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, smiling...no...almost 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.