I will open this reprint by saying, I had NO CLUE what I was talking about when I originally wrote this. It is so much harder that I thought. The “ick-you-make-my-stomach-lurch-because-I’m-too-cool”-ness of it all is here in full force. A simple “good morning” can start a fight as easily as a breeze blows over a house of cards. I am simply dying here. Thank God for an awesome husband and a well stocked wine cellar.
It was Mothers’ Day and my nearly- 12-year-old daughter said to me, “Mom, I think I need to shave under my arms.” “Really?” I replied dryly, nonplussed by this request because she had been asking to shave her legs since 5th grade when all the other girls purportedly started. “Let’s see then,” I said. She raised her stick-thin right limb and revealed to my horror a patch of scraggly ashy gray hair akin to what one would find on the chin of a 15 year old boy trying to grow a beard. “Heavens to murgatroid, Maddonna!” I yelped, “By all means, we’ll get right on that this afternoon!”
Well, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I’d seen the developing buds at her chest and some hints of nether hair on her body before and had decided it would be in bad form to actually look or stare. But in her guileless nudity getting in and out of the shower, I had stolen the askance glance over the last few months and had noted with some pride that she would by next summer be a knock out. But there was something alarming and obscene about that grimy looking patch of pit hair. It said, “I am puberty and I am here to stay.” It simply made me weak.
I have heard all the horror stories of happy go lucky girls who simply adore their moms that suddenly become she-devils who will set a mother’s bed on fire as she sleeps. I have seen my friend’s teen age children snarl derisively at their well meaning moms who have the nerve to offer them a sandwich when it is plain that only a hot pocket will do. I have determined not to let this happen between me and my daughter. But the patch of hair hiding behind those bony shoulders tell me that I have no say in the matter and that the storm is coming whether I like it or not.
What puzzles me more than all the portents of my own relationship with my daughter about to take a tail-spin is the way my friends deal so calmly with their teen demons. They do not dissolve into tears when the children call them at work demanding they buy a different clothes softener because Snuggle isn’t as good as Downy and then hang up on them with an oath for their selfishness and inconsiderate behavior. I have yet to hear any of these sainted ladies call these brats the names that are hurled at them behind slamming doors.
I do not want this. I do not want this pit hair, shrieking, stealing of sanitary products and $100 shoes. I don’t want the low-slung pants wearing loser boys to come sniffing around the door and steal my girl’s heart away from me. I don’t want the moroseness and the “ick-you-make-my-stomach-lurch-because-I’m-too-cool”-ness of it all. But it’s coming and the need for the Venus triple blade tells me so.
But what I do want is what this trial by fire brings. When the loser-boy dumps her a week before prom, I want to be there to bake three batches of brownies and down them with spoons full of mint chocolate chip ice cream right out of the carton together. When the queen-bee girlfriends turn on her because they just feel like it, I hope she’ll find me not too repulsive to turn to. And on some of those nights when she’s cried herself to sleep and I’ve gone out and left flaming bags of dog poop on all the appropriate door steps, I want to know that I can sleep soundly because a little piece of her may still belong to me.
Despite all the tears, shouting, name-calling and demands, deep down when the monkeys take flight, I hope that girl will always want her mommy. It will be then, when we’re egging someone’s car that I’ll know it was all worth it.