1.16.2017

MY HELPLESS TEENAGE DAUGHTER





(a two minute video of the girl who needs to be everything)      

So far my hobby has been micro-managing my kids and as rewarding as that sounds, it feels like it should be just a part-time gig.

I don't know how other parents let their kids live their own lives -
you know...independently.

Currently I have a nineteen year old niece in England serving a mission, another young niece living in New York with her husband awaiting the birth of their first child any literal minute now.

Honestly, how did their moms let them go? personally I struggle.

Possibly my children just aren't ready to let go. (of me)
Possibly my children just aren't that capable. (without me)

My daughter Lauren turned nineteen a few months back. I felt an urgency to teach her everything she needed to know by then.

I even bluffed my way through everything I didn't know just to maintain a healthy respect for how much she thinks I know - ya know?

I often tell Lauren she doesn't deserve the social life I have created for her (always insuring her dependance on me).

But she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?
My helpless teenage daughter.



A few months ago, I helped Lauren get ready for her Senior Prom. Her date stood in the living room looking handsome and anxious as he made small talk with the baby. Lauren hustled around in the upstairs bathroom, applying the final touches in the mirror.
She looked amazing, stunning...perfect.

She was still frantically searching for the new lipstick she had bought for the occasion, a necessity according to the instagram account she follows.

Improvising, I ran down to the kitchen, passed the handsome Prom date, tossing my head back yelling "just one more minute!"

I rummaged through the kitchen junk drawer and returned to the bathroom with a red Sharpie permanent marker. Lauren's eyes widened and her hands thrown up in front stopping me as I approached.

She said "wait! mom!...are you sure?" Pssshh yes I coaxed...it's just like the professionals. In fact, I'm sure Kylie Jenner's Lip Kit is just Sharpies re-packaged.

Lauren reluctantly agreed to my experiment. I held back maniacal laughter as I outlined her lips with the red felt tip, filling them in with crimson. I had to remind myself that this wasn't Halloween but just the biggest day of her young life.

Looking at my handiwork I declared her perfect and sent her on her way.



She trusted me.

And I mean...yes the marker seeped into the cracks of her lips and she "claimed" that her lips were on fire...and well sure she had a pink stain on her teeth the rest of the night...
but honestly, the point is...the point here is that she trusted me.

She needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Lauren set out to do it all in life, she has a very active FOMO (fear of missing out) nurtured by yours truly. I babied along her FOMO by making sure she knew just how much she'd regret every little thing later in life - a very good mom thing to do, right?

The tour de force of her high school career came when she was put in charge of HFAN (Homeless For A Night) an annual all night school fundraiser. This gigantic service project was quite an undertaking for any high schooler, but I thought especially challenging for my helpless little Laur.

The night of HFAN came when a thousand or more high schoolers showed up to the event that Lauren had tweeted about, promoted and personally staked her reputation on.





I went to the school early that night expecting that Lauren would need some rescuing in some major way. There were sponsors for the night, $16,000 to raise and surprisingly there wasn't anything for me to do. Everything was handled.

While the band was setting up, I had a brilliant idea that Lauren should make a speech welcoming everyone. On a piece of paper I quickly wrote down a few notes for Lauren.

I made bullet points and instructions for her to talk about her personal journey etc. I even looked up inspirational quotes on my phone in the corner of the gym like some weirdo.

Amazingly I found Lauren in the crowd of high schoolers, she was just stepping up on the stage. I quickly grabbed her arm over by the gigantic speaker and told her what I was thinking. There's no way she heard or paid attention to anything I said, but I shoved the paper in her hand and shouted "just read it!"

Lauren held the paper, folded it in half and took the stage. I cringed for what would be almost sure embarrassment for her.



I stayed by the speakers ready to feed her lines when she stumbled. Instead she stood there with her trademark smile and squeaky voice, with a thousand or more of her peers looking at her and she simply spoke from her heart. Not once did she look at my notes.





I can only imagine how good her speech would've been with my quote from Celine Dion.
And see she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?


At the end of August, Lauren moved out with her friends to a cute little apartment. Yes she'd be back plenty of times, she was 17 minutes away - but there was just something tender about a daughter moving off to college (very aware of how silly that sounds.)

