My daughter stands by me at the bathroom sink, eyes wide, watching closely. I just splurged on some new skin care products, and she wants to use some too. She is 11 and still seems to adore every move I make.
If I start wearing a certain style of jeans, she wants a pair. If I make a salad, she wants one too. She still asks my opinion on what she should wear for the day. She still likes the way I do her hair. She still comes to me and whispers in my ear when she likes a boy and wants me to hold her when she is having trouble with a friend.
She wants to spend a lot of time with me, shows me all of her Instagram posts before publishing them. She is like a sponge, looking up to me and absorbing all that I do. She still finds comfort in her mother, and while I don’t need this much attention from her to feel loved, I am hanging on really tight right now because I know what is coming.
Pretty soon, it’s not going to be as fun to stay in with me on a Friday night and put on a face mask and watch the cooking network. She might not climb into bed with me on a Sunday morning and lay her head on my shoulder. She might not let me in on her life as much as she does now.
I will have to start asking more questions because she isn’t going to be so open with me. I am going to have to do more guessing, and honestly, my heart is going to break a little.
We will disappoint each other many times, I am sure.
When I first held her in my arms, I remember thinking about this stage right away. Never, I thought. It will never happen to us.
But I know it has to happen. I know the stage we are about to enter — where she pulls away and I mourn the relationship we used to have — is normal. But damn, that isn’t going to make it any easier.
There isn’t a woman I know who doesn’t remember going through a stage of wanting their mother to be less involved in their life, and just because she thinks I am kind of awesome now, doesn’t mean it’s going to last. In fact, in the coming years, she might look at me and find nothing particularly awesome about her dear, old mother.
I will do my best and try to listen without responding. I know that if she comes to me, I need to be present and not just rush in with a response. I need to really hear what she is trying to say. I know this with my head, but that doesn’t make it easier for the heart.
I want to give her the freedom to make her own choices within boundaries because we all know this is a crucial time and our teens need boundaries (more than ever before), but they also need to learn how to deal with certain freedoms to prepare them for the real world when they are out there trying to navigate on their own.
I will try to remember she is just trying to find herself and gain some autonomy. If she acts like she hates me, it won’t really be about me. Well, not most of the time anyway.
I know her friends will become more important than me and the rest of the family, and I hope I can handle it with some grace.
I’ve heard a few parents whose kids have left the nest say they always come back to you. The dirty looks, the eye-rolls, the arguing and power struggles fade, but love, hugs, and appreciation take their place, until you are left with a grown-up who is still your child and still needs you to be their mother — albeit in a different way.
I am going to remember this, maybe even repeat it to myself daily. I know this stage is coming, I can feel it, and I will miss her when the part of her that needs and wants her mom goes away. But I will be patient.
I know she will come back to me.