is approaching womanhood in her own unique way. I have to be humble, forgiving, and flexible. These are not characteristics us humans are known for.
My daughter is becoming a woman. I am becoming a wiser woman. It is painful. It is scary. And it will be some of the most important moments of our lives.