My daughter and I have turned a corner in our relationship. Mia has come to the point in her life where her friends and social circle outrank her family — including me. The clues that she is growing up, and away, have been there for a while.
I think I just chose to ignore them.
The fact that she is becoming more independent doesn’t really bother me. I no longer walk her to the bus stop, or stay and wait during her fencing lessons. She now has opinions and thoughts that weren’t formed from within our family. These are all good things. I really enjoy that my teen is a deep thinker, cares about issues, and is responsible. Although I must say: It is a new sensation to be debating my own child.
The hard part is that she is transferring her dependence from me to her peers. And their opinions sometimes weigh more than mine. Middle school was the beginning of the transition. I was always a parent volunteer in her grade school class, but now I’m no longer needed. This is also the first time that she has acquaintances I haven’t met. At her elementary school, I knew almost everyone, and I certainly knew her friends.
The pulling away is subtle, but it’s there. While planning a summer vacation in Germany, she became alarmed when she heard that we would be away for three weeks.
“But, I don’t want to be gone that long!” Mia protested. When I questioned why, she said she would miss her buddies. She worried she might be left out of a party, or a get-together.
“But it’s Europe!” I said. “You’ll see things you might never see again. Castles! Living history! Besides,” I added, “you’ll be with us.”
Mia was unmoved. She would rather be with her friends.
We recently traveled back to my hometown to attend the funeral of my grandfather. This meant that my teen missed some social events, a sacrifice she willingly made because she was close to her great-grandad and wanted to be there. But once the funeral was over, she was ready to head back home.
“Why can’t we leave now?” she asked. I explained that I wanted to spend some time with my family, and besides, after the insane amount we’d paid for last-minute plane tickets, there was no way I wanted to go home after a couple of days. She sighed, and wandered off to email her friends.
I get it, because I remember that feeling. I remember tapping my foot under the table at family dinners, anxious for the moment I could dash off and call my best friend. During sixth grade, that same girl was invited on an all-expense-paid summer trip to Greece. To the dismay of her parents (and to my relief) she turned it down. Because she didn’t want to miss out on time with her friends.
I know that my daughter still needs me, but in a different way. It just twists my heart a little to realize that this is only the beginning. I will no longer know all her secrets, or be the one she most wants to spend time with. And she will continue to move further and further away. From me.
Knowing that this is normal and healthy doesn’t help. It still hurts.
I guess all I can do now is be there when she does need me. I can be the shoulder to cry on, the sounding board when her friends aren’t there or fail her, as some inevitably will. I can take her to buy her prom dress, and make every effort to know her friends. Because I realize that someday, the pendulum will swing back. Family will rise to the top again.
And I’ll be here, waiting.
Tiffany Doerr Guerzon is a freelance writer and the mother of three children, including a teen. Read more of her writing at TDGuerzon.com .