Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Girl / Woman

When she was little, the rules were pretty obvious, the boundary lines clear: You can ride your bike on the sidewalk only; hold my hand to cross the road; always swim with buddy. These things, and a thousand others, I told her to keep her safe.

As Sunshine became older, she insisted I loosen the grip at her wrist.

"Trust me," she said, and I did and she grew to be this smart, strong, confident, beautiful and kind sixteen-year-old (almost seventeen-year-old!) girl/woman. (That little diagonal line separating those two words holds a world.)

I trust her. And she talks to me. And she has convinced me that the teenager stereotype, full of angst and rebellion, is a myth brought upon by a lack of understanding, communication, tolerance and patience.

And she is good, and she values the trust between us as much as I do, and here is where it gets complicated:

Last night, after a lengthy explanation about the proficiency testing going on at school, from which she is exempt, and assurances that most of her teachers will be moderating said testing, leaving her with substitutes and hours upon hours of classroom videos, make-work and general do-nothingness, she asked if she could skip school to have fun with her friends.

"I can't give you permission to skip school," I said, even as I recalled some of my favorite high school memories:

We called them day parties, these shining occasions when twenty or thirty of us would spontaneously skip off to his house, her house, the beach, a dirt road and just have the most spectacular fun in these few stolen hours. In fact, whenever I meet up with old friends, even thirty years later, these day parties take center stage under the yellow lights of our reminiscing.

So, "I can't give you permission to skip school," I said, again, "but, I won't punish you, either."

"And if you get caught, it's on you. I won't have your back."

But, this morning, as she slung her school bag over her shoulder, on her way out the door, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't know exactly where she was going, and I'd created a situation whereby she couldn't tell me.

"I obviously don't want to know where you are going," I said, all sternness. "But, I absolutely want to know where you are going." A panic bubbled up inside me.

She laughed at me, at my ridiculous logic which grew, of course, from my desire to keep her by the hand, keep a firm grip, keep her little and home with me.

"I'll make good choices," she said, "and I'll let you know if I go anywhere different from the usual spots."

"Or if you do anything unusual."


"Unusual for you, not me."

"Okay, Mom."

"And be home at the usual time."


"And make good choices."

"We're getting repetitive."

"Just go," I said.

I cried a little when she left.