Parenting is crazy. It's a constant test of your abilities to "cope", to "go with the flow", and to "deal with it". From when they are tiny, vulnerable, helpless infants who can't tell you what they want, why they won't stop crying, and where it hurts, to the teen years when they won't stop telling you what they want, they still won't stop crying, and you want to tell THEM where it hurts, it's a minefield of the unexpected, sometimes-unsolveable ISSUE. And it seems the test is never over, you've never really passed it, or graduated. It just keeps getting harder until you feel like you're in AP Parenting and every day is the final exam.
Over the years I have learned that freaking out doesn't work. At least in the case of my only child. No matter how egregious her behavior, no matter how much I have a right to freak out, no matter how righteous, justified and downright good it feels to freak out, the hard truth is...it makes it worse. So, forced against the wall, with my regular arsenal of reason and authority made useless - I am forced to adapt. And adapt I must, every day, with every new mine I inadvertently step on.
Yesterday I found out she had a tattoo. We were sitting in the doctor's waiting room, which is the longest we've sat together in about a year, and I looked down at her hands holding her phone, and saw it. A small sun tattoo on her finger. It was blue like a real tattoo, and a little blurry like it was home made, or done in prison. Not prison, I admonished myself. Don't go crazy. I forced myself to calm down. I pointed at the fuzzy little blue tattoo and whispered, "for real?" just to make certain it wasn't a henna tattoo or something, and she laughed sheepishly, blushing bright pink, and said, "Yeah mom, I thought you'd seen it before!" Um, no.
But really, what can I do about it? Honestly, she is almost 18 years old. It's her life, it's her finger. I do worry that whoever did it might not have had the most sterile instruments in the world, but that ship has sailed, so all I said was "wow."
Then I laughingly told her the story of how her dad's tattoos were first exposed to his mother. He had quite a few by then, but had always covered them with sleeves and socks, until the day his young son ran up and pushed up his sleeve, baring a large band of tattooed barbed wire to his mother. I guess I'm just glad it wasn't my daughter's young child that outed her tattoo to me. And I'm glad it's not barbed wire.
After the doctor appointment and the tattoo discovery, we drove home and she talked of wanting to take an Au Pair job in Europe for a year before going to college. That seizure feeling came over me again. Um...ok....I try to be practical, breathing calmly. Let's do some research when we get home.
I'm so familiar by now with that kind of terrible sensation of shock and dismay (you want to go to a music festival?! You want to get your nose pierced?! You're wearing the skirt that's so short your butt shows?!) - it's a sickening feeling in your stomach that swirls as you try to find some emotional place to hold on to while you're processing it, and then there is the crisis-calm that comes over you as you figure out the baby steps it will take to deal with it. I've done it so many times over the last almost-18 years, I've got really big parenting muscles. I'm ripped. The only trouble is, I'm ready to get out of the parent gym now, and relax awhile in my empty-nester comfortable pants. I wouldn't mind if those muscles went to flab at this point. But the idea of my tattooed child with a too-short skirt Au Pairing her way across Europe doesn't feel like relief.
C'est la vie I suppose. It's my fault for enrolling her in a french school when she was in kindergarten. But studying abroad for a year in my college days was one of the most meaningful experiences of my entire life, so why wouldn't it be for her? It might be the thing that makes her not want more tattoos, wear her skirts longer, and grow up just a little bit more so I can put down the parenting weights and cancel my gym membership, and make some new discoveries. Some discoveries of a different kind - nice ones. Un-stressful ones. Discoveries of how clean my kitchen and bathroom can be, how quiet my house can be, how relaxed I can feel. Ahhhhhh. We're nearly there. xoxoxo DR