Beautiful stranger used to be best buddy

February 06, 2000|By Susan Reimer

I AM SAD these days. Blue feelings stir themselves up at the oddest times and flutter around inside my head like startled bats. After the sadness fades, I feel tired and like I need a nap. I can't name it or explain it, but it feels like grief.

Funny how it seems to come just when the phone rings and it is for my daughter again. Or when she can't hear me call her because she is behind her door with the music turned way up. I feel it when I telephone her after school and I can tell she wants me off the phone because she is chatting on-line with friends. I notice it when she emerges from the bathroom and she is beautiful, but almost a stranger, with too much makeup and a new hairdo. Hairdo. She would hate that word.

But I think I feel this sadness most when I catch her in the rear-view mirror, rolling her eyes at a friend over something I have just said. I realize that I have embarrassed myself and I am ashamed.

And sad. Always sad.

According to the latest issue of Daughters, a newsletter for parents, I am indeed grieving. I am grieving for the girl who was my favorite companion and my best friend.

She is gone and in her place I have found a teen-ager who can barely hide her annoyance with me. A 13-year-old who offers me affection only out of a patient sense of obligation.

Where is the girl who once flung herself on me in unrestrained love?

Therapist Judy Ford, writing in Daughters, says this separation between mothers and teen-age daughters is normal, but often occurs with a shower of sparks and waves of grief.

She is pulling away, and you are pulling her back. She wants you to back off and you want things back the way they were. There is plenty of yelling and lots of tears.

"Sometimes," she writes, "we start arguments as a way of making sure we're still in the relationships. We fight because we're trying to get our relationships back, to make them whole again."

It may not be easy for mothers to see, but our daughters are sad, too. They are grieving for the comfortable, secure relationship with us that they are propelled and compelled to break. They may not know where these urgent impulses come from and they feel like they are stepping off a precipice.

A daughter's anxiety, Ford writes, will likely manifest itself in rude and snappish talk. It takes all our maturity, she says, to ignore it and find a quiet moment to say: "Look. We don't get along the way we used to. I feel sad about all this. Do you? Can we find a new way to be?"

Things will never be the same and acknowledging that may be the first step.

My daughter is almost 14, she is moving away from me and into a dozen little zones of independence. She is moving toward fertility and into an almost primal need to pair up and find her identity in a couple.

I am moving in the other direction, and I am distractedly curious about the person inside of me who has been buried beneath laundry for 15 years.

"At this point, our agendas are in opposition," writes editor Amy Lynch in Daughters.

"The girls we love are stepping onto the very stage we're leaving with a bow."

It is up to us to find a way to wave them into the spotlight gracefully, generously, while never slipping completely into the wings.

Daughters is a newsletter for the parents of adolescent girls. It is available by calling 888-849-8476 or by visiting its Web site at www.daughters-@ americangirl.com.

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