Wednesday, September 09, 2009


"What did you say?" My icy voice followed my daughter as she scurried into the hallway.

"Whatever, that's fine," she enunciated without breaking her stride. Had I imagined it or was the original "Whatever" delivered in a dismissive tone? I'd spent the whole summer reminding my kid to dig into her rich vocabulary and pull out language that was more precise than her usual "Whatever," but it was a losing battle. I'm convinced that she favors the term because aside from the implied neutrality, it can be delivered by a teenager as a sort of passive resistance while she drags her feet to do her chores or in the face of some other unreasonable authoritarian command.

Yes, that's right - I have a teen at home. High school started a couple of weeks ago. She's a freshman this year and had to attend Freshman Camp to get acclimated to her new surroundings. I drove her to camp the first day and walked with her into the gym where the students were gathering. My daughter promptly walked to the other side of the gym and after a few minutes walked back and politely asked me to leave. I shuffled off with my tail between my legs, looking back at her as I walked out the glass doors, wondering if she'd get lost, if she'd make friends, if she'd survive without me.

A few hours later when I went to pick her up I was all smiles, eager to hear about her first day at summer camp. I parked the car, got out and stood near the entrance as the freshmen poured out. Finally, I spotted my baby.

"How was your day?" I asked, all sunshine and lollipops.

"It was great. Can you wait for me in the car next time?"

"Oh..." I said, looking around and noticing that only a handful of parents were hovering at the school entrance, their respective offspring looking every bit as embarrassed as mine seemed to be.

"You don't have to get out," she said, rolling her eyes as if I'd neglected to read the memo.

"Whatever..." I thought to myself.

Once real classes started (as opposed to the fun and games of Freshman Camp) my daughter had to catch a new bus to the high school, so I walked the few blocks to the stop with her and took our dog for a walk at the same time. I repeated this pattern for about a week until my husband came into town. When I told him that he needed to walk our daughter to the bus stop, he gave me a funny look.

"Does she really want us to do that?" he asked.

"Yeah, I want to make sure she's OK," I replied.

"I know what your motivation is; I'm wondering how she feels about it though," he mused.

Greg walked out the front door with our daughter. He returned just a minute later, then he informed me that we would not be walking her to the bus stop from now on.

"Don't you think it's ironic that someone who had so much freedom as a teenager should be so overprotective of her own daughter? Didn't your mom drop you and your friend off to go rollerskating on Hollywood Blvd when you were her age?"

"But there are coyotes out there early in the morning, I've seen them..." I protested.

"There were plenty of wolves in Hollywood when you went rollerskating," he laughed.

"We'll see who's laughing when a coyote bites her butt."

The latest of my adventures in parental humiliation ocurred during Open House. Students were supposed to print out a copy of their class schedule for the parents to follow when visiting their child's classes. When we first got there, we raced to get to first period but once that presentation was over, the real race began. As she led me to the next classroom, I found myself having to walk ten paces behind my long-legged baby girl. I had to jog to keep up with her long, steady I-know-where-I'm-going stride. Of course, I wanted to look at the campus, but she'd have none of my rubber necking and pulled me to keep up with her pace on an invisible leash.

"Can't you slow down? I don't want to walk behind you." I was breathing hard now.

"I don't want us to be late. Do YOU want to be late?" she asked, deftly turning traditional parent-speak against me. Although I was fairly certain that there were other parents there that night who hadn't trained to sprint, I grudgingly trotted behind her, my wooden clogs making pony sounds across the commons, feeling like the old gray mare who just ain't what she used to be.


melississippi said...

awww alice, reminds me of my parents. i was a first child too, you just want to take care of her. hope you guys work out a balance :)

Anonymous said...

Alice you know what kind of mom I have and had back then.
This is a tough time for parents and kids.
Geez, I wished I lived closer to you. I would bake you a pan of brownies and give you a big hug.

I guess I was lucky my child didn't do that. She also tells me, that I was able to go to hollywood blvd at 16, 17, why don't I let her do that.

linda said...

I have twins in junior year now. Freshman year was really tough on me. I drove them to and from school and they were naturally horrified but I found out that cayotes don't bite that hard in Sophomore year. They take the bus and even hang out! In turn, I have some alone time. It all balances out.

Santina said...

I only know you from your records. And only recently came across your blog and website. This post made me laugh so hard. And I had just got done sending my teenage son a text saying "whatever". (he had been treating me as if he didn't need me anymore, the nerve). I love your blog.