Friday, February 28, 2014

Negotiations and love songs

A few days ago, while I was visiting a friend, my phone sang out with Earbaby's distinctive ring. This was unusual since EB (and every other teenager on the planet) would always rather text than talk. So hearing the first words from John Mayer's Daughters, instead of the incessant chatter from a shrill minion excitedly saying "it's your daughter," which is what I hear when she sends a text, meant only one thing: There's mischief and a negotiation afoot.

EB has been warned about my disdain for long arguments and conversations via texts. So I knew this actual voice phone call without a text first meant she had changed her plans about coming straight home from school that afternoon.

And so begins the communications with a teenager. These days I feel like I'm living in a Paul Simon album. And it really does speak to the songs in his 1988 compliation of songs from 1971-1986. Mother and Child Reunion -- my life every school day afternoon. This is a text that comes with a short "Pick me up at ..." fill in train station or at the school. Horrors if she actually has to ride the public transportation all. the. way. home!

The titles of some of this album's songs all could be talking about her Bipolar Barbie mood swings, depending on the day, the hour, and whether the word "no" has passed my lips. Have a Good Time, is what we say to the back of her head as she heads off to another (expensive) adventure with her friends and Late in the Evening is when her dad has to drive across town to pick her up. And that pickup most times involves multiple dropoffs. We're convinced either no other parent on the planet drives, or she tells everyone she knows that we run a free taxi service.

Slip Slidin' Away feels like our lives as she grows up and away from us, taking with her our Hearts and Bones.

But back to those negotiations: This time, EB wanted to go out to late lunch (?) with her friends. She had no money, but decided to go anyway. Our negotiations are almost always about time, that is, when they're not about (my) money.

"OK, mom? I'm going to Olive Garden and I'll be home by 5." "No, you have to be back by 4, so you can get ready for dance and I can get to work on time." "OK, I'll see you about 4:45, I'll have plenty of time." "No, you won't. The train is going to be late and I have things I have to get done, so I don't want to have to come and get you." "OK, I'll be home by 4:30." "Fine." "Thanks, madre. I love you."

Now, this auctioneer's conversation happens weekly, if not daily. It's all about time management. She has no perspective on how long it will take her to get across town or how much longer to get ready. She is still surprised that the trains and buses run late, that traffic makes everything grind to a halt, and excuses don't feed the bulldog.

So she negotiates, begs, whines, cajoles and eventually we come to the middle of the road. It's a bit like haggling. You know where you want to end up, but you never start there.

EB's dilemmas are what I've told her are "first world problems." They involve meltdowns because she can't go to the mall, or buy those shoes she sooooo wants, or needs to get her nails done, or her eyebrows threaded, now.

My husband and I are both amused and exasperated by this person, who can be so loving and giving and gentle (she babysits a toddler and is incredibly sweet and patient with her) and then become a tasmanian devil if she isn't allowed to go to a function for two hours because she has another obligation in three hours and the time will get away from her.

As I hum 50 Ways to Leave your Lover, I have to think about how many hours I will spend sitting in a car, listening for the Train in the Distance. Yet throughout every negotiation, which definitely makes me Still Crazy After All These Years, I know that she still Loves me like a Rock. And there's Something So Right in that.

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