Thursday, May 29, 2014

Catching my daughter

If you asked me if I knew my daughter well, I would say yes. I know her personality. I know her schedule. I know her weaknesses and her strengths.

But, today...quite by accident, I stumbled on her instagram account and I was given a schooling.

First, she swears more than I thought she did. This troubles me since I am the role model who taught her that.

She is leaving soon to go on a ten day trip to New York with a friend and her parents. She is looking forward to this FAR more than I thought that she was. In fact, she has modeled some of the clothes that we bought for her summer wear. Including a bikini. This is on the internet. She isn't posing lewdly or anything, but I am totally freaked out to see a photo of my bikini clad daughter, standing in the sand, laughing with a friend. And on the other photos of her posing in her new dress, the comment is: Bought some new duds for my New York trip with Molly. CANNOT wait to get away from home for a few days.

Why is she so excited to get away? I feel like she should be as she was a few years ago: leery about leaving me, not sure that she wants to go. And then I scold myself. I raised this child to be a seeker. And I should get used to this. She is spending almost the entire month of July with her Father on a gig in the Appalachians.

I am pleased that she has friends. Truly, I am. When I was her age, I had a very small group of friends. Hers is HUGE. She has about twelve girls and boys that she hangs out with. And they all seem to get along like gangbusters. She rarely spends the weekends alone, either she has a friend or friends over or she is at their homes. Now that it is Summer, and she can get her learning permit in July, our life is going to get very complicated. We've already talked about what will happen when she is 16. Bing will give her the truck and she will buy a new one. Bing loves this idea since, of course, it is a very small truck and only holds two comfortably. This means that she won't be driving around with a car load of friends. But, for me...the thought that she will get her learning permit almost makes me ill. Especially when I see all these photos on her instagram of her friends laughing heartily, arms around each other, looking like they are happier than clams. But again, this is posted on the INTERNET. A place where creepy men abound. It makes me ill to think of creepy men (and even worse: my pee butt stalker) seeing my daughter scantily clad. I will need to have a conversation with her and this is not going to be fun for either of us. She sees me as this nervous Nelly while I see her as basically clueless.

Still, I look at this instagram account and what I see when I tell myself to sit back and simply analyze without personalizing, is a tall, striking girl with honey blonde hair and a generous lipped Carly Simon smile. I see that she is almost always surrounded by a bevy of friends. That she dresses in a way that is deliberately casual, but also with an eye for fashion. She is so different from the bookish loner who was (is) her Mother. My daughter looks incredibly comfortable and relentlessly cheery. Occasionally, there is a selfie. One, taken on May day, simply says, "May selfie." Another, where she is frowning at the camera, says, "The look." There is one on Mother's day, not a selfie, but a photo taken of her when she was about 6 months old and in a dark red snowsuit. She is looking curiously at the camera, as if she is just getting ready to reach out to touch the lens, her brown eyes dark and curious. I am next to her, cheek against hers, beaming at the camera with joy. I look as if I am almost crazily happy. Which I was. Under this, Liv simply has the words: Me and Mama with two hearts joined. Pink hearts.

In one photo, she is in her high school uniform, standing at the top of a staircase, looking solemn. The caption reads "Ghost stalker." This makes me laugh. It is an urban legend that her school is haunted on the unused top floor, which used to house a college dormitory. But, what troubles me are some of the comments/hashtags on this photo. One says, Rich girl problems.

Rich girl? Does my daughter or her friends regard us as rich? We aren't. We aren't poor either. I would say that we are upper middle class from a financial standpoint.

Other photos are from her trips to digs with her Father. She looks cheerful, as always. He is rarely looking at the camera, usually he is smiling down at her while she looks confidently towards the camera, toward her future.

Several photos show her with her on again, off again boyfriend, Riley. (Currently on again, but boy did he have to work for it... or as Bing says, "That apple didn't fall far from her mother tree...") They often have their arms linked or draped around each other. I find this a little unsettling as they have NEVER embraced in front of me. Ever. It makes me wonder what they do when I'm not around. She is nearly fifteen, but that seems incredibly young to me. Liv usually wrote things like "Riley and me" or "Lucky me to go to to this dance with the best guy!" Nothing overly lovey dovey. But, I am not thrilled with the arm draping. At all.

It makes me realize that we have come to a crossroads, Liv and I. A crossroads that all parents hit with their children. I realize that she has a whole other life that does not include me. Little private jokes with her friends. A whole slew of slang that makes little to no sense to me. Slang that she never uses at home. In a few of the photos, Liv is seen with Bing and/or I. She writes things like "Time with the fam" or "hangin with the 'rents."

