From my Reading at Oakland's Rock Paper Scissors, March 11, 2010
It all started, much like most parents’ fears, at the onset of my oldest daughter’s puberty. Her hormones raged, mildly at first and then swelled into tsunami-like waves- ebbing and flowing like a madwoman, charging forward and then crawling away; ranting and then crying. Demanding milkshakes and turning away from my hugs. Her half-ass attempts at dressing for school turned into hours in the bathroom. Weekend mornings pleading for pancakes and cartoons were replaced with groggy breakfasts at noon… which were followed by extended naps behind closed doors. Then, came talk of boys- and then girls- and then boys again.
Now, upon this realization, all of my self-righteous ideas of raising strong, ass-kicking, take-no-shit, tough-as-nails, sexually-liberated feminist daughters immediately switched to fear and dissipated. I managed to keep my anxiety under-wraps for the most part and expressed it casually at first, with my sweaty palms shoved firmly into my pockets. I’d hint, nonchalantly, that “eh- boys, shmoyz: you’ve got the rest of your life to deal with them. They actually take a lot of time and patience to deal with. You should focus on your art and get your math grades up first. Spend more time with your friends instead of worrying about them.” Eventually, however, I found myself desperate with a sense of control that I had never imagined and began, with much neurosis and embarrassment, to offer my sweet teenage daughter, cold hard cash to avoid relationships all together.
I was screwed. I talked to friends and listened to advice, which made me feel mostly better. Then, I rehashed my own behavior during my teenage years, which really did nothing other than motivate me to find chastity belts and chains to lock her up with. Finally, after much obsessing, I understood that I had to let it go. More importantly, I realized that I couldn’t afford or justify forking out cash for something so ridiculous when what she really needs are braces and a new pair of shoes. But I did arrive at a place of really understanding my motives around this issue. Becoming this dreadful, overprotective mother would essentially rob my daughter from experiences she needs to have to become the amazing woman that I know she is. I’d be robbing her of all of the fun and magic and awkwardness of first kisses and late night phone calls and eventually giggly girl-talk over rug burns and tear-jerking, soul-shaking passion.
I know I can’t protect my girls from everything, despite a natural mama bear instinct that wells up inside at just the thought of them shedding even a single tear. What I can do- and should do, is continue to encourage and empower them by example. The best I can do is to be honest and available and show them that I am worthy of the love and passion that sometimes comes my way. This will hopefully pave the roads with confidence, regardless of which direction they take. I also know that I need to let them live their own lives while I balance between stepping back and opening my arms to them when they need to come crying, cracked hearts and bruised egos. And, just as a back-up plan I have stashed that $100 bill away in a Swiss bank account in case my new found humility ever takes a back seat.