Due to some high school orientation activities, as well as her oral surgery, Ruby’s annual summer trip to St. Louis was later than usual this year.
She normally spends all of June and July with her father and his family, and every year, I don’t really worry about her while she’s gone but I do miss her terribly.
This year is different. This year, I am worried about her and I won’t miss her much at all.
Because while she has technically been a teenager for awhile now, it’s only in the past few months that she has really become a teenager.
In the years past, while she’s been gone, I’ve texted her silly memes, sent her photos from home, and surprised her every few days with some kind of small gift (stickers, goofy T-shirts, art supplies).
Now I won’t bother because I know that such overtures would be met with rolled eyes and annoyance. The text messages get ignored. The stickers are babyish. The T-shirts, just by virtue of being purchased by me, are too lame to even be worn in the privacy of home.
Last year, the first year after she came out as a lesbian, I sent her a Pride-themed present for every day of June, which is Pride Month: a rainbow water bottle, a graphic novel about Harvey Milk and the pride flag, a T-shirt that said, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and I’m like, ‘Go away! I’m gay!’”
This year, she asked if I was planning to do that again.
“Sure,” I said. “I had so much fun finding stuff to send you last year. I’d be happy to do it again.”
She gave an exaggerated shrug. “That’s not what I meant,” she said. “I was asking if you were going to do it again so I could just have the money you were planning to spend instead.”
“Oh,” I said.
That’s how it goes lately. I’m invisible unless she wants a ride or food or money, and when I’m not invisible, I irritate her just by existing.
It’s pretty crappy, to be honest, but I know it’s a normal phase, and this too shall pass.
But I’m also more worried about her than ever before. Is she sleeping enough or is she up too late on TikTok? Is she eating enough or is she trying to diet without my knowing about it even though she is already a healthy weight? Is she happy with her friends or is she being bullied and/or bullying someone on Snapchat?
I know she’s in good hands with her dad and his family, but I still feel so helpless with her out from under my roof. I’m always a worrier, but I worry even more when I can’t just pop my head in and see her with my own eyes.
And yet I won’t miss the attitude. The closed bedroom door. The constant driving around town to pick up or drop off various friends.
I miss her, yes. But missing her while she is in St. Louis is somehow easier than missing her when she is sitting right in front of me, texting her friends and ignoring me.
The little girl who used to be my best friend is gone. I know that one day in the future, this short-tempered teenager with dramatic eyeliner and ripped tights will be gone, too, replaced by, I can only hope, a young woman who will be my best friend again. But right now isn’t fun.
Do any of my older, wiser friends have advice for how to survive the teen years with your sanity intact?