Apparently, I am a 'rent now.

But, as I said, there is this other life. A photo of a group of her girlfriends and Liv all in uniforms, jumping into a pool on the last day of school. I remember this day as she came home with her uniform soaking wet in a plastic bag and we had to take it like that to the dry cleaners. And yes, she paid to have it cleaned out of her allowance. But the joy on her face is unmistakable. She is a happy woman child. A well fed, well loved girl.

And I only know snippets from her other life. I used to know everything about life with her friends, mainly because they played right in front of me. Now, many, many conversations take place in our basement or up in her bedroom with the door closed. Once she can drive, the crossroads will get even more deep.

I did not have the vibrant circle of friends that Liv has but I well remember that my Mother was not a huge part of my life when I was in high school. Liv and I are very close, but she is much like me emotionally, is not much of a sharer. She tells a few things. Will talk about a movie seen or the dance theme. But, she doesn't share her feelings all that much. Those, I believe, she shares with her friends.

One photo almost made me cry. It was of Liv and her bestie for much of her childhood and adolescence, Constance. They've grown apart in the last few years. It started when Constance decided that she was in love with a music group called One Direction. Actually, Constance was basically boy crazy. Liv was nowhere near liking boys yet and they drifted apart. But, about a year ago, they reconnected, mainly because Constance's parents separated and she reached out to Liv, someone safe and familiar from her childhood. They go to different high schools, but since that reaching out, they still make time for each other and stay in close touch. In the photo, Liv and Constance are sharing a huge puff of pink and blue cotton candy, taking bites and laughing. The caption is long. It is a paragraph where Liv salutes the love that she shares with Constance, her always and forever friend, 11 years and still going strong! She tells Constance that she has shared more secrets, more lies and more truths than with any other human being and that she believes that they were meant to be in each other's lives forever. Oddly, Constance has never really had a boyfriend, but Liv has had boys at her heels since she was in 6th grade. But, now, they seem on equal ground, albeit with different interests. Constance is in drama club and loves older bands like Good Charlotte. Liv is into any and all sports and likes music, but doesn't walk around with ear buds as Constance does.

I look at that photo and smile, remembering the first photo that I took of them in pre-school. They are standing with their arms around each other, wearing their Halloween costumes. Liv is a black cat and Constance is a princess.

I want to gobble up those photos on instagram and know all the background stories. Why one caption says, "He's just a cornfed boy!" Why another just says, "Pick me! Pick me!" I don't know the background stories and am not meant to.

I am the parent. Slowly, but surely, Liv is separating from me, taking steps toward a life that will be away from me. To college. To a career. To a family of her own, perhaps. She will still love me, still want to be with me, I am her touch stone, her base. But, most of her life will center away from me with only small forays back into my arms, for a hug after a sad break up, or a truly bad business decision or a problem with her own child that she hopes I can help her solve. And I will be there for her.

But, I will never, ever be the one that her life revolves around again. She has grown past that, as she should. As I have encouraged her to do. But, like all parents, I watch her glide past me, off out the door with her friends. Maybe a small sweet hug or a gay wave. A kiss blown. But, that little girl who ran to me on the first day of pre-school when she cried so hard that I had to be called to pick her up? That child who wrapped her little legs around my waist and her arms around my neck so tightly that I almost choked? She's long gone. And yes, for the best. How awful if she was still glued to me!

But, as she pulls away, I cling to the threads left behind and hoard them like I'm starving. I smile and don't let on, but I take her scent in deeply every time she hugs me goodbye. Because, one day, not too long from now, it will be for a longer time than a few hours with her friends. It will be for a semester, a year, maybe longer.

I just hope she always keeps that instagram going so that I can follow along.


lily cedar said...

It's strange because I was thinking about my middle daughter this evening as I went for a walk. She's coming on Saturday for a few days to visit. We did not have a good relationship when she was a teenager. She ran away when she was fifteen because there were too many rules. So she came home and proceeded to get drunk every night, at fifteen.

At this time I had already lost a son to drugs, I wasn't about to lose my daughter too. So I let her come home, no matter how late. She dropped out of school. Went back to school, worked and moved out at the age of eighteen, madder than a wet hen.

I was an awful mother, I didn't care about her, you get the idea. Then she moved to Vancouver to live with her father, which broke my heart but I'm glad she did that. I never would have had the courage to move to a new city when I was her age.

