You know what? When your daughter’s almost 14, there no holy crap she’s a teenager. There’s more, oy vey with a swear word in between she’s almost ready to leave. Except she’s not. She’s still her baby self when she’s sick, especially on the weekends when she’d like to be hanging out with her best friend.
I never planned for this, these days as a parent. Some kids practice being parents. Some people plan their whole lives for the day they hold that baby in their arms. And then there are people like me. I think I assumed I’d be a parent but I more deeply assumed I’d never marry. I never dated anyone more than a handful of months until I met my husband. I was firmly sure of the fact that no one wanted to put up with me on a long term basis. Heck, it’s taken until age 45 for me to figure out a good enough way to put up with myself on a daily basis. (Side note on how to live each day well enough: coffee, write poetry, walk outside, text like-minded friends when things feel dire, lean on that man you married. Remember feelings change.)
But these days as a parent, I’m constantly learning how to parent these girls that are in front of me. And the front-runner has all the scrapes and bruises of my learning deep lessons. I marvel at how my husband sees parenting as intuitive, and how it’s taken me 14 years to know he’s mostly right but some of us need a lot of extra help. Yes, I need the parenting classes. I need to interview parenting coaches for my work life to cull plans for my real life. I need to read all those articles I find online to find out who this mother inside me is.
This mother inside me is marveling that I finally feel like I got the hang of this. I finally feel expert enough to find a quiet space so I can hear my own answers when parenting hands me a question. What parenting hands me right now is a girl about to turn 14. Her hair reaches the middle of her back as she wonders why it won’t grow longer. She wears clip-on earrings high up on her ears and these pieces of metal are secrets that are hidden in the glory of the rich waves of her thick brown tresses.
This girl is calmer than her mama, except when she isn’t. And then she asks me with her complaining to push her towards her own tears. And cry she does. After she hugs me so deep. She hugs me on and off all day long most days still. And for that I thank all the parenting wisdom I sought outside of myself. Most of that wisdom comes from one of my oldest friends, who did me a favor when she undertook studying parenting seriously at the Neufeld Institute. I dabble in this institute’s teachings, taking from it that parenting is about the relationship. Build the walls of your parent-child relationship out of the sturdiest wood. Let it bend in the wind. Let it whisper its truths as it groans in the night. Let the rain fall upon it and bring blankets and cushions to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
And when the almost 14-year-old girl offers her arms to you for yet another hug, fall in as deeply as the girl will allow. Hold on, then let go. Tighten then loosen. Loosen then tighten. Sing happy birthday as loud as you can. You are each others for life. That much you know for sure. That much makes the flight patterns that grow ever larger from your holy home easier to marvel at. She soars as your heart beats out the rhythm you learned together.