Sep 28, 201201:19 PMAfter Hours
with Jody Glynn Patrick
When you’re loved a bushel … and a few pecks
Here’s a word of encouragement to parents of teens: There is light at the end of the tunnel. Just the other day, my adult daughter Brook, now a Chicago cop, texted how much she appreciated “the light” I brought into her 4-year-old son’s life and heart, and how much she loved me, too. My kids are verbally and physically affectionate, with many hug-and-kiss moments and “I love you” endings to phone calls but, out of context, her surprisingly sweet message still made for a weak-kneed, jelly-belly feeling.
Wanting to touch her while she was still in the sweet zone, I immediately texted that my favorite present of all time was her gift to me of a mother-daughter date night. [Dinner followed by (surprise!) a Chicago transvestite show, during which she told me she was pregnant with Alexander.] “It might be impossible to ever top that incredibly fun evening,” I texted, “but I would happily plan a surprise night out for us.”
She typed back: “Summer & I want to pamper U. Take U 2 a spa all day, & then out to dinner – R treat.”
BOTH of my daughters would like to pamper ME? Was this validation that somewhere along the way, all those years back when I was too busy wiping noses or grounding an errant kid to notice, I accidentally did something right? Or maybe she thinks that I more recently, as a grandmother, finally got it right – since both daughters have expressed awe that such a strict mother could transform into such an indulgent nana. Or maybe Brook has more recently revisited her childhood in light of her own mothering experiences?
I’ll confide that when she and her sister were between the ages of about 13 and 19, I coped with their mercurial ups and downs by convincing myself that they were temporarily mentally ill and that after their hormones leveled out, they’d normalize into predictable human beings again, all the little dramas would stop, and eventually they would even love me again. Time was on my side, I assured myself with Job-like resolve.
During those ages, you see, love/hate definitely were instantly interchangeable emotions, and I was in the dark as to where their on/off switches were or what I did to flip their channels. Likewise, I wasn’t June Cleaver by a long stretch, but I know I coped the best I personally could, with all of the big stumbles and little triumphs along the way. I’ve always appreciated the blessings of family time, and my love for my children never stopped for even one heartbeat. But (BY&M), the greatest admission of all: I didn’t always like my kids every minute of their teen years.
In fact, “mothering” young adults felt, at times, like being pecked to death by a duck. I once saw a sign at Irishfest that read “Grandchildren are God’s gift for not killing your children,” and I laughed out loud – but then felt immediately ashamed (but still amused) for even laughing at such a crude (but slightly true) statement. Evidently their teen years had left me with a few conflicting emotions too, given their inexplicably scrambled feelings about ME, their constant champion defender!
I suppose Brook has since had many sleepless nights worrying about a little cough or fretting about which foods were best for Alex, but by and large, she’s still basking in the fog of his sweet young childhood wherein he’s proud to be her boy. He still wants to marry her someday; she’s “pretty” and “smart” and adored. She’s still perched in their little ducky end-zone.
The puberty years seem far off on the horizon – the “I hate you,” “leave me alone,” “you’re so stupid” years – but that big hormone-heavy Adolescent Duck is waddling, waddling ever toward my “I won’t make the same mistakes my mom did” well-intentioned daughter.
Someday I’ll console her during a “communication breakdown” with Alex. By then, I’ll be fully accepted by my girls as the wise old crone, but I won’t need a crystal ball to assure her that a decade or so after the first stunning peck, Alex will invite her to a tranny show, send her an unexpected little love note, or maybe mail chocolate-covered strawberries. And when those surprises arrive, the inevitable years lived in the puberty duck’s shadow will be 10 times worth it.
Meanwhile, I’m happy to play the role of “Mom-from-Hell turned into Nana-from-Heaven” and to listen to her and Summer chatter about their kids’ latest escapades – while getting our fingernails buffed at a spa. Because, looking back, I HAVE earned a little pampering.
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