Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent 1 Thursday: Scenes from an Advent

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.

10 comments:

* said...

Made me cry. Thanks for not being cold. Sometimes it's hard to be the grownup.

Songbird said...

Not just sometimes...

Casey said...

You may have lost this, but wait patiently, and watch - you will gain new things. Growing up is also growing together. I am a young woman, 25... and I lost my mother about six months ago. Part of the tragedy of this is that we had only just gotten over some of the adolescent divisions that had separated us for a time, and were really coming to enjoy each other as two adults who knew each other better than anybody else ever would in that particular way that mother and daughter can have. Wait and watch - she's not really going anywhere. All will be well.

August said...

So lovely! And heartbreaking.

Suzer said...

Though I don't have children of my own, your description makes what you are feeling all too vivid. What a wonderful mother you are, letting Petra go, even when it hurts. Too many of us grow up trying so hard to please, being codependent, and then having to work on those issues later in life. Petra has an amazing start in life because you are her mother. Lucky girl. Lucky mom. :)

susankay said...

It's perhaps a little bit like coming-out again and again. We let them go, again and again. And at no time does it ever seem as if we have ever experienced the pain/joy of doing it before.
How confusing life and love is.

Be well, and know that you are loved -- not only by your blog community but always by your daughter.

LittleMary said...

just beautiful. ugh. oh your sweet petra.

sharecropper said...

How often we want to ask, "If I don't do this, will you still love me?" You are brave and kind and generous and honest. I applaud your 12-step work and your parenting. Thanks for being here.

Jan said...

Sadly reminded me of my first daughter. I prayed "Bless A----, change me" so often that God blessed us both, eventually, with a good relationship (as adults).

Erika Baker said...

When my daughter and I were thrown together for 3 years into almost unbearable closeness because of her leukaemia, I feared we would never be free from each other.
Seeing her move away from me afterwards was the greatest joy imaginable. Sometimes, the extent of her moving away was unbearable, like when she would not even allow me to collect her from a party. Like you, I cried.

Now, 2 years on, this beautiful nearly 16 year old has found her own measure. Occasionally, she even asks for some of the old mother-daughter things we used to do. And I cry again.