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Friday, June 29, 2012

You Can Most Likely Survive Until She Turns 18

As our kids grew up, we faced huge paradigm shifts. We were the one person on the planet entrusted to be responsible for those lives – how they grew, the nutrients they received, the weeds we needed to pull quickly. It's the most important job many of us will ever have.

We put our interests, careers, and dry clean only wardrobe options on hold. We gave up cars without the odd french fry stuck in a place too small to reach, leisurely browsing at magazines as we headed into the gauntlet of candy at store registers, and sleep. Not for the sake of duty, but for love. Well … sleep? Maybe that was a duty.

We looked upon their faces the first time, and saw cherubic babies to nurture, protect and adore. God does this for a reason. We need years of emotional investment, late night fevers that fill us with fear, and glittery handmade Mother's Day cards to sufficiently prepare us for the teen years.

It was those tender memories which fueled the denial sustaining us through 12, 13 and 14. By the time she hit 15, we'd adopted a marathon mentality... one more step, one more stride, one more Saturday night of “ruining our her life.”

At 16, we could no longer recall the sobbing little girl wrapped around our legs if we tried to go somewhere without her. In her place was a creature of fury, slamming her bedroom door, rolling her eyes, and deluded into believing we were excited to sentence ourselves her to a week of restriction – at home – with us – alone – with none of her friends to distract the venomous viper princess of pessimism.

In truth, by the time she reached 14 we were looking for ways to give her some money, the car keys and lift her curfew while still being a good mother. We daydreamed of packing up our things as she cleared the driveway and going on a vacation that lasted, oh, 4 years, and yes... there was giggling involved.

Then there would be moments of laughter, when we delighted in the young woman emerging from the sulky teenager. Of course, young women have opinions on fashion and style ...

Do you remember the style arguments? Half naked is in style and a 14 year old does need that much eyeliner! Her fresh pretty eyes were gorgeous in their cleanest state, as my makeup sunk into newly formed “character lines.” I fondly remembered a time when I didn't have to pull my eyebrows up to locate the contour shadow “in the crease.”

The wearying teen years sucked the youthful optimism from the very marrow of our bones. The image of us reflected in their eyes told us we were no fun, middle aged, uninteresting. I think it's the reason we have that mid-life period of rebellion after they take their shoe collection, electronics and stray socks and move out. It's freedom for everyone involved. Even our men show signs as they parade around the house in their underwear for no other reason than “they can.”

The people we spend our time with like us, encourage us, laugh with us. The very absence of the disapproving and suspicious frowning faces lighten our steps and eases our trepidation about who we are. And somewhere in those last two sentences... I thought … that's how they probably feel also.

A quote from Stasi Eldredge about her mother, “I felt I was a disappointment to her in what I believed, how I dressed, what I thought, and who I was. It wasn't until I was forty-one years old that I realized I made her feel exactly the same way.

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