The most memorable conversations I have had with my children are in that time when we are snuggling right before they fall asleep. In that time when they are half way between conscious and subconscious, I get all the dirt and all the magic.They have told me all sorts of things. I have heard secrets about school friends, who has a crush on whom. I have learned from them what was going on right before they were born; right before my oldest daughter, Emma, decided to join us, she says she was in a kind of spirit world. I learned that our neighbor was going through “poverty” and had started to wear a training bra. At this one, I had to hold all my energy. I wanted so badly to laugh. I was blown away, so charmed.
When Emma was little, I was a single mom. When these magical moments would happen, they were ours and ours alone. I was young and didn’t have a lot of mom friends. I was making my way in the world, with her as my partner, and we were a team. We still are, in so many ways. She’s 19 and I don’t get to snuggle her to sleep as often. Nowadays, she often tucks us in when she gets home from her out and about time. She is more lucid these days than when she was 8 and falling asleep, but she comes in to our bed, snuggles in and divulges secrets, heart thoughts, fears. If, at 6PM (on the rare day we see her at that time), I ask her how her day went, the answer is pretty curt. When she choses to join us on the couch, in bed, on the toilet while I shower late at night, on her terms, she shares. We learn about all kinds of things...school, boys, girls, Tinder. Being the parent of a child for so long, longer than I was a child myself, continues to stretch my knowledge base, my comfort zone. When my youngest opts to only eat white food for 4 years, I know she’ll grow out of it, as Emma did. But, how do I navigate social media, college, adulthood? I have no clue. We have honestly just been winging it.
I feel like I am parenting a child-- a person in fact-- somewhere in the zone between the conscious and subconscious of adulthood. The growth a person does between 18-22 years old is big stuff, the fetal years of adulthood, when they are still supported by the home but free (and legal, which is really scary) to explore a little more broadly out of the sandbox. Life after high school, starting college, being in the workplace with adults, traveling alone, all of these experiences available to my child, my adult child. The world is open to her. This is where all the work I did, all the broken record reminders to say thank you, clean up after yourself, don’t be late, stay humble…. all those little parental offerings are tested. And then there is the memory of my life at that time, the need to not project what I was or wasn’t doing. This one’s really hard.
But, here’s what I have discovered so far. My 19 year old is far more like her 9 year old self, the person she was before estrogen entered the picture and the angst of middle school took over. She’s back from that place she disappeared to for awhile, adolescence. She is thoughtful again, she does not seem to know as much as she professed to know at 16, there is a touch more attractive humility there. The sweatpants with words on the butt have been replaced and the dresses are back (worn with chunky boots...so 90’s). She likes to eat the meals I cook (maybe because they are free), help in the kitchen from time to time with a curiosity that seemed to disappear with puberty and return as adolescence departs. I love watching Girls with her, arguing about 2nd and 3rd wave feminist theory and eating sushi with chopsticks. We talk about rape, war, Urban Outfitters and the stock market. She teaches me new terms like “raw dog” and then corrects my use of it when I mess up. For example: “I think I’m gonna go raw dog it today and skip the sun hat, Em, what do you think?” The scrambled egg spewed all over the table with the loud guffaw is enough to let me know I should not incorporate the phrase into my vernacular. And, thanks to Emma, I now have an Instagram and have learned the etiquette of not “clogging the feed”.
I’m realizing adult children are the gift you get after all the years of investing in your little ones. It is amazing. And, it is far more lasting than all the years of childhood. She’ll be an adult the rest of her life and I get to share in that. As scary as it is to learn about all the firsts and as hard as I find it to bite my tongue and hold back my unnecessary feedback, the emotional ride is worth it. I would not trade it for anything.
As a parent, ushering my child beyond adolescence and into adulthood has been like moving from a state of subconscious to conscious parenting . I felt the same way when my baby slept through the night for the first time. It was the same feeling when she first walked and I realized the bouncy seat was a thing of the past. When she read Harry Potter on her own for the first time and a whole new possibility of self-entertainment emerged, things shifted again. It has happened over and over for me as a parent, different milestones where the veil has lifted and I have moved out of one phase and on to the next. I feel like we are moving out of adolescence and into… geez I guess the 20-somethings. I’m sure she’ll teach me the latest term for it. My oldest, she’s the guide, and for that I am forever grateful.
PS...Emma gave me her permission to publish this and she even contributed the images.
PSS… Thanks for having me! I know I’m not alone in saying how excited I will be to welcome Amanda back.
PSSS...If you want to stay in touch, John and I write weekly during the harvest season and sporadically through the winter on our blog and, thanks to Emma, we’re on Instagram as @johnnybroadturn and @broadturn_farm