The morning Lauren moved out she was downstairs in her room carelessly throwing stuff in a laundry basket. She was listening to The 1975 and seemingly unaware that I was on the verge of sentimental tears.

Lauren made moving out look much easier than I had warned her it would be - darn her.
I was waiting for that moment that she'd get overwhelmed - Then I'd show her how to gracefully make the transition from a self-centered high-schooler....to a self-centered adult. She would appreciate me so much.

I totally thought I would sit with her on the carpet of her room, dry her tears and hand her the knick-knacks of her childhood to pack away. Remember that part in the book Ramona the Pest when Ramona wants to run away so her mom helps her pack up but during the process of packing Ramona realizes how much she loves and misses her mom? Yeah - that's what I was going for.

Just before noon I made us both a sandwich and stepped to the stairs to call her up for lunch. I was expecting her in a fragile state. I learned over the banister to yell for her but she was already walking up the stairs loaded with her belongings, dressed and ready for work.

I stammered, "uh Laur don't you need some help?" Nope I'm good, she replied. How much more do you have to do? I said. Nothing she said confidently, I'm done.

All done? What, how?...what about your work clothes? your clean sheets? your curling iron, what about your emotional breakdown?

Yep, all done she said taking a casual bite of her chicken salad sandwich and checking twitter.
I stood at the counter going through a verbal checklist of the things she still needed to do:
yep,
done,
got it,
did it yesterday,
doing it tomorrow,
don't need it,
already in the car - she recited hardly looking up from her phone.

The song Turn Turn Turn from the Byrds played in my head as I walked a step or two behind her out to her car. To everything TURN TURN TURN there is a season TURN TURN TURN, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

Lauren drove down the road and I walked back in the house to the up-stairs bathroom to wipe my tears and continue to be more dramatic in front of the mirror.

I stood looking at myself for a split second before realizing that at that moment I was in a large amount of pain.

Not emotional pain anymore...but real, biting, physical pain.
Intense, confusing pain and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from.

Finally my brain caught up with my senses and I looked down and registered that I was standing bare-footed on Lauren's hot curling wand that she let drop in the laundry pile,
still plugged in.

When I realized the source of the pain, I lifted my leg and literally had to peel the wand away from the bottom of my foot, peeling my flesh from the iron like a stuck fruit roll up.

And well, ya know...I got over missing Lauren super quick after that.
Not a whole lot of love lost that day.

Later that night with my foot bandaged and still experiencing waves of cold sweats and pain, I went over to see Lauren's Delta Omega Like Oh My Gosh Becky PHI GAMMA GAMMA sorority apartment for the first time.




Lauren welcomed me in and walked me through giving me the tour, motioning me forward and said brightly, "It's nice huh mom! You can hardly tell some guy used to cook meth here!"

See, she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Last Spring, Lauren was a contestant in the Miss Spanish Fork Pageant. It was all her, her idea - on her bucket list. I was witness to the real life blood sweat and tears involved in trying out for a pageant. It became more of a mother-daughter experience, for that I'll always be grateful.





                The night of the pageant came and went,
and in the end disappointment was handed to her to wear like a crown.



After it was all over and the consolation texts stopped coming in, I sat in the dark of our living room at 1:00 am waiting for Lauren to get out of the shower.

I knew she would need my final words of comfort before the night ended. I heard her heavy sobs coming from the shower while I sat alone on the couch.

She had put her most vulnerable self out there on the stage that night and the judges took a pass -
I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I felt guilty and defeated.



The water turned off and the shower door opened and closed. I braced and prepared for what I would say, practicing my words in the dark. This needed to be a moment of motherly greatness, magic words to make the hurt go away.

She walked in to the dark living room silhouetted in her soccer sweats with a towel wrapped up on her head. A fresh tear-stained face washed clean of all that heavy makeup...and yet still, she managed a smile. Lauren walked over to me, put her hands on my shoulders holding eye contact for a second and simply said, "Mom, I figured it out...I just wasn't what they were looking for..."

I stammered clearing my throat, ready with my prepared words of "there's a bigger plan for you" nonsense.
and she stopped me.
"Mom, mom listen...we read the job description wrong...that's it - that's all."

