My daughter actually let me kiss her forehead and hold her in my arms Sunday morning. What’s more, real words spoken in the English language were actually exchanged between said 15-year-old and me as we sipped hot tea together on the back deck.
I did the math: Nell said close to 4500 words to me in one sitting when you calculate that women average 150 words per minute and we spoke for 30 minutes. That’s the most I’ve heard from her since trapping her in the RV to “drag” her and her best friends, one of whom is her sister, around the Southwest this summer so they could do impossibly boring things like make friends with Native American Indian girls their own age and stay on their reservation, or go caving and cliff jumping one day and skinny dipping at midnight in Lake Powell the next.
I also “forced” them to enjoy horseback riding through the mountains, fishing for and catching 20 pound stripers, rafting down the Colorado River, hiking excursions at all the cool national parks, camping in the desert, going four wheeling in giant sand dunes… It’s the stuff people tell me will stick with them forever, our RV adventures.
But right now, I am still the “worst mother in the world” for demanding of them to do well in school, get off Facebook, clean the house, employ immaculate table manners, and expose them to art, music and culture. In my house, we have a motto. They need to be able to pee in the woods and dine with the Queen. In other words, my goal is to raise low-maintenance, class acts.
Call Fox News! This is as big as the Ebola scare! Nell actually still needs (and likes) her mother!
All it took was a little throw up to prove it.
“Are you ok?” I asked, holding her hair back, praying she could get through this without passing out. (She does that — passes out– when something physical happens such as cutting her foot or seeing someone else cut their foot. Otherwise, she’s as solid as the mountains we hike.)
“No,” she said. “Just hold me and don’t let go.”
And so I did.
“Do you want a cup of hot tea?” I asked about 20 minutes later.
“Yes, please,” she said, wrapped in a blanket holding our annoying but impossibly cute dog, Clyde.
I’m not sure if she ate something that didn’t agree with her or if she should not have taken the new vitamins on an empty stomach.
Either way, she seemed fine now.
Mark’s five year death anniversary is on Thanksgiving morning. Nell was 10 at the time—old enough to have solid memories of their time together, but young enough to hopefully make easier transitions as she navigates her own life. I think it would be have harder if she were older when all the angst and teenage hormones are in full throttle. That would be the worst age to lose a parent, I believe, although no time is obviously ever easy.
We talked about Mark briefly in terms of their upcoming birthdays which are one day apart in late October. Her godfather, Billy, always makes it especially special for her by taking her shopping at a cooler than hip clothing store called the Top Shop in Soho. She would be meeting him later that afternoon.
“So how’s Anna?” I asked. That was safe territory. Anna is her friend we took on the RV trip this summer.
“She’s fine,” Nell said, offering that she misses us, meaning Nell’s sister and me. That made me feel good.
I warmed up to the topic of school.
“What’s going on in school? I’m sure geometry is easier now that you can understand the new teacher,” I ventured. Last week, the conversation was met with tears of frustration because she simply could not understand the teacher’s accent.
We talked about how accents can retrain your ear, like listening to music. Only geometry is hard enough to translate without having to interpret someone’s English on top of it, so she switched classes, even though it meant downgrading to a less intense curriculum. I commended her for making good choices and for caring about her grades.
Then there was her photography class. She especially likes the work of Sally Mann. Who knew she was giving a presentation on her at school?
We even discussed drinking, something kids her age do in the woods with liquor they steal from their parents cabinets.
That brought up one of our hugest fights in history when I texted her Twitterfacebookinstachatsnap friends back one night when my radar was up.
“My mom knows we were drinking in the woods!” I texted off Nell’s account. She forgot to log off which gave me something to do– read all their messages. Note: I have never read her diary nor would I. To me, online is not an invasion of privacy because there is no such thing as online privacy. That was my point. Once you hit the send button, it’s viral baby.
This event came after she ignored my calls on a Saturday night a few hours after going for pizza with friends in the village. None of them would answer my calls either. So I went looking for them.
The phone dinged back 15 times in a row. “Oh shit.” “Is she going to tell on us?” “I’m in huge trouble. My Mom’s gonna know I was in the woods.” “OMG! She does????” “How did she figure it out?” “I told you guys to pick up the phone.” “FML, I’m sooooo screwed.” “Shhhh. Not true.” How did she know?”
That’s when “Nell” texted back: “I’m drunk and my Mom smelled it.”
“But you don’t drink” came the text back. “You hate drinking.” “Whaaat?” “Who is this?” “Is this really Nell?” “This doesn’t sounds like you Nell.” “Stop texting to this person. It’s not Nell.”
BUSTED! By Mr. Laura!
Then I proceeded to text each of the parents to tell them what was going on.
It might be time to lock up your liquor cabinets. It seems some our darling preschoolers have now grown up into darling 10th graders who are stealing liquor from our houses and going into the woods to drink it. While I am certainly not telling you what to do—it’s your choice whether you want your kid to have access to your liquor- I am just notifying you that they were drinking in the woods on Saturday night. I posed as Nell on line to bust them. Some will say it is atrocious—that I invaded her privacy – but to my point, whatever you say online stays online and once you hit the little send button, it’s all public fodder—mine! I feel an important part of my job is to snoop on my kids. Thank God for the internet. It makes my job so much easier. I choose not to keep liquor, wine or beer in my house. And if I took any kind of prescription medication or even cough medicine, I would have it under lock and key. I would hate to have something bad happen on account of me. Thanks! Laura
While Nell was really, really mad at me, she learned an invaluable lesson: that I would stop at nothing to protect her and her friends. We settled on a new rule that night: If she didn’t call me back within 15 minutes, she was grounded for a week. She has not missed a call since. Also that I would trust her to make good decisions for herself and that she could always call me, no questions asked.
As she walked out the door to take the train into Manhattan yesterday, my beautiful 15-year-old daughter turned to me and said the six best words a parent can hear: “Thank you. I love you, Mom.”