“I can’t wait to move out,” remarked Chloe a couple of weeks ago. She had just walked in the door after school and we were both standing by the kitchen sink having a conversation – about what, I don’t recall.
I remember those six words, however. I tried to recover quickly. “Well, I can’t wait until until you move out so we can take over your bedroom!” I exclaimed, like any 47-year old going on 12-year old mother would do.
My riposte rang hollow. Sensing that she had struck a nerve, Chloe turned to me and said, “I was just joking, mom,” with an awkward, let-me-try-to-take-it-back smile that suggested she wasn’t joking at all.
To this day, Chloe maintains she was just teasing. To this day, I maintain she sounded dead serious when she uttered that sentence. It’s all about perception, isn’t it? My daughter’s intent notwithstanding, her words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Perhaps because they sounded a lot like me when I was her age.
Chloe turned 15 at the end of January. She is in 9th grade. By the Internet’s count, she must survive approximately 1,258 more days (or 30,192 hours, but who’s counting?) under our roof before she ships off to college. That’s a lot of days.
If I’m being honest, I can’t really blame her. I remember high school. I remember wishing I was older. I remember feeling envious of my friends’ siblings who were already in college. I remember wanting to be left alone. I remember feeling cramped by my parents’ style and annoyed by my little brother. I remember being so bored in history class that my friend and I passed the time trisecting gummy bears, mixing and matching their body parts to create edible rainbow-colored mutants. I remember yearning to escape the town where I grew up and travel the globe.
Hell, I probably told my parents on multiple occasions that I couldn’t wait to leave the house. Because I was a typical teenager. Just like Chloe.
But now I’m a mom. I’ve put three decades between my teenage self and my present self. And with those three decades comes perspective and knowledge.
Chloe is a great kid. Her teenage years – so far, at least – have not been fraught. Yet as much as she may act older than she is, she’s still only 15 years old.
If I could give Chloe the benefit of my hindsight and if she’d listen, here’s what I’d tell her:
Don’t wish your teenage years away. It’s not an easy time, but they’re the last few years you’ll have with minimal responsibility – other than to yourself.
Dream about and prepare for college all you want, but try to enjoy the here and now. One day, you’ll recall your teenage self, if not with overwhelming fondness, then with an appreciation for how they helped define the adult you eventually became.
You are 15. You do not know it all. Believe it or not, many adults – especially YOUR PARENTS – have something to teach you.
One day you might be a mom. And if you are, you might hear those dreaded words, “I can’t wait to move out!” Perhaps you’ll think you’ve done something wrong. Your kid might tell you she was only joking. But you’ll know she wasn’t joking because you’ll vividly remember the day you said the exact same words to me.
And if your child says those words to you during an otherwise uneventful conversation, take a step back. Choose to interpret them as a compliment rather than as a rebuke. And instead of being sad, be happy that you’ve raised a poised, independent child who’s eager to make her mark on the world.