A long, heavy hug - then a quick cheerful "goodnight mama" and a kiss on my cheek. She walked down the stairs with the lights off, leaving her to find the way to her room in the dark. I stood there breathless for a minute, questioning.

See, she needed me, she needs me - What would she do without me?

Just days before Lauren's nineteenth birthday, I used a quick weekend run to Zion National Park as one final attempt of mother/daughter bonding before adulthood. I promised myself after that I'd be ready to turn her out to the cruel world to watch what she could do.

I chose to hike Angel's Landing, I wanted to show my girl that I can keep up, that she and I aren't that different -  she's just a little more Kayne and I'm just a little more Vanilla Ice.



I wondered if Lauren was having a hard time keeping up with me- she kept stopping and turning back and asking if I needed to sit down.

Around each switch back she'd say, "Mom, you don't look that good - we can take a break if you want - or mom, those people have gone all the way up and back down again...are you sure you want to do this?" . . .  I could tell she was just saying that because she wanted a break - so I rested (a lot) but it was for her, not for me.

(also, I hiked hoping to get cell-service. After hiking ifor a few hours in 100 degrees in late August, I easily justified the cost of calling medi-vac.)

My usual operating mode when in public with my children is to embarrass them 
(naturally, you nod.)
So each group of men, boys, young and old that would walk by I would say loudly; 
"hey, excuse me...my daughter thinks you're cute" or 
"excuse me, my daughter wants a picture with you"


One attempt to embarrass Laur backfired on me when she made quick friends with two German gents who invited her to join them in Germany for the rest of the summer.

This was working well for my amusement until at some point instead of being embarrassed Lauren went with it and started to respond to the strangers "sorry for my mom...it's my turn to babysit her."



We took our time and hiked at a slow pace (again for her, not for me of course) -

I told her stories of when I was her age, I told her how to talk to boys, how to avoid catty girls and not be a catty girl, I gave her the ever important, "sometimes he's just not that into you" talk. 

At the tip top of Angel's Landing I looked around and some young guy was asking Lauren for her number in a rain/wind storm on the edge of a cliff. Dang, I hadn't even prepared her for that scenario.




Later, Laur and I ate at a little pizza place in the park.
Lauren said, "Mom, do you mind if we drive back home tonight? I just have a little party to get to..."

I said "uh...yeah of course!...I um..uh I also have a super cool party to get too -
so I didn't want to stay anyway...
pshhhh wait, did you think I wanted to stay one more night?
ohhh no no no uh... I wanted to leave before you wanted to leave...."

On the drive home, Lauren fell asleep and I drove with a heavy mind till finally the overnight lights of Nephi were beginning to lay out in front of me.

The time to tell my girl everything she needed to know was running out. I was panicked - Had I said enough? I purposely turned off the music and casually rolled down the window for a quick second to "accidentally" wake her up a little.

She sat her chair up, stretched and asked where we were.
I told her almost home and she said, "this has been fun mom."

I fumbled around with chit chat hoping to lead up to the big life talks. I waited for her to ask me about boys and girlfriends and love and loss and and spiritual matters and my political opinions and when I think she should get married and how to know what to do with the rest of her life, and what she should wear for her date that Monday.

Instead she told me told me about the customer at work that everyone hates,
but she can always make him laugh.

She told me how she was going to ask for a raise at work,
that she wants to change her major and that she bought two weeks worth of groceries for $50.

She told me about the study abroad program she found,
how she discovered a quicker way to walk to her class- just 7 minutes in heels.

She said she wanted to start writing, to be just like her accounting professor
who wrote a book, then sold it back to the university.

Lauren wiped away tears as she told me about the people she missed
and how her life was a shadow of what it was before.

I deep sighed as we pulled off the exit to home.

Sadly, there were no lessons learned.
We didn't even get to the real big talks.
Someday she'll see how wise and put together I am.
Someday she'll become the capable person I know she is.

until then...Poor girl, she's so so helpless.

And I know she needs me,
but I also know, 
. . . she never needed me.


MY HELPLESS TEENAGE DAUGHTER

(a two minute video of the girl who needs to be everything)       So far my hobby has been micro-managing my kids and as rewardi...