So tonight Grace went to a dance at her Middle School. She is really enjoying her 7th grade experience and I am so glad. I am thrilled that she has friends and she seems well liked. She gets involved and is gaining confidence and independence. All is well - apart from the fact that being 12 is a mental health issue in and of itself.
She is like most 12-year-olds - past and present - who for a season cannot find any peace with the fact they inhabit the same planet their parents inhabit. There is no reaching her. Her dad and I are the catalysts for all the insanity. Were it not for the fact that we breathe the same air, she would be fine - but our mere presence keeps her in a constant state of high anxiety that we might commit the slightest faux pax and reveal to the entire universe that her parents are incurable dorks. You'd think we were Ma and Pa Kettle on the farm. In overalls. With fingers in our noses. Farting.
If we are at the mall, she walks about 5 steps ahead of us - close enough that we won't embarrass her by calling out for her to slow down but far enough away that we won't embarrass her by being directly associated with her at a glance.
She prefer I not speak directly to her friends unless I clear exactly what I am going to say ahead of time. She is so afraid I will ask them if they get good grades or take drugs or just say something stupid like "what are you interested in?" that she prefer I just remain mute. At least until they get to know me a little better and won't judge her by my fuddy-duddiness. (Oh and see? There I go - saying "fuddy duddy" instead of "lame". Its just so -- lame!")
Last week, we attended a mother/daughter function where we had to learn a hip-hop dance. Now you need to know that I loathe all things hip-hop, I have no interest in being able to dance to it, or look good doing it. But I went. Because we are part of a group that signed up for it and because maybe it would be some silly fun. (I'll bet "silly" is on the endless list of lame words I shouldn't use...) Anyway, while all the girls did a respectable job, all but one of the moms were terrible and we nearly wet our pants laughing at ourselves. Still, I paid attention and asked the choreographer questions because, well, why the hell not? If she was going to ask me to do something, it seemed reasonable that I might ask her how. Uh oh. Should have checked with Grace.
When the class was over I asked if she had fun. "Well, sort of", she replied. "You were embarrassing".
"Embarrassing?!?! In a room full of women who were tripping all over themselves, how was I the single embarrassing mom?"
"They were hilarious because they were just goofing around. You were seriously trying."
"Seriously. I was trying. That's what you thought. Like, I thought I was going to be a successful hip-hop dancer. Like I thought I would look good. You are out of your mind."
"Yeah. You kept asking questions and watching yourself in the mirror. You were trying. You were embarrassing."
Yes, my daughter is mentally ill.
So back to the dance. Naturally she needed a ride to the school. So at 6:40 she walked into the living room and asked who was taking her. After both Bob and I waited for the other one to volunteer, we agreed to both go. This was met with stress-filled resistance. I immediately knew the reason. If we both went, she would have to sit in the back. Which is so embarrassing. On the way there, we were instructed to pick her up where we usually do after school - across the street (where our exposure would be minimal). Driving into the school parking lot we saw that we had arrived a full 10 minutes early. With panic in her voice we were instructed to park in the unlit lot and wait with her because she didn't want to be early (something I can honestly relate to). But soon, we were interested in finding out whether the crosswalk lights worked after school hours so Bob commenced to moving the car to the front of the school, where it was lit and other parents were parked , so he could get out of the car and test them.
"No!! Stop! Park the car right now! Don't pull up in front! Stop, dad! I mean it! Stop the car! Right now! Why aren't you listening to me???? Stop it, dad! You're such a jerk! I don't want you to pull up in front. Why are you doing this??"
And the moment he finally stopped the car - in front - the back door flew open and out she bolted without so much as a "good-bye". Clearly, of the two embarrassments presented to her - being early to the dance or being seen in the back seat of a car with her parents - the lesser of the two evils was the former.
I am way beyond taking this personally. This is the fourth time I have been through it after all. But it is amusing insanity she suffers from. The idea that somehow, if she is careful, by keeping us silent and out of sight, she might convince her friends that we don't exist at all. They might think she lives alone in the house on the hill.
Now don't get the wrong idea. She loves me now more than ever. I come home from work and she throws her arms around me and wants to cuddle. She calls me into her room to talk about "personal things". With a little coaxing, she will even confide in me. Its just that she can't take me out in public.
Who knew? I've been saying it since I was 12.