Monday, June 14, 2010
The joy of raising a teenager
When Eliya was a baby, I used to put my face very close to her face when she was asleep and check if she was breathing. Now, that she is almost fourteen, I have to pretend that I'm totally jaded about this thing that is my kid and learn to be totally ignored, unless, of course, she needs money, a ride somewhere, or food, preferably outside the home. (And a little bit of love - she asks to add to the list). However, last weekend while I was doing whatever I do on weekends, I suddenly realized that it was almost two o'clock in the afternoon and her bedroom door was still closed, and not a beep was coming from behind it. I got tensed. So what if she is almost fourteen; I still have to make sure she is alive, which is how I see my main role in her life- keeping the child alive! I went to check if she was breathing. Well, you guessed it. She was curled under her blanket in total teen oblivion, sleeping off a night drenched in Korean dramas and music videos.
She is definitely not my baby anymore.
This morning she graduated from eighth grade. It's a big deal in America, I found out recently. There are speeches and flowers, and the kids dress in their best and receive diplomas and kudos from the teachers. Some people even cry. Nothing like my experience back in the kibbutz. Not that I would expect her life to be similar to mine in any way. That would be harsh.
First thing in the morning I was told that I needed to dress up for the occasion. No black cargo pants, Ima, she said. Oh, well, I thought, in the past my Ima was the one who insisted that I dress up; now it is my daughter who acts as my fashion police. I put on a pair of dressy black pants and she approved. Welcome to my world!
She wore a new dress she got especially for her graduation and new sandals. Her toenails were painted puke green. She looked perfect. Exactly the way I would want my daughter to look on her eighth grade graduation day. She was going to give a speech after being elected by her classmates even though "she is not even one of the popular girls," she told me after texting me: "I had the best speech, I think I got the highest vote!!!!!" This is from a girl who wouldn't bother to text me a whole sentence if the house caught on fire.
She practiced giving her speech a few times at home. I coached her a little, telling her she needed to make sure she didn't swallow the sentences into one long word. I admired her determination to give a speech in front of so many people. She said she was not nervous, until two nights before graduation when she realized it was actually going to happen.
I got her Rescue Remedy. Some people may think it is witchcraft, but my position is that the earlier you get her on the alternative stuff, there is a better chance she will not turn to prescription drugs later on for every little headache. But I didn't tell her any of that. I just got the black currant flavored ones and gave them to her and told her they would help to keep her cool.
She aced her speech. People laughed at all the right places. She paused when they laughed, showing great sense for timing. She looked up, smiled, and continued speaking as if every day she does this kind of thing. And with a straight face she said she might be a senator one day. I am not kidding you.
People came afterward and told me she was great. Someone said she gave the best speech at the graduation. It felt good to hear good things about my daughter. People say in these occasions stuff like, "you should be proud of her." For a moment I wanted to go to her and say, "I am so proud of you," but I never really understood what it meant. What does it mean to be proud of someone else? And in any case, pride is supposed to be a bad thing, so how can I be proud of my daughter and come across as doing something good? It just never made sense. I can be happy for her for making a good impression on other people, or pulling something like this off without breaking a sweat (although someone later discovered the rescue remedy and claimed that I drugged my daughter... and that was why she did so well), but how can I be proud of her?
I guess what I am trying to say is that I am really proud of myself for raising a really cool kid who makes me look good with so little effort on my part.