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.