What It Feels Like When Your Teen Pulls Away

My daughter sits at the kitchen island eating cake with a fork. There’s an empty bag of chips next to her laptop and she’s doing math homework. I ask her how it’s going even though I know she can barely hear me through her headphones.

She nods, which is teen speak for “good” and checks her phone the second it starts buzzing.

I start emptying the dishwasher and think about when she used to sit on the open door while I was emptying it. I’d be putting away the silverware and she’d crawl on the door, practically get inside the dishwasher because it was the only way she could reach the dishes to “help” me.

She wanted to be so close to me, she’d get into the dishwasher and grab serving platters, plates, and bowls she could barely carry just to be with her mama despite me telling her not to.

When your teen pulls away

We dyed her hair black the other day. As we stood in the bathroom mirror and I scrubbed the dark color into her hair, I looked at our reflection. She’s my height, has my nose (which she hates), and her hair was turning before our eyes.

It looked extra dark and chocolatey next to mine; when she was born we had the same color hair. She looked up and me and smiled, it passed through her mouth quickly but stayed in her eyes.

“Remember that Saturday night when you were 9 and I gave myself bangs, then you wanted them too?”

Translation: Remember when you used to want to be with me all the time and do everything I did and you thought I was amazing? I miss that.

Me reminiscing about our matching bangs annoyed her and she rolled her eyes and looked down, “Yes, Mom.”

I do that a lot lately; talk about the way things used to be between us and it gets on her nerves.

I need to back off. I keep telling myself I will then I am overcome with so much, too much, and I have to let it out because I want so much for her to know how much I miss “us.” It’s probably selfish on my part, but I’m the mom so it’s allowed.

She’s not the toddler who used to climb in the dishwasher. She’s not the little girl who wanted to have bangs because her mom did. She doesn’t daydream about borrowing all my clothes and shoes any longer and doesn’t run to me with jubilation in her voice about who her new best friend is and how she shared her blueberries with her at lunch.

I know she’s different; turning into a teenager changes people drastically. I know it and yet, I can’t quite let it go.

When you share a relationship with someone, be it your 9-year-old daughter, or a lifelong partner, when it shifts and changes, there is a cavity left, it feels bottomless and huge.

Yes, my daughter is still present every day but our relationship has changed and so in many ways, the relationship we once had is over.

I miss it and I miss her innocence. I wonder if we will share the closeness we used to when she used to say things to me like, “Mommy, I need some of your time.”

Last week we got our eyebrows waxed together. As I sat down with my head back getting hot wax slathered on my stray hairs, she grabbed my hand and said, “It stings, but it will look so good after.”

I grabbed her hand, maybe a little too tight and made it seem like it hurt a bit more than it did when the hair was getting pulled off my user lids so she wouldn’t let go.

These moments aren’t as frequent as they once were and when they happen, I get a nostalgic rush of when she was different and I was different. I want to take them in and wrap them around myself like a perfectly broken in sweatshirt. You always have memories but sometimes you want something more substantial to hang on to.

I experienced all these feelings with my oldest son when he changed and choose spending time with his friends over family parties and was too busy spending time alone in his room to have the desire to play card games with me. I somehow thought it would be easier the second time around but it’s not.

Being a mom means having a tight bond with your child and watching that change over time. It’s life’s normal and natural way of progressing so they can foster their independence and you can get used to your life without them living under your care.

But it doesn’t make it feel any better when you get mutters where long drawn-out explanations used to be. It doesn’t make you miss them wanting to emulate your hairstyle or the way you talk on the phone.

It just doesn’t.

About Katie BinghamSmith

Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine with her three kids. She is a Staff Writer at Scary Mommy, shoe addict and pays her kids to rub her feet. You can see more of her on Facebook and Instagram .

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