I went shopping with my 18-year-old daughter before she left for college. I was rapping loudly to a Drake song on the radio and grunting on the words I didn't know, which were most of the words. For some reason she seemed tense—slinking down in her seat with her head in her hands and white-knuckling her phone.
To be fair, she WAS feeling tense and torn about leaving for school. She lamented leaving the local Boyfriend (BF), but she was downright giddy anticipating liberation from "tyrannical" parents whose worst offense was occasionally asking where she was at 1 a.m.
At that point in her life she wavered between "I love you" and "Leave me alone."
But that's normal, right? They say it's God’s way of helping moms let go.
On the way to the mall, we stopped at my friend's house and talked in her yard. A friendly cat without a collar sauntered up and my daughter petted it while we chatted.
We got back in the car, and I figured I should probably use our rare, precious girl-time to ask how she felt about college and life and to weasel out of her how she truly felt about BF.
"How do I FEEL?" she asked, clinging tightly to her aloofness. "Mom, I just want . . . to jump out of the car." (She really didn't say that last part, but the eyes are the windows into the soul).
She tweeted to her constituency,
"Captive in SUV. Please advise."
Delighted by our bonding, I smiled at her and noticed her face was beet-red and her eyes looked like the morning after I drank too much celebrating the NEGATIVE line on my pregnancy test last month an errant fly ball hit me in the eye at a Cardinals game.
"Oh, this is just GREAT! She's allergic to the freaking cat! It's always SOMETHING with her,” I thought, distraught with motherly concern.
“Last month she had Mono for gosh sakes.
WOW, that's really welting up. She should take a selfie.
Crap, now I'm gonna have to take her to the doctor, and that's really gonna cut into my happy hour."
She asked me to stop for Benadryl so I guess between that and showing her how to stop her nosebleeds with a tampon, I'd taught her SOMETHING through the years.
After the Benadryl kicked in, we had a good time at the "Cheap-Clothes-For-Cheap-Girls" store where we waded through hootchie clothes. She tried on a bright, beautiful sweater, and I said "NO" in all caps because "it's cheap and made of acrylic . . .
and it has a future full of lint balls."
She frowned for a second because she wanted to buy it (ME to buy it), but she placed it back on the rack because she knew I was right.
It was then I realized I may have taught my teenager something else — it may be what everyone's wearing, it may make you feel confident, and it may feel good on your body and against your skin. But it's cheap. And it won't last long.
In a few short weeks she would be on her own. Had I spent enough time teaching her how tempting cheap substitutes can be in real life?
Especially when he feels tailor-made for you and he makes you feel good and his breath is hot and fast on your neck? And when no one will know he's a cheap substitute but you?
I'm old, but I know things. Because I've endured my share of lint balls.
Maybe through the years, our time "just shopping" was more than that. Maybe by osmosis, I accidentally taught her not to settle for second-best.
I knew she'd be fine on her own at college. She's got a good head on her shoulders, she knows how to treat an allergy and a bloody nose, and she knows acrylic from cashmere.
As long as she doesn't pet any strays.