We didn't talk for about six months, although it seemed like much longer but we both apologized and we've both grown. She's a lovely young woman now, living with her boyfriend and attending college in Vancouver. It's not the same as when she was twelve but it's pretty good.

I wish we were closer and who knows, perhaps one day we will be but I am proud of her and I love her.

Destingirls said...

I think that was the hardest part...realizing that they have a completely separate life from me. I follow my girls on twitter, but secretly. If they know I'm following them they will make a fake account and I'll never find them. I've found out alot of interesting things, some of it shocking but none of it earth shattering...yet. I suspect my 17 year old smokes pot but I have no proof and what if I did? What could i do?

Once they hit high school, the whole game changed. I remember when all I was worried about was homework and talking back. Now they are driving and when they stay at a friend's house overnight, you really have no idea what they are doing. You just have to trust that you've raised them right and that they don't make any life changing mistakes.

I've got several more years to go!

Jacquelineand.... said...

Even the best parenting practices can leave you feeling a bit suckish some days; watching Jenn leave with her grandparents the day after high school graduation was one of those days for me.
Proud; she'd nailed the uni she wanted and she'd made the wise choice to stay with her grandparents, just a few miles from campus. Sad; 900 miles away...

Teacher Cynthia said...

Well, I can relate. The letting go is hard.

About Instagram, you could ask her to change her privacy settings so that only her "friends" (using Facebook terminology but you know what I mean) can see her photos. That's how my daughter has Instagram set. I am "friends" with her on Instagram so I can see her postings. I can also see some of what other kids post who do not have their settings set on "private."

I am on the paranoid side and do not like the idea of some of these photos out there for all to see. I've been troubled by some of the photos her friends post - the ones with the open settings. Some of the photos are provocative, etc. I can understand wanting to try that out. But posting it publically... you know what I mean. Something is fueling that. That "something" can lead to complications.

By the way, speaking of paranoia and utterly off topic, wow, the Snowdon interview. Intense and impressive and interesting. I'm wondering if you're going to blog about it. Curious what your and Bing's takes on it are.

Back to the letting go. Yes, so hard and you said it well.

My mom lives closeby. Sometimes I feel bad and guilty realizing she must feel this same way about me, even now, when both she and I are so much older.

I'm glad is doing so well. And you, too. And Bing! And Socks! You are a family with much to celebrate.

What I've been thinking of recently is how these changes and endings bring home the bittersweet truth of impermanence. I'll never truly get used to it, though I do try.



pawsingtospeak said...

This post is our life and it is bittersweet cause it is the last of our four girls. The internet is a scary place. I also follow and don't say much - although I have had to a couple of times.

I have found that although we may not be privvie to the new secrets and the new day to day - when they need something - they always come to Mom. I hope that is always the way. It is so hard letting them stumble and just listen.

I hold my hugs with them a little tighter and longer!

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I have always secretly "spied" on my girls, now 23 and 18. I no longer spy on my 23 year old - I guess I have been able, finally, to kind of "let her go" as a somewhat-adult. On the other hand, she has yet to really cut the mom-cords with me, telling me far more than I ever would have DREAMED of sharing with my mom, even though we had a good relationship, too. But my 18 year old. Oh my goodness. She THINKS she is so worldly, so mature, and yet she worries even her 23 year old sister. I don't have to spy on her, because her sister does it for me and keeps me up to date with her sister's Twitter account, Tumblr, etc. The problem is, what do I do about it? Nothing. If I confess to knowing the things she posts, I lose the availability of it. So, mostly I just worry, and hope that, at some point, I will be able to let those things go as well. But in the meantime, it's SO hard to be in her life, but yet, not. So much of her life, both my girls' lives, is now beyond me. Scary. Hoping and praying a LOT that what they were raised with took root, and that they will rely on that in the end.

Joanne Noragon said...

I watched two daughters split off and become people more than twenty years ago. Now I'm watching granddaughters. Don't worry; she will evolve into an even more delightful woman who still calls home.

Leslie Giambrone said...

