It is dark outside, in the cozy way it is dark early these days. I am standing at the stove, stirring three pounds of ground turkey in a sizzling pot for chili. Petra is sitting on the living room couch, earbuds engaged, watching/ reading/ surfing something or other on her laptop.
As I stir the turkey, mixing in the chopped onions and peppers, I am crying. Quietly. If Petra were to catch me crying I would be mortified.
I am crying because Petra has told me, in no uncertain terms, that she will not do something with me. What it is, is not important. It was a mother-daughter bonding thing, in days of yore. It is something we enjoyed together quite a lot, once upon a time. I have just spent about 10 minutes cajoling, mock-threatening, whining to get her to agree to do it with me. But she is resolved. Petra the 17 year old will not do what Petra the 16 year old would, or the 15 year old. She is done, with that particular mother-daughter bonding activity. She is not interested.
I am crushed. Crushed beyond all reason, quite frankly. As I stir and cry I frantically ask myself what on earth it is that is so devastating to me about this. And the answer is so simple. She is growing up, which means, by definition, that she is growing away. It is all so developmentally appropriate. It is what is supposed to happen to young adults. They differentiate, they individuate. They become who they are, in some measure, by clarifying who they are not. Who Petra is not, today, is someone who wants to do that thing with her mom any more. She doesn't want to do it any more. She did, but now she doesn't.
And that is a loss for me, such a loss it has me crying over the chili. Such a loss, such a blow, it has me contemplating revenge, such as.... being cold. Refusing to watch "Glee" with her. Making her walk to school.
I blow my nose, and pull myself together. I will do this thing I enjoy by myself, or with a friend. Maybe with Beloved. I will recognize that Petra has the right not to do something she won't find enjoyable now (even though she did before). I will rejoice and be glad that I have this amazing daughter, this beautiful and accomplished young woman with a mind of her own who does not feel enslaved or trapped by her mother's feelings. I will be grateful for the adult being born in the child. I will buck up, for heaven's sake. As I throw the beans into the pot Petra comes into the kitchen, and she lays her head on the back of my neck.
Mom, will you still love me even though I don't want to do that?
I spin around and give her a fierce hug. Of course, I will. I give her a big smack on the top of her head. Of course I will love you, forever and always no matter what. I'm sorry I gave you even a moment's doubt about that. And we both laugh. Good, she says. Frankly, I was a little worried. And we laugh again.
Birth is hard.