Do you remember being 16? The intensity and power that comes with knowing exactly what you DON’T want, while being completely confused as to what you do? Everything matters so hard at 16. You have the most delicious sense of invulnerability, with a healthy smattering of self-righteousness and passion thrown in for good measure. Its wonderful and delicious and frightening, and I miss it.
Anna, on the other hand, will not miss it. Those of you who know me well know just how hard a year this has been for my daughter. She has had a series of absolutely bizarre health problems, which has caused no small measure of stress in her academic and personal lives. It has been so difficult watching her struggle; seeing our children in serious pain or seriously lost is the dark dark side of parenting. Its Darth Vader, and not the whiney prequel version. This is the Admiral Motti-choking, chopping off Luke’s hand, bad-ass terrifying version, the dark side that demands respect.
I hate those parents who always gloom and doom the next developmental stage (“You think infancy is hard? Wait until they start walking! That’s when it gets really bad!” Or “Toilet training is nothing! Wait until 12, when they slam the door off its hinges!”) I do not want to be that parent. To those of you who have young teenagers, don’t take anything I say seriously. I’m sure your child’s sophomore year will be just fine. I wish you a year of giggles, of staying out too late, of pushing the boundaries just enough to stretch, but not enough to snap. I wish you student council elections, good grades and some, but not too much, heartbreak.
But for us, well, this was a year we would both rather put behind us. I have never known the depths of frustration, the depths of anger I could feel toward my sweet blue-eyes baby until now, that baby I have loved so hard and strong for so many years. I never knew I could be driven to tears, over and over, as the exact wrong thing came out of my mouth at the exactly the wrong time. I never knew how many times I would drive her to tears. As the year went on, and things became more and more complicated, the phone calls and email between the guidance counselor and home became more and more frequent, it seemed our relationship would break. We circled each other warily, unable to speak even the smallest of words without a miscommunication, and its attendant, drama encrusted argument.
It was awful. I hope nobody out there, no matter how much I dislike you, has to go through what we did. I hope my worst enemy is spared the year of blackness that began with terror in the emergency room at Seattle Children’s Hospital, moved through uncaring and inflexible teachers, and ended with Anna not even purchasing a yearbook, as she just wanted this year to disappear. There are scars on our hearts from this year; I can only hope they are not permenant.
But as school is finally getting out for the summer, and we prepare for this trip, we enter a new phase. The last few days, as we pack our brand new, bright blue backpacks, fill our carry-ons with passports and loaded Kindles, have been wonderful. She sees a new start, an end to the crazy. She is a rising junior, a young adult looking forward to this huge undertaking. When she returns, she will have seen and done things that most Americans will never experience, and she is ready to make it her own.
Midwifing babies? Piece of cake. Midwifing myself? Not so simple.