Thursday, May 8, 2014


she is twelve. once in her life i called her brat. i felt the word fly like spit from my mouth to her face, hit her, the widened eye, the recognition of a small indelible wounding. i turned to the side and looked at the wall to say i'm sorry. i wish i hadn't said that. she said i know and she knew. all the kids and i say 'in our family, we don't/we do', and whatever follows is understood thems the ground rules. in our family we don't call each other names. 

in our family we don't hit each other. in our family we talk about our problems. in our family we stick together. in our family we are there for each other. in our family we talk it out. in our family we spend a lot of time together. in our family we put family before the rest of life. in our family we don't hate other people because they look or sound or are labelled differently than us. in our family we don't pick apart women for how they look or comment on how they look most of the time. in our family we read books. in our family we know that therapy is great when you find the right therapist. in our family we are kind. in our family we love weirdness. in our family we love travel. in our family we believe in moral obligations. in our family we believe in change and growth. in our family we forgive. in our family we spend a lot of time outdoors. in our family we stay connected to each other and monitor our connections to our phones and computers and tablets. in our family Friday night is family night, if you are six or sixteen. in our family we know that how you eat affects every part of yourself- your mental, emotional and physical health. in our family we talk about the worst parts of life. in our family we celebrate the daily gifts. in our family we believe that exposure to art, books, literature and other cultures is an ongoing and crucial part of life. in our family we eat dinner together at the table. in our family we support what is different and not like our family within each of us. in our family we say 'everybody makes mistakes' and 'accidents happen'. in our family we never give up on each other. in our family we believe in hard work. in our family we keep our word. in our family we give to others. in our family we help those less fortunate. in our family we believe in education. in our family we believe in each other.

in our family we eat diner together four or five out of seven night. modifiers are fine for some of these credos, some not. calling her a brat is not ok. 

it was a moment when the helplessness of the mother of a twelve year old manifests itself into some nasty behavior. where the growing ache in my chest as she carves out her space in this world is met with an equal knowledge and pride that she is loved and strong enough to carve out that space. that she knows one hundred percent the meaning of unconditional love. the helplessness and irritation and discomfort and sometimes outright fear that i feel in realizing that i no longer modify her behavior as easily as i modify our family credos, that she now will push back, hard, if she's in the mood, or had a bad day, instead of pushing into me for comfort. the transference of her slang and sarcasm with her friends to her talk to me and her dad is not all right, and we'll keep working on that. it happens. she's testing the boundries of our relationship. it's my role to model how a woman acts. a kick ass woman, who does not call her daughter a brat. 

right now she is sitting in her room and Taylor Swift sings her sweet girl voice so loudly that our condo is full of her long blonde hair and overly perfumed young woman emoting. when she gets out of school either the excitement of a hilarious so funny oh my god no way kind of a day or the hard edges of pre-teen girl behavior put a sheet of glass between us that i can feel as i lean in toward her, driving. i turn Let It Go down and ask how her day was, and when she gives a half answer and gazes out the window, i want to yell at her. but she is doing nothing wrong. Ever begs for her attention and when she half gives it, i want to yell at her. but she is doing nothing wrong. i am amused to realize that the same yearning of Bonnie Raites ' I Can't Make You Love Me' fills my heart as my child enters these years. she loves me. she loves me dangerously so- her survival might be in danger if she continues to cling to me the way she has for 11 years. her entire cellular structure is demanding that she learn to forage and find water and friends. and she trusts me. she trusts me more than she trusts anyone or anything in this world, more than she trusts the sky will be there when she wakes up. she knows she could be 'a little brat' for ten years and i would be standing, trying to find her in the mess. she knows i would believe she was still there, in the mess. 

at night we watch The West Wing together in bed, Ever between us. after Ever falls asleep, i always slide over and ask if we can cuddle. more often now she says no, she feels 'claustrophobic', she 'needs space, mom'. I fight the urge to demand that she come back to me because that urge is completely opposed to every healthy thing about my daughter- she is not a little child anymore. she is a young girl. to demand that she stay the same is to resist the biology of life. i 'make her' do things, of course, i am still her mother. usually it's not a matter of making her, but sometimes, yes it is. and in those times when i set my foot down, it's usually important, and i often see a satisfied glimmer in her eyes, a relaxing of the muscles in her neck, when she realizes i am still taking care of her. 

we go on runs together and the entire time we laugh. i'm not sure it's much of a workout. the last time we ran we came across a dead bird and then one moment later an enormous dead rat and with some sick humor were laughing so hard i was running with my hands on my knees when we passed an elderly gentleman who easily outpaced us, with a rather surprised look on his face i might add. there are still so many ways to connect, and even cuddle, but the tiny little girl who walked through the house in dress up fairy wings and had the nickname Snow White for her incessant singing is gone. she still sings, she still dresses up, but yes that little girl remains only in the way that anything human remains, in my heart, my memory and some cellular smudges in the body of a person i love. 
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