It’s inevitable. She’ll come home screaming one day after we get back from the mall and I didn’t buy her that brand new phone all the rest of her friends have. She’ll slam her bedroom door six, maybe seven times in a row. She’ll have tears streaming down her face because this is the significant part of her life she must address to fit in, to feel secure, to feel as if she belongs, requiring the peer approval from her friends.
Her speakers will be blasting some sort of music my ears no longer understand. Tirelessly, I’ll shuffle toward the kitchen sink, pressing my hands into the metal, feeling how cool they are beneath my skin which at this moment is raging hot. In between the lyrics that are thrashing about her bedroom amidst new age JT posters and that picture of the two of us at her first high school dance resting on her nightstand, she’ll open the door just slightly loud enough for me to hear her mutter those three gut-wrenching words.
When she slams the door back shut, I’ll hear that picture frame tumble from its’ perch and bang onto the floor, freeing her from her persistence than I am the worst mother ever, and me, barely able to breathe.
This fight will go on for three whole days. She’ll walk past me when she comes home from school, even though I have a slice of raspberry cheesecake, her favorite, sitting out on the counter. When it comes time for dinner, she’ll say that she’s not hungry, and I’ll ask politely if her father can bring it in to her, because I know what she says is a lie. He’ll rest his hand on top of hers, trying to explain to her what my words have been failing to say. She’ll insist that this isn’t just about the phone. It’s much larger than that.
She’ll say that she’s never allowed to have any fun. She’ll say that she’s always too protected, too sheltered. I am always asking too many questions, but all I want to know is about her life: what boy she likes in school, what classes she thinks are awful, what movies she and her friends have seen that I dropped them off to go and see, but was never even greeted with mundane commentary of what she actually thought. She’ll say that all she wants to do is be left alone. And I hinder that.
Her father and I will lie in bed that night, sifting through every detail. I’ll ask if I’ve been too hard on her. I’ll doubt that my overprotected mannerisms to keep her safe, happy and healthy, have gone too far. Maybe she’s right; maybe she can start spreading her wings. But she’s only fourteen years old, my baby. And there will be a part of me that rationalizes she’s just too young for wings, for promise rings and the sex talk. I’ll be frightened that this time I have with her is fading quickly and in another moment she’ll be gone.
Her focus will be on first dates, first times and sleepovers where she tries her first sip of beer illegally. It’ll all happen to her, same as it did for me, when all those years ago I was exactly her: screaming at the top of my lungs for hating my mother for doing the naturally nurturing thing all mothers do: vie for their child to be happy, to be secure and to feel loved.
When I’m unable to sleep, I’ll wonder into her bedroom where I see she’s already long fallen asleep. Her fingers are wrapped around her teddy bear that my mother gave her right before she passed away. The nightlight is flashing in the corner of her bedroom, and the picture frame of us is still resting on the floor beside her.
I’ll pick it up and sit it back onto the table, admiring how beautiful she truly is. I’ll wish that I could tell her this phase doesn’t last, but it’s one all teenage girls must go through: to break that bond, to begin to untether the apron strings that have held on so tightly. I’ll wish that I could tell her that she doesn’t need things to fit into the crowd, or that the pressure to having to belong eventually fades.
I’ll wish to tell her that I’ll love her forever, that the kind of love that resonates through my veins, is one that will burn for eternity. I’ll wish I could tell her that no amount of I Hate You’s compare to the countless of times her soft voice whispered to me that she loved me. I’ll press my lips down onto her forehead gracefully, to avoid waking her up because there’s nothing more that I’ll want than for her to remain just as she is at that moment: happy, secure and loved. For, no matter what, she’ll always be loved.