To put it mildly, living with a 13 year-old girl is difficult. Some days I contemplate boarding schools. To put it honestly, some days leave me wondering if I am living within a repeated psychotic break.
One of the hardest things about Maisy (oh, feel free to insert your own teen daughter’s name here..it will work) is the unpredictability of her mood. On our end, mornings are very much the same: I wake up feeling like I got hit by a train and cannot even fathom speaking until I have had one cup of coffee. Chris is the opposite; jabbering from the minute he is upright till the minute the grace of God and his work pull him out the door. Maisy is the wild card.
Usually I can tell before she even opens her mouth what kind of moment/morning/day it is going to be. I do believe her face literally changes. It can be fresh and bright like a perfect spring morning or dark and cloudy like the apocalypse sky about to open (ok. apocalypse is strong but you get the idea.)
Not only is her mood as unpredictable as her clothing, the intensity of a particular reaction often leaves us either stammering or speechless. Chris and I have mastered the bewildered, hands-up shrug that silently says “what the hell just happened?” Our stupor is invariably broken by a slamming door (sometimes two–in case we missed the first one.)
As if the unpredictability of her mood and intensity of her emotions are not enough there is this one other thing.
It is the “changed mind.” This is never “Oh Mama! I am so sorry I thought you were the dumbest person on this planet for so long! Clearly you are smart, successful and pretty. I want to be just like you when I grow up.”
The following is an actual example of a classic Maisy about face situation.
This year, she was inducted into the Junior National Honor Society and was required to do several
hours of community service. Months ago, she signed up, without our knowledge (we both stand by that fact,) to work at the Jingle Bell Trot run on December 15th.
We, not being privy to this fact, planned a family outing for that weekend. We had all just finished dinner. We were happily and with a great deal of cooperation cleaning up. Music was playing and we were all humming along in harmony when someone mentioned the weekend plan.
Maisy stopped dead. The plate she was rinsing clattered into the sink. Her face darkened. And then….
“WHAT?????YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME GO! I MADE A COMMITMENT TO MR. W. I.GAVE.HIM. MY. WORD! I HAVE TO BE AT THIS RUN NO MATTER WHAT! YOU ARE SO UNFAIR!”
The customary stunned look passed between us as door #1 slammed. We didn’t move for a second until…yep there it was: door #2.
After a minute, Chris and I huddled both for privacy and for protection.
“Well, she sort of did make a commitment…. and it’s not really fair to have her miss this important volunteering opportunity…we do want her to do more stuff like that.”
Decision made, we broke. I swatted Chris on the butt as he inhaled deeply and began the long ascent toward the slammed-reslammed-locked-reinforced-with-furniture door. He was carrying the ball now.
A bit later, he came down looking sweaty and exhausted but relieved. Next, came Maisy. She was neither dark nor bright. More puffy and blotchy from weeping.
Chris had informed her that just this once we were canceling our family weekend so that she could go to her event as planned.
She sat huddled at the table with her hoodie pulled tightly around her. As she sipped a cup of steaming green tea, images of refugees plucked from ferocious tempests passed before me.
Finally, the easy-turned-brutal night was over and Chris and I collapsed into our bed both unable to speak or move.
He went first. “You know what really sucks? Once we’re done with her, we still have Hadley to do.”
He described the years of parenting our daughters with the enthusiasm of one preparing to paint a fence with a toothbrush.
I couldn’t stand the thought of more of this in seven years. I felt old now. My only hope in surviving Hadley’s warzone would be early onset dementia.
Three days later, weekend plans are scrapped, friends are notified, bags are unpacked.
It is the morning of the Jingle Bell Trot. 7:30 AM
Chris knocks on Maisy’s door. “Time to get up Honey, we need to leave in 15″
He was not even down the steps when Maisy emerged. She looked refreshed and chipper. But…
“Um. Babe…” I started softly because I was scared. “You have to get ready.”
The last words I heard before everything went black were:
“You know Mom, I was thinking…I really have A LOT of work to do and I have like four tests and a project next week and I think I should just stay home today…”
I don’t know exactly what happened next. All I know, is that hours later, when I came to, I had to blink to get my bearings. As the room came into clear view, I saw Chris and two of my three children.
“Wh-wh–where is she?” I croaked.
“Oh, Maisy? She’s at the Jingle Bell Trot—she made a commitment remember?”
“Didn’t she flip?” I asked
“Oh she flipped but in the end, I won….I am her father. That’s how I roll.”
Seriously, now he “rolls?”
It is going to be a long decade.