I look up to you as you stand, not quite a head taller than I am. You, with your hairy legs, deep voice and man feet.
You are adamant that you go to this party. That you know the rules. That you are wise in your own mind and heart.
I can still see a bit of the scar. That hurt is nothing compared to what will happen if there is drinking at this party and you get in a car with a driver who has downed a few. Or try some new drug I probably don’t even know the name of because it seems there is a new one some teen has overdosed on every day.
You have chosen your clothes carefully, although no one but me will know this. They won’t be able to tell that your ripped t-shirt is actually the one you feel is coolest. It looks like you don’t care. But you care a lot. This I know.
You were never quick to answer anyone. You absorbed the words as if they were to be chewed upon, pausing and making people pause also, wondering if you had heard them. Will you do the same if you are asked to do something that could hurt you? Will they take your hesitation as acquiescence?
You chafe at my rules, as you should. You are of the age that this resistance is required, really. Test your limits. Push boundaries. But please, not on the big stuff. Argue with me about an extra 30 minutes on curfew but don’t do what that man child did a few years ago at the school across town. Killed himself unwittingly through an addiction he thought he would be immune to, as so many do.
You always learned by doing. “No show me, Mommy. Me do.” Your mantra whether I was holding a hammer or putting dinner into the oven. You cannot figure this one out by doing, kiddo. The doing will hurt you in a way I cannot fix.
“Will there be girls at the party?” I ask, not sure if I’m asking hopefully or with apprehension.
“Why wasn’t I asked to any birthday parties this year?” your seven-year-old self asked me. No tears, just a wondering in your eyes. And then, realization. I watched your heart break a little through the window of your eyes. Girls can be fickle, Sweets. They break hearts a whole lot worse than being among the uninvited to a birthday party.
And so we negotiate. The drop-off, the curfew, the code word you will use if this party is more than just an innocent night out for a group of teens.
And my heart breaks a little as you go. Because yours will break a little, or a lot, in ways I cannot predict or save you from as you traverse growing up. As you mature into that voice, those feet, I will have to watch.
I have never liked watching your heart break. But I’d be a sorry excuse for a mother if I didn’t let it happen in the natural course of things.
Your heart may break. But you will not. If I’ve done my job right. I say this to myself and yet admit I have no control over every single outcome. A realization any wise parent comes to at a certain point as children spread their wings.
The alternative is to keep your wings clipped.