This post takes me back, when my daughter was in High School, I want to say she was 15 or 16. I found her diary; it was just sitting on her bed. Facebook, twitter, Instagram didn’t exist yet. I sat on the edge of her bed…..picked up the phone and called my mom. I wanted to know if she ever found my diary and if she did, did she read it? She told me that she never looked for it, but if she had (found it); she would never have read it. She knew that I was struggling with not reading it, she laughed and said “let’s face it you are nosey”. It wasn’t that I wanted to know everything she was doing, but, I did. I knew she was growing up and I knew she was starting to create a life that did not include me; this made me sad, (and a bit worried). I thought that by reading her diary, I would feel less out of the loop?
My mom told me to put the book back right where I found it, walk out of her room and go for a walk. She wanted me to remind myself while on that walk, that I had raised a strong, smart, independent young lady and that I needed to give her, her privacy. I never read her diary, I know she did so many things that I was not aware of. Had so many secrets that she never shared. But looking back, one of the things that I’m most proud of during those High School years was that we had mutual respect for each other. It got us through a lot.
It’s such a different time now with the internet…it’s scary point blank. What goes out on the World Wide Web is for everyone to see. The choice is not as simple as just putting the book back where you found and going for a walk.
“But, as she pulls away, I cling to the threads left behind and hoard them like I'm starving. I smile and don't let on, but I take her scent in deeply every time she hugs me goodbye.” I love this….I still feel this way and my baby is 27 and a mom herself. Being a parent is hard work; I hope your talk goes well.

Earth Muffin said...

I can relate. Big M. is on his way to high school in the fall and that's freaking me out more than I'm letting on. He's always been a pretty closed-off kid, much like his father, but lately he's been a lot more open with us, both emotionally and regarding his life outside of home, and I am relishing it as much as I can because I know we'll be left in the dust soon enough. He seems to be at a point right now where he appreciates the freedoms we've allowed him and understands the boundaries we've set. Again, I know this will be fleeting, but it's nice to be able to really communicate with my teenage for however long he allows! People keep telling me how fast the high school years fly and that scares me to death. When he was born, 2018 seemed like such a faraway time and now it's looming in the very near future!

Teacher Cynthia said...

Reading about the diary makes me realize... in the "old days" people had diaries that only they saw (or maybe their moms, lol). now the diary is public and maybe everyone see it EXCEPT their mom. that is a real switch. I think some things have shifted in a huge ways... ways we probably don't yet fully understand. there are probably both good and bad ramifications. as always, the best tool we have is connection, respect, wisdom, etc. Really, those things are the only tools we ever really have. Wisdom. I use that word a lot. Our culture doesn't. Wisdom is different from intelligence. Intelligence detects choices. Wisdom makes choices that lead to help not harm, life, not death, growth not stagnation. I feel... in a way that is hard to put into words... that by thinking always of how I impart these tools to my daughter... I am always connected to her... eternally. In this way, I do not fear letting her go... because I am still connected. If I thought longer, I could express this better. Today was my daughter's graduation from middle school. Emotional Day. Maria, we both lost our dads young. Your dad lives in you. The connection is eternal. You feel him with you. I feel the same with my dad. So I know you can "let go" or not have the "same connection" with someone... and still the connection is there. Losing my dad young brought me pain... and it brought me wisdom, too. All pain has that potential. Transforming potential into actual both creates and is the result of wisdom. Okay... blathering on. Maria, I'm trusting you're understanding what I'm saying. ZC

kristi said...

I am not ashamed to say I spy sometimes. It's natural. My daughter is 18 and we have had LOTS of ups and downs this year. She has a boyfriend, who is younger, a different race, and he doesn't have a job. Not my choice for her, nor her dad's but I hope once she gets into college that it will fizzle out. I can only try to guide her and I feel you have done that with Liv too.

e said...

It's a tough one, no doubt about it. I found a blog of my daughter's when she was in her late teens. She thought I was completely unsavvy about computers but I looked through her history file and there was her live journal account. Ha! Eventually, she restricted it to invitation only. It was useful for a while but she must have suspected me.

She is 30 now. Married. Working. Has a life, and a good one. Doesn't call her mother nearly enough. I miss that kid all the time. All.The.Time.

You'll roll with it, Maria. It helps that you and Bing have each other to get through it. Believe me when I say that it was hard as a single parent with one kid...

the only daughter said...

Most of my "mom" conflicts came with my daughter as she stretched the boundaries much more than my son. I learned early on they are often different people out of our line of sight, they have to be, I think.

They need the space to come into their own and most do so very well. Liv has an excellent foundation and a wonderful support system.

Jocelyn said...

You are so gifted at capturing the rightness of the separation that's happening between you and Liv...and the heartache of it. All is going as it should, yet that doesn't mean we have to like it.

*typed the mother of a 14-year-old daughter*