When Tenley was in kindergarten, her school held a “Christmas store” where items were sold at prices very friendly to children. The kids created lists of who they wanted to buy for and when they went to the store, they could cover several family members with $10 (including gift wrapping). When I picked Tenley up from after school the day of her “shopping” trip, she couldn’t wait to share the gift she had bought me. (When my husband is anywhere around, we get lectures about how gift opening should be saved for the actual holiday, yada yada yada.) He’s the only family member who feels that way. Even he would have been won over by her enthusiasm that day. She was so proud to introduce the bluebird of happiness into my life, and was anxious to know whether or not I loved it (I did and I do). He lit on my desk and has been there for nine years:
I rarely write directly about my teenager, because I think she would equate being written about with the feeling she had when I was at the Springtime Tallahassee post-race party a few years ago and started doing the electric slide in public. Ugh. That incident was a few years ago but I guess it was just a little taste of what was to come.
When I was trying to decide what graphic to use when I blogged about the mother/teenager dynamic, the bluebird came to mind. The comparisons are obvious (to me): I see it and her every day, both are beautiful and unique; I have sentimental feelings for the bird and the kid; the bluebird doesn’t talk and the teenager doesn’t talk much (to me — peers are a different story!). I am rapidly becoming accustomed to one-word answers (when I get them at all), and I am sad. It is as if the bluebird of happiness has been jailed:
Things came to a head this week when she “unfriended” me on Facebook. For some reason, I started thinking, gee I haven’t seen any status updates from Tenley for a while, so I typed her name into the search bar and got Tenley Studio, a hair salon in Tenleytown (Washington DC) that I am a “fan” of just because I like their name. I wasn’t thinking hair that day, though, I was thinking flesh and blood — MINE.
So instead of playing my cards close to my vest and letting things play out (which would have given me more options) I immedately sent a friend request with a sarcastic comment along the lines of “thanks for unfriending me.” And I proceeded to mope. It felt like a breakup. I felt sad, betrayed, and powerless. Over the next few hours I was thinking “ultimatum,” as in “make me your ‘friend’ again or lose your computer and phone.” I had told my husband about this but asked him to not bring it up to her when he saw her at pickup. When she got home that night I proceeded to give her the silent treatment (very mature behavior for a 45 year old!) and while she was chattering away about the good things in her life I was doing the cold shoulder routine. When she finally asked what was wrong, I told her, and she said, “remember I told you Facebook was acting funny?” I said, “Oh so you didn’t unfriend me?” and she said, “Yeah, actually I did. It was weird having my mom as my friend.”
When Tenley and I attended the mother daughter luncheon at my mother in law’s church today, Barb mentioned what a nice valentine one of my older nieces had sent her. I remember about six years ago, when that same niece arrived at the mother daughter luncheon with a distinct “attitude” vibe. I couldn’t believe the change that had come over this young woman. I smugly thought, “that’ll never happen to me.” At the time, my standing in my daughter’s life was still decent. It’s my turn now to be surprised by a girl who looks the same but acts teenager-y. Here’s a picture from this year’s luncheon:
Right now, the bluebird is holding the paperwork down in my in basket.
I am a first-time parent of a teenager grieving the loss of years of easy communication that brought me great joy and helped me let go of some old baggage from my childhood. Through her actions (and my reactions), I am being reminded that Tenley has her own work to do now, work that I can’t see her through.
When I researched “the bluebird of happiness,” I discovered a vendor that specializes in them, Terra Studios. In describing the manufacturing process, Terra Studios describes the pure white Northwestern Arkansas sand that is used to make the glass for each bird, and how the blue color comes from adding black copper oxide to the molten glass.
The mother/daughter situation feels pretty “molten” lately. I guess the process of raising another human being is going to be fraught with “fiery” moments. I imagine once the craftsman finishes adding the copper oxide, the bird has to be left alone to take shape.
Hopefully the takeaway for me is to know that all of this “heat” leads to a beautiful product in the long run.
In the meantime, it looks like there’s a “friend” spot open on Facebook!
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.