Thursday, December 04, 2008


The womanchild called me today. She was absolutely miserable. She's in the middle of finals. She's had bronchitis for two months and feels like she might be developing pneumonia. Her cough has ceased being productive. Her fever has spiked, her energy has bottomed out, and she feels like she's been run over by a truck. She's also as irritable as she can be, and once again, I was her favorite target.

Our doctor has moved to another office and has been difficult to reach for a few days. After several efforts, I got through and got a couple of her prescriptions called in. I also set her an appointment for Saturday, the earliest she could be seen. I picked up her prescriptions and drove 45 minutes to bring her the medicine, choosing to miss a party to do so. She said she didn't have enough money to buy cough medicine, so I brought her an old but still good prescription cough syrup that she had not finished from an earlier illness. On the phone, we planned to go to the ER tonight.

When I got there tonight, I found out that she changed her mind about going to the ER. She refused to wait the hours it would take. She also wasn't going to risk not being able to go to a fraternity formal tomorrow night and said that she wouldn't be going to the doctor on Saturday because she couldn't get up that early after the formal. The reason she doesn't have any money (despite having more in the bank than I do now) is that she's saving for another tattoo. I left grinding my teeth.

I came home and put my wine in the fridge, an inexpensive but pleasant pinot grigio. It's helped me keep a sense of perspective. The womanchild is 18 now. She's legally an adult. She can vote. She bought her own car. She's responsible for her own auto insurance. She has a job for her spending money and received an almost full scholarship for tuition, dormitory and books. She's also not taking care of herself, acting like a kid and taking it out on me.

A friend of mine with a 22 year old daughter and I have been discussing some stuff that we've both been reading about adolescence. It's beginning earlier and ending later. Some even say that adolescence is lasting until the late twenties. Others have proposed that there is a new phase of development covering the twenties that's been termed emerging adulthood.

Among my friends' families, my child is about the youngest. She's definitely the most dramatic, but we've all seen this ongoing adolescent angst. Our kids want to look like adults sooner and act like them later than we ever imagined possible. Saying that makes me feel like a seriously cranky, old fart.

I see myself at the stage of parenthood where I can lend a hand, but the womanchild has to handle things on her own for the most part. Letting her do that is both harder and easier than I imagined. Some days, I can just say, "Hah! She's learning." Other days, I'm still rushing in like a cavalry whose weapons include nagging. ("Did you make your doctor's appointment? You need to call and reschedule that. Have you been taking your medicine? Would you like me to take care of some of that laundry? Are you eating right? No, you don't look like you're gaining weight.") I haven't found my way through it yet, and if the theories about adolescence lasting longer are correct, the next decade will include a lot more wine.



Blogger emmapeelDallas said...

I had to smile, reading this, because OH have I been there. A friend whose children are just beginning this long journey (one is 13, the other 15) said it well: "So long as I have a little something to SIP on, I'll make it through" (and she was referring to wine). It does help!

December 05, 2008 12:42 AM  
Blogger sunflowerkat321 said...

Boy you speak a world of truth here. My oldest is 21 and still needs way too much help from mommy and daddy. I hadn't heard about the "emerging adult" phase but it sounds accurate. Considering the way things are (economy in particular), it's going to be harder for these kids to really get launched. I wonder how my daughter is ever going to fully support herself.

Yet, the longer we extend help the longer they're going to ask for it. As hard as it is, we have to pull the safety net out from under them to get them to take responsibility for themselves.

December 05, 2008 4:13 PM  
Blogger Nelle said...

Boy could I relate to this. My son is thirty now and still making decisions at times that make me want to pull my hair out. Instead I just try to be thankful we are living under different roofs and pray that God will take care of him and give him some smarts. :)
It's unfortunate you are going through this NOW but I do find that a glass of wine is sometimes the rx that I need!

December 05, 2008 5:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

My mother-in-law summed it up beautifully. She'd say "When they are little your children step on your toes, when they are grown they step on your heart." So, true. What a shame you couldn't just jank her up by the arm and drag her into the doctors. Bubba is nineteen and makes me extremely proud and also has me wondering what planet he fell from at the same time.

December 06, 2008 10:13 AM  
Blogger Jul said...


I know it's tough with an adult teen. Those words should never go together, but unfortunately they do. I apparently gave birth to C's little sister. My C is a mirror image of your C from everything I've read from you in the past two years.

All we can do is our best, which I think we have, and sit back and let them learn, allow them to fall and once in a while come to the rescue, but not so often that they expect it.

So from one target to another, I raise my wine glass to you. Keep the faith.


December 06, 2008 6:31 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Great post. Our 20 year old lives at home while in school full time child left the house at 3:30 am to get Sonic last night. It took everything we had not to tell him no. He knows nothing good happens out at night after midnight, but was hungry. He knew the risks. Damn it's hard not to coddle them, isn't it?

December 07, 2008 2:52 PM  

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