Recently, my young adult daughter texted me a picture of a tattoo so new that it was still red and puffy around the edges. The tattoo had been freshly applied to not just any ribcage, but my daughter’s ribcage. Forevermore the flying silhouettes of Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael and John with Tink hovering nearby will remain inked on her side.
Despite my fondness of all things Disney, this mama was not happy.
Rather than texting me a picture of the damage already done, I would have preferred a phone call prior to. Call me crazy, but after twenty years of blood, sweat and tears I feel as though I deserve at least that courtesy. A heads-up, if you will. Hey Mom, I’m here at the tattoo parlor about to get inked. I just didn’t want you to find out on Facebook. Love you! But no. By the time I learned of her very permanent decision, the pigment had already been set.
And I thought the sleepless nights of the newborn stage were hard. I’m finding that the oh-my-goodness-what-is-she-going-to-do-next stage is even harder.
My situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that I was so young (sixteen) when she was born. Most of my peers—my friends—have children who are much, much younger. While they’re in the trenches with elementary or middle-school aged children, I’m dealing with entirely different troubles. There isn’t a lot of been-there-done-that information being passed along as encouragement and I find myself struggling, thinking I’m the only parent who has ever felt this way.
In my head, I know that I am not the only parent who has ever felt this way. The heart, though, is much tougher to convince.
When—as mothers—we pour our very souls into our children, we do so with the expectation that they will grow and go and value the contributions we’ve made to their lives and that those contributions would earn us a certain degree of respect. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself when I say that I assumed that my daughter would value sound advice offered in love and with her very best interests at heart. That has not proved to be the case and it’s a hard truth to swallow.
I remember being young and sure and determined to go my own way. As I sail these treacherous waters, I’m clinging to the hope that what I’m going through with my daughter now is not a permanent condition but the result of a temporary headwind—a stubborn headwind at that. I’m hopeful that we’ll both emerge from these years without any permanent marks.
Well, besides the obvious one, that is.