Being 17 is ridiculous and stupid and brilliant and heartbreaking.
It’s wearing too-short skirts and baggy flannels over tube tops. It’s heavy eyeliner and going to Indie concerts, it’s ghosting that mean girl on snapchat, and crying for weeks because your boyfriend broke up with you anyway. It’s hating your hair and loving Netflix, twelve hours straight. It’s making a profile on Tinder and deleting it three hours later because your best friend’s brother swiped right. Creeper.
Midnight in San Francisco, and I’m sitting in my over-sized suburban SUV, parked in front of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Waiting.
Hannah is inside with her friends, crunching or grinding, or whatever it is they do these days, screaming loud for a band called 1975.
She’s 17, my little girl.
Doors swing open and hundreds of fans spill onto the street. Drunk people, scantily clad people, dancing people, making-out people, all kinds of young people parading into the city streets, squeezing onto sidewalks and into cars. Heading home.
Hannah and her friends, they get into my car, smelling like weed and cigarettes, and that concert sweat that glistens from all-night dancing in the pit. Eyeliner smeared and smoky, all of them laughing and story-telling so loud it hurts my menopausal bones.
This is the Best Part of Parenting.
OMG they were so a-mazing OMG that song tho I just can’t OMG! Windows down, freeway rush, blasting their smartphones with tinny-sounding replays, all of them singing at the top of their lungs.
And suddenly it feels like every other carpool run. Swim practice, dance auditions, late night sleepovers. Listening in on who they are becoming, hands on the wheel, don’t say a word.
And somehow, sitting next to me, she is 17, and 16, and 15…
She is 14, walking invisible with her super-neutral backpack into freshman year
She is 12, dancing ballet in the Nutcracker for the first time, beaming
She is 9, celebrating big with her Amazing Race Birthday party, feeling cool
She is 8, screaming out tears, body folding into herself, mom and dad splitting up
She is 6, carving pumpkins over piles of old newspaper, up to her shoulders in pulp and seeds
She is 5, stomping into Kindergarten with her bright red cowboy boots, and Minnie Mouse lunchbox
She is 3, tripping on the asphalt in her salt water taffy sandals, knocking loose her two front teeth
She is 1, scrunched up on my lap with her old-man face, and a furrowed brow, still bald at 12 months.
17 years, smashed together so fast it hurts.
Because these moments are far and few between for me now. My daughters drive themselves most places. Show up home and they’ve already eaten dinner with friends. They tell me when they’re out of shampoo. Out of gas. Out of chia seeds and almond milk, because sometimes they’re vegan.
Now, I’m the filler-upper.
Turns out, this is what parenting feels like for most of the teenage years. They push through the front door with their worries and excitements and frustrations, or a whole lot of don’t talk to me . . . Ever.
Being 17 is coming home depleted, exhausted from trying on the world, learning who they want to become. They take everything they’ve got and spend it all, in random places with unpredictable people.
So at 50, I get primed and pumped with an afternoon nap and a double espresso so I can do the midnight pickup shift. I drive them to wherever. I pay attention when they walk in the front door. I keep making street tacos for dinner, with fresh guacamole and chips so we can sit around the table together and talk about anything.
Being a parent is showing up and standing calm, ready to be their filler-upper.
So don’t give up. You’ve already survived thousands of sleepless nights, a living room full of fisher-price plastic furniture, endless hours of ER drama and broken bones, middle-school hygiene arguments, and everyone’s period on the same damn week. Keep going. This is family.
Here’s to you and me, and filling up our 17’s and our 3’s and all the love in between. To late pickups in the city, chocolate cake after midnight, and always saying yes to carpool.
If you’re anything like me, you like your coffee with heavy cream, your margaritas on the rocks, and the last six months feels like a permanent lock-in on a Tilt-A-Whirl Carnival Ride in a bad Jodie Foster film from the 70’s, and the kid next to you keeps throwing up in your hair.
Charlottesville to Barcelona to Boston to Phoenix.
TiKI torches are reclaiming their brand.
Tina Fey is eating sheet cake.
Everyone from Teen Vogue to Good Housekeeping is bleeding political commentary, and my Twitter addiction is escalating.
Here’s what I’m learning about myself:
If staying informed isn’t helping me love others, it isn’t helping.
Last week, I spent the day with my mom who will be 78 next month. She has lost her ability to read, to remember things, to sustain a conversation. She had a stroke 7 months ago, and I still can’t begin to understand the day-to-day adjustments my dad has had to make. Married over 50 years, this is love.
So, while our nation is pushing further and further into crisis, we took slow walks and talked about the weather. Repeatedly. We swept the patio, we cooked small meals and washed the dishes. We trimmed our nails and watched a pair of red dragonflies chase each other across the pond. We drove into town to share burgers and fries. We sat in the sun and complained about the heat.
The day was slow and seemingly inconsequential.
Because this is love in the mini-plains of our nation.
