For whom the telephone bell tolls

And then suddenly, just like that, she’s discovered the phone.

And when I say suddenly, I mean: after 9 years of almost total disinterest in telephonic technology – except when manifest as a shiny i-screen on which she can play apps and games – on Monday, completely out of nowhere, she decided she now likes chatting on the phone with her friends from school. BOOM! No lead-up, no dabbling-in-talking-on-the-phone on occasion beforehand, no foreshadowing or warning shot.

Nothing. Just one giant, unexpected stride from little girl right into tween.

Talking on the phone while web surfing. Kids these days, sheesh.

I was not – am not – prepared for this.

I am not prepared for the constant use of the phone. For the giggling about boys, the increasingly hysterical concern over fashion and hair, the dramatic, put-upon attitude and constant eye rolling at adults. And I’m not a fool – it’s coming, all of it. I can smell it in the air like a sailor can smell the salt water of the sea miles inland. But most of all, I think I’m not ready for the distance I know she’ll cultivate between us over the next few years, as it slowly dawns on her that her Mom is, like, a total square, GAWD. I’m not ready to face the reality that soon she’ll feel ashamed to be seen with me in public, embarrassed to hold my hand or give me a hug when there are other people – especially other kids – around.

I’m not ready for her to grow up.

It’s stupid, right? Because this – her growing up and becoming her pre-teen self, her own person and all that entails – is what we’ve been shooting for all along. And that she’s doing it, and doing it in love and happiness and joy and health is something I know I should be celebrating. It’s an occasion for cake and champagne, my girl growing up and developing her own social life and interests, doing all the things she should be doing at nine years of age. I know this.

So why does all of it feel like a series of tiny, heartbreaking deaths? That in some faint and almost imperceptible way – but a way that I feel like an anvil in my guts – I’m losing her, bit by little bit? That slowly, week by week and month by month, she’s pulling away from me, never to return as she was?

Well, because she is.

This is, I think, the truly wrenching part of what it means to be a parent. That we have to hold them tight, and then we have to let them go. And painful as it is, I know none of us have any choice in the matter. This is our job, and what we signed up for the day they first breathed in the world and exhaled wailing, bundled in our arms. We have to give them what they need and then release them to themselves. We have to. Even when every ounce of who we are wants to keep holding their hand forever.

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15 Responses to For whom the telephone bell tolls

  1. Argh! Damn you for making me tear up at my desk! Fortunately, my daughter will stay 3 forever. Right? RIGHT?!!!

  2. maggie wilkin says:

    I am so with you. It seems that everything I do elicits an eye roll from my 10 year old. At least she has a little sister that still thinks I am awesome. Maybe that is what the teen years are for, they drive you so nuts that you are happy for them to go?? The letting go part of parenthood has been such a shock for me because I was raised by a single mother who seemed to be all too eager to be done with the responsibility of us. I just never realized how bad it hurts when they grow up and away.

  3. Not Beehive says:

    You know what’s worse than the eye-rolls and huffy sighs? The silence signaling general disapproval of everything I am. The conversations that go nowhere because my kids suddenly think I know nothing and have nothing of interest to say. Some days it’s like being married all over again, only without the bad sex. I can’t believe I just said that.

    My kids have never loved the phone, but my 12-year old daughter has a serious addiction to internet chatting with her friends.

  4. Oy. Mine is only 5 but Tuesday night twice caught her in the mean-tween attitude and I got in her face like WHOA so I *think* I’ve managed to stave it off for a while but I know it’s coming. I think back to how I treated my mother as a teenager and while I was still polite and respectful (as they would have killed me if I wasn’t – too much of a goody two shoes to challenge it) I still cringe when I think of how I acted towards her with the eye rolls and the silence.

  5. Andrea1437 says:

    Wait, hold on a second, I’m supposed to LET HIM GO!?!?! This was not part of the contract I signed up for. I fully intend to be his roomate in college and go with him when on his first job interview and iron his work pants when he’s 50. Yup, I want to be the kind of mother that us wives, former wives, soon to be wives, never to be wives, cringe at the thought of.

    But really, I know it’s my job to let MAH BABBBY grow-up and all, but isn’t there a clause somewhere that we can skip the whole tween/teen drama and jump right from cute adorable child to realistic, appreciative adult. Cause MAH 3 year old BAY-BE is pretty much where I want him to stay, FOREVER! ;)

  6. edenland says:

    What a bloody beautiful post. I have that exact thing happening with my ten year old. He sits on the phone talkin’ SHIT to his mates but I don’t say anything. Just listen. And think of the years of shit-talking to come.

    You are so not a total square – at all. Your kid will see you’re a complete fucking badass and model herself on you. I predict a bond so tight with you guys …. forever. Even during the shitty teenage years.

  7. sumosez says:

    That she’s using a handset with a cord gives the picture an old timey feel in today’s world.

    Confession: I just double checked the picture to see if the handset is plugged into the laptop usb (no) or an iPhone (indeterminate).

  8. Bethany says:

    Ack, the sweetness of her! Boy, somebody knew this feeling when they made up ye olde word ‘bittersweet…’
    So right, it is in the air these days here, too.

  9. I felt this way when A would no longer allow me to drive her to school. The fact that she would rather get up at 5:30 am and slog through rain, sleet and snow with her friends, then to ride in the comfort of my very uncool Honda Fit was a little painful. But after a brief separation, she’s begun now at nearly 16 to circle me back into the fold of her life again. Occasionally she even tells me that I’m not old, or that I’m pretty even if my dancing sucks. Yesterday she even let me pick her and friend up from school. There is hope yet :)

  10. -sob-. Why do you think I have five kids!?! To replace the ones who keep growing up…

    Just kidding, kind of. But I have long said that I love absolutely everything about babies, except that they grow up.

    The growing up is awesome and mindblowing and fun in a totally different way, but yeah…it’s heartbreaking, too.

  11. Sheryl says:

    But a lot of it really isn’t that bad. I have one teen, and a 12 year old, and yes there is a lot of eye rolling and the maximum amount of bershon allowed by law, but my kids also still like hanging out with me, and we like each other as people. no, really. But you’re right, they don’t love me as much as my preshuuus nine-year old.

  12. Rita Arens says:

    M is what, ONE YEAR OLDER than my little girl? Oh holy hell motherfucker, NO!!!!!!

  13. Bridget says:

    I hear you never really lose them . Rumor has it that they come home to roost after college and then you have a completely different take on it.

    Seriously though. I do feel your pain… mine are close in age to yours and we are going through the same thing. *sad face*

  14. Welcome to my world. ;)

  15. Jenn says:

    I am right there. Mourning with you. I hate this letting go. Of course, I know that my job is to work myself out of a job with each of them, but I hate that. I want to keep them close, under my protection. The letting go is hard. Thank you for articulating it so beautifully.

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