Today over at Extraordinary Moms Network I posted a little ditty that almost perfectly sums up where I am as a parent today. Go ahead and have a look … I’ll wait.
She’s fifteen now. Fifteen going on thirty. And I swear to you, there are days when we look at each other and wonder, How on earth am I supposed to live with THIS for three more years?
At least. Best case scenario.
If you ask her, she drew the short straw in the Mother Lottery. Her model yells (or yells back). Drinks (a glass of wine at LEAST twice a week, usually while daughter is giving me the stink eye). Is woefully unfashionable. Cramps her fashion style (“No, you may NOT wear black eye shadow”) and sense of propriety (“Yes, you must wash the pen design off your hands before Mass”). Worst of all: HER mom makes her do chores (like a SLAVE, like emptying the dishwasher and setting the table EVERY DAY and cleaning her room).
I’ll admit, I do get crabby sometimes myself. The only time I wake up without the sound of a howler monkey in my ears is when I’m on a business trip. Each morning I fall over the dog, who is cringing under my feet the moment she enters the room. There is not a lipstick, cookie, or bottle of nail polish I can buy that has a snowball’s chance in hell of winding up anywhere but in her room. She speaks, and the room turns blue. She sees her brother, and drama ensues (a fight or teary-eyed accusations of neglect, depending on the day). Her first mother tells me she was just like this at Sarah’s age, which she says to be comforting but actually terrifies me.
But here’s the thing … I love her. Her color. Her exuberance. Her insatiable need for love that induces her to cuddle up to me as close as possible on the couch at night, and plead for her father to tuck her in at night. I try to imagine what it must be like for her, to BE her. I see how she struggles. And I wish I could swish a wand and make it all better.
But that’s not what I signed up for. That’s not what love is about.
Almost fifteen years ago, we signed up for this. God knows if we’d known the wild ride in store for us, we might have run screaming for the hills. But we didn’t. So we didn’t.
Do I love her as much as I’d have loved “my own child”? I don’t know. There’s really no way to know. But this much I can tell you: She has taught me, the hard way, what it means to really love someone. Because true love most often comes not in the shape of a heart … but of a cross. It means not loving because, but loving even when.