It is in our homes and in classrooms and in grocery stores; it’s in office break rooms and board rooms; it’s on the road letting others go first, making meals for friends who are weary, reading stories to our children so they can rest against our bodies and know they are safe.
Shock and disbelief aren’t the endgame. Mourning and repentance, anger and outrage, self-righteous indignation, these can’t sustain the hours of the day.
Isaiah 58 says it’s not about wearing sackcloth and ashes, it’s not about placing our face to the ground; it’s about rising up and working on behalf of the poor, the broken, the hungry, the oppressed. If you pray, pray before the dawn hits the sky. If you fast, fast quietly and show up ready to work.
Wherever you scroll: Twitter. CNN. Fox. NPR. SNL. Facebook. Washington Post. New York Times. Snapchat. MSNBC. Wall Street Journal. The Daily Show. TMZ. BBC. No matter.
I need to let it go. Or use it to love better. To listen to voices that aren’t mine, to pay attention to the vulnerabilities and fears and injustice across state lines. To learn how to stand up and step out, how to show up on behalf of others.
So let’s block out time this weekend to rest. To snuggle up and watch a film that makes you laugh, to lighten the pressure, to make pancakes in the morning while the sunrise brings hope. To show up on Monday, ready to love.
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice . . . to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood…”
[Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash ]
It’s the dead of winter, people. Happy New Year.
The days are short and dark, our families have drained our energies in the name of Love and Tradition. The trees stand bare, the rabid squirrels are foraging, until the frost finally comes to kill any last bit of life that might be holding on.
We sit with our hangovers, untagging ourselves across Facebook, sipping our gingerbread lattes, and we sit. We Think. We Ponder. We try to change our entire lives while we wait for Spring. We commit to vegetarian stew; freezing cold runs up the mountain; ridiculous hours of grace-based parenting. We sign up at the gym, we give up our weekends to being unplugged and pretend-reading other people’s books.
Maybe New Year’s Resolutions are only intended to get us through the barren, forsaken season of winter; to keep us breathing & moving forward until Spring.
And THIS, my dear friends, is when I like to celebrate the New Year. A few weeks beyond Easter, the food-coma lifts and spring officially arrives. The rains let up, and everything turns glorious green, and happiness returns to my neighborhood. The days get longer, the sun is brighter, the air is warmer.
So this year, I say write your resolutions. And hold them dearly as the tightrope that can bring you through the end of Winter and propel you into Spring with a few successes under your belt. Agree to press forward for the next 8-10 weeks. Hit the gym. Eat the stew. And when the first day of Spring arrives, release yourself from the hook. Remember that those resolutions were written by a crazy, sleep-deprived person in the dead of winter.
Come Spring, enjoy a non-holiday-inspired coffee, and make a new plan. Good things will happen when it’s not so damn cold out. I promise.
My love jugs have been screened every year since I turned 36 years old. Which, coincidentally was the last time I wore a bikini in public.
Paper gown, opened to the front.
Lead apron, wrapped loosely around the waist.
Florescent lights, poured abundantly over pale skin.
Vanity be damned.
“Turn a little to the left, dear.” The technician presses her palm against my ribs and slides my breast upward onto the cold, glass plate. Her face stands two inches from mine, while my tiny pink nipples stand at attention, freezing and pointy, waiting.
She lowers the top glass, creates a formidable vice grip, and presses my sexy little orbs slowly but surely, until they’re smashed flat. Thinner than an iPhone 5.
“And hold….” Exhale. Switch.
I get it, the mammogram part. Early detection is the key, they say repeatedly.
But why, exactly, are we checking for cancer by using a machine that causes cancer? You know, the whole marie-curie-died-from-inventing-radiation thing?
Solution: Lead Apron
Clearly, to protect us from the culminating damage those “small bits” of radiation have caused, from Airport Scanners to Dental XRays to CT Scans. How thoughtful.
But a skirt? Seriously? Apparently, my Menopausal Lady Parts are in high demand in the wide world of modern medicine. Along with my belly fat, jello thighs, and flabby moon cheeks.
Thanks to the lead skirt: All protected.
What about my brain? Or my luscious lips, or tired retinas, or sun-damaged face, or vocal chords for that matter? If given the choice for lead-based apparel, I’d choose a full-face ski mask with a turtleneck dickie. Who needs reproductive lady parts at my age? I need brain cells. I need supple facial skin and full lips and eyes that stay in my head. I need a heart that pumps steady, and lungs that take in as much oxygen as my little aging body can handle.
I need to be able to walk into a room and smile grand, to throw my head back with a full head of hair cascading down my back, and laugh like it’s oxygen, to plump my lips and bat my eyes. I’m a woman for crying out loud. A woman, incidentally, who is finished having babies.
I’m not complaining. Women’s lives are saved everyday by mammograms.
I just want to choose my protective apparel. A thick lead helmet would be nice. Maybe a lead face mask. A nice lead dickie that covers my upper respiratory system. Is that too much to ask?
Let’s do this.