My 21 year-old daughter was home from college for 21 days. I know, because I counted before she came. Like so many situations in my undiagnosed but surely diagnosable OCD-ruled life, I find if I count, it helps me get through the task. For instance, when I do laundry I count every article of clothing as I fold it. When I reach 10, the pile goes in the basket. When I do my morning power walk, I used to count my steps, knowing that when I hit 6000, I’d gone far enough. To break my stride, my husband bought me an iPod for Christmas. I now count how many songs it takes to get around the block.
I love my daughter. It’s one of those non-negotiables of parenthood. But, we do get on each other’s nerves. She says I chew too loudly. I say she eats too much cheese. She accuses me of being too dramatic. I accuse her of being a hypochondriac. The clanging of my bangle bracelets irritates her. The way she squeezes the toothpaste makes me cringe. She tells me to relax and stop worrying about the mess. I can’t get in her room while she’s home, that’s how messy it is.
On the other hand, we are each other’s confidantes. It would have taken a million dollars or multiple tortures for me to tell my mother the tales my daughter has told me. She asks for my advice and pretends to think I’m ridiculous. But I know she listens. I ask for hers and do the same.
I should never have been given a girl to raise. I do 90 percent of my shopping online to avoid the malls. Proms are just one more day I have to get through. The fashion fairy flew right past me. And I think all boys deserve a second chance.
My poor daughter. She should have been born to a calm and caring yoga mom. One who loved to prepare family dinners with a smile regardless if no one showed up. One who could do arts and crafts at the kitchen table without worrying about sequins dropping on the floor. One who actually wanted to curl up on the couch with her and the Kardashians.
My daughter deserved better.
But we’re both who we are and we’re all we’ve got in the mother-daughter department.
Something changed this visit. Around Day 16, I realized we hadn’t had any of our typical temperamental trysts. I even tried to provoke her by chewing with my mouth open but she engaged me in conversation rather than sticking her fingers in her ears. She tried to bait me by telling me she would sleep “wherever” after the John Mayer concert in Brooklyn and I told her to have a good time.
When Day 21 rolled around and she was loading her car with an inordinate amount of stuff after refusing breakfast, I kept my mouth shut. But as she headed out into the monsoon for the 511-mile drive back to school, I took a chance.
“I love you, Molly!” I screamed.
“I love you, Mom!” she yelled back.
And for the first time in a long time, I think she may have meant it.