My daughter is a Russian spy. I get nothing: no info, no names, no places, no events, nothing. My job as parent is that much harder because of this.
Presently, I am involved in a stand off – a one-sided stand off. The stand off has been brewing since the fall, but officially began sometime in May. She will not acknowledge my presence, nor speak to me. She is in her room, door closed. She comes out for water, for food, to shower and sometimes for better wi-fi. I would call in back up if I even knew whom to call. My husband has no handle on this one. Nor, it seems, do I.
I remain consistent, loving and ‘there’ for her, but not overdone, desperately trying to listen more and talk less. I am keeping a relatively low profile, for me, but this is only in attempt to lure her back in. So far, it is not working, though she has random moments when she forgets that she “hates” me. She will come home from an evening out with friends, open the front door and announce herself in a loud, happy voice “Hiiiiii.” Immediately it is clear that she has blown her cover. She storms past me to her room. This will run its course, I think, but she is tough. She may be my toughest opponent yet. She is 17 and the youngest of our four children.
Her high school graduation was nearing. I had searched for a present that would have meaning for both of us, something I had hoped she would like and have forever. I found a necklace: a delicate gold chain with a small gold hammered oval and the words, “I love you” impressed upon it. It seemed perfect, as we did not exchange these words enough. I wrote a note telling her it reminded me of the necklace my mother gave me. She knows my necklace and why it is so meaningful to me. My mother and I did not usually see eye to eye, but there was always love. I left the gift on her pillow the night before graduation, when she was out. That was June. I have never seen her wear it. I believe this to be a critical strategy in the stand off.
The story may begin here. Her first request came in October (these kids plan ahead). We were sitting in the living room. She came in and began.
“My friend Max,”
(Max? Max who?, never heard of him, never met him, don’t know his parents)
“is 18 and has signed a lease for a house on Nantucket for a week in August.”
(signed a lease?! what landlord rents to a high school senior?! What 18 yr.old rents a house?! What parents let this happen?! and all on Nantucket! we can’t even afford a week on Nantucket!)
“All my friends are going. The house is divided: boys on one side, girls on the other.”
My husband and I were amazed at the divided house detail.
She continued. “I was wondering if I could go?”
We delivered our answer, in unison and fairly quickly. “No.” Short and simple, “no.”
She tried to engage us in a discussion of the injustice of it all and how her older brother had been allowed to go to Nantucket at her age . This was true, but he was visiting 2 of his guy friends for 3 days. (We believed him). We have gotten smarter. She went on about how we never let her do anything and how everyone else’s parents were letting them go. We told her we did not like to say no, but we simply could not say yes to this. We had to be true to ourselves. We also told her (stupidly) that we parented each of our four children differently. We admitted (shamefully) that we were even somewhat sexist, allowing our son to do things that we may not allow our daughter to do…Yes, we actually said that.
More unkind words were launched. (After that admission on our part, can you blame her outrage?). We told her that being disrespectful was “not acceptable.” I always hated that ‘unacceptable’ retort; it just sounds arrogant, as if I should be saying it with a proper English accent. I only use it because it’s concise and helps keep my ‘disengage’ M.O. in check. Our teenage daughter, in a house with 20 other teens, on an island, was not happening, period.
Why was it okay for our teenage son to do this 2 years earlier? Even worse, the entire time she is asking us, I have flashed back 37 years and have a freeze frame visual of my 17-year-old self in a pink skirt, floral shirt, smoking a cigarette on the balcony of a Holiday Inn in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida! I have flown there for spring break with 6 girl friends. We are hanging out at the Holiday Inn awaiting the arrival of our 10 guy friends. They are driving, caravan style, from NY to FL. Yes, I was 17, a senior in high school, spending spring break in Ft.Lauderdale. Florida with 6 friends and NO parental supervision. I stayed in a hotel with girls on one side (one room) and boys on the other (the rooms next door).
I transported myself back to present time where I sat in the living room staring at my daughter. I wondered how I was even allowed to be a parent and a parent saying “no.” The world is truly not fair. I also decided then that I would make sure my yearbooks were under lock and key and anyone who remotely knew me from age 13 on, would not ever be allowed to speak to my children without my being present. This information was going to the grave.
My daughter took a deep breath, stomped away, shouting how she hated us, was going to college and never coming back. Though we have heard this before from our other children, the words still stung. Her first attempt to get to Nantucket would not be her last. She is a relentless Russian spy. She’d work on us more, break us down, somehow, some way.
Fast-forward 8 months: it is July and we should have written a song about this as we could have been singing it each day since October. It has been almost a theme song. As predicted, the Nantucket request has surfaced once a month and lately once a week. Neither side has had anything different or more persuasive to say. It is the same conversation, almost verbatim (sans our mention of parenting differently or being sexist). We do learn, albeit, slowly.
Today is July 31st and there is a blue moon. Will the stand off be over tomorrow, or does it continue for the Nantucket rental period? Do I still have 7 more days of this? Will this go on until we drive her to college in 3 weeks? Will I drop her off without receiving a hug and a kiss and “I love you mom”? I am feeling the preciousness, transience and importance of this time. What do I do? What can I do? I have moments that subtly drape me as I feel a sadness I can’t describe. Now, as I write, realizing she is leaving, I have tears.
I have been tough too. I feel that now. She will be off soon.
My phone pings. I receive a text from our older daughter. She is with her younger sister, the Russian spy. She writes: “btw, Sarah is wearing her necklace. Delete this.”