Last night, Jessie and I had a fight. Which is somewhat unusual, because we don’t generally do that. Not that we never clash, but it’s not generally a “fight” exactly. But last night, she was just flat out furious with me. It’s not unusual for her to get mad at me, because that happens. She’s ten.
So she had stormed off to her room, after I told her to think very carefully before she opened her mouth again to say something to her brother. It was a hard night in general, Julie is cutting molars and was miserable, nursing forever (whereas that’s usually a very brief go to bed thing), so I was frustrated with that. And Jessie was just exhausted and mean to everyone, not intentionally, I don’t think, but she was so tired from staying up so late and being outside running around all day. Sam had been rambunctious and wild all day, and was the past the point of not listening to me, he was so wound up he wasn’t even aware that I was speaking to him.
By the time I got the other two to sleep and went to check on her, I was really hoping that she was just asleep. She wasn’t. She was up, fuming, and I suggested that she go to sleep. She declined, not all that nicely, and then said “Are we done here?” in the snottiest tone possible.
I flicked off her television set, told her that yes, in fact, we were done. And there was this moment, just a moment, when I realized that she didn’t particularly care if I was mad at her.
I’m the parent, she’s the child. And there’s this element in our relationship, where I’m the one who makes the decisions, I’m the one who’s more in control. I’m responsible for her. It’s not two equals fighting on a level playing field. Last night, for a minute, it was. And it was such an odd sensation. The day is going to come when we are equals, when she’s going to be furious at me, and not care if I’m disappointed or upset with her. In a very real sense, I still consider myself responsible for her emotional state. I think she still considers me responsible for it too. We’re moving towards adulthood, I’m trying to teach her that she’s the one in charge of her mind, she’s the only one in charge of how she feels. But last night, I realized that means that I can’t always fix everything with a hug. Sometimes, she’s going to be furious with me, and not care about how I feel in regards to that. Right now, my disapproval matters to her. She might get mad at me, but she still wants to not be fighting with me, she wants me to be able to make it all go away. But that’s not always going to be the case.
She’s going to be an adult, and she’s going to have a very different relationship with me than the one she has now. It was a preview of what’ll be like when she’s an adult, when hopefully, we’ll have a relationship similar to the one I have with my mother, more friends than mother/daughter. With mutual respect and an awareness that we are different people with different thoughts and reactions. I don’t always do what my mother wants me to do, I make choices that aren’t always the choices that she’d make in the same situation. I still love her, I still admire her enormously, I still think she’s the bees knees. But I’m my own person, living my life and that’s separate and distinct from her. Right now, Jessie and I are still entwined to a huge degree. Not as much as we were, of course, when she was tiny, but we’re not yet as separated as we will be some day.
It was a bittersweet moment, because I could suddenly see, for the first time, what it was like to have a child that you loved so much, and have that child be strong enough, adult enough, to be able to be truly separate and distinct from you. In the end, she burst into tears and softened enough to let me sit beside her and rub her back while she drifted off to sleep. We’re not there yet, thank goodness, she’s still my little girl, I can still fix everything by just loving her. I know it won’t last forever, but I’m not ready to give it up yet.