I am floundering. I am a rudderless, drifting, bewildered ship in a raging, stormy, turbulent sea of teenage. The turbulence is not constant, mind you. There are many, many moments of blue sky, sunshine and gentle breeze. But then, all of a sudden, the storm comes unannounced and leaves me spent, exhausted and very sad.
Some nights, after a particularly exasperating argument over the usage of electronic device or some form of distorted truth that I was told, the sadness in my heart is almost palpable. I don’t recognize this stranger. Yet when I brush the hair off her sleeping face and plant a kiss on her forehead, I fall in love all over again. There is a phrase in Bengali,
Sneha nimnogami. (Love, like water, flows downwards).
Parents feel it. Sneho is indeed nimnogami.
As I watch her sleeping face, I see traces of the five-year old girl, who we uprooted from the land of her birth, India, and planted in the soil of USA.
We moved to this house when Sahana was 5 years old. We gave away all our earthly possessions except our clothes and my books and moved thousands of miles in exactly seven duffel bags. Sahana gave away all her toys to an AIDS hospice and came away with one stuffed toy and some books. When we found this house and camped in due to lack of furniture, little Sahana was left with a very sick mommy, one stuffed toy, some books, a new, unfamiliar house and her imagination. We moved in the summer of 2004 when the obnoxious cicadas were out in full force. Sahana was convinced there was a giant cicada with big, red eyes in the basement of this house. She was afraid to leave my side. I stayed in bed the first few months of my second pregnancy. The simple act of opening my eyes was too much of an effort. I remember Sahana prodding me every fifteen minute or so ‘Mama, are you done sleeping? Can you get up now?’ We were literally joined at the hips.
Slowly but surely the glue that stuck her to me started diluting. I could feel her loosening the grip. These days she is most comfortable in her space, buried in her books, her writing and lately, her device. Life is full of friends, frolic, fear, apprehension, silliness, laughter and yes, some unexplained tears too. Although I understand her need for space, it would be a lie if I say that this aloofness doesn’t bother me at all. It does. I once asked a friend, who was getting ready to send her daughter to college, ‘How does it feel to send your child out into the world?’ She told me, ‘When your time comes to send her on her way, you will be ready. They themselves make you ready for the separation. Don’t worry!’ Can’t say I believed her then. But I believe her now. My daughter is helping me get ready to let go of her hands. As I watch her slowly try out her wings, she writes this letter to me on my birthday:
…..so thanks for bearing with us as we learn how to stand on our own two feet. That’s parenting. Once we learn to stand on our own, you can let go of our hands. You can stop chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning and all sorts of housework, and just focus on you and Dad. That is, if either of you have the ability to sit down without napping. Or you still have a house left after both Ryan and my college tuitions! Yikes!
What I said about letting go, Mommy? Don’t. Hold my hand tighter than ever!’
Her last line beautifully captures the paradox of teenage. Give me space to grow, don’t crowd me in. I am ready to fly. Yet, hold on to me. Don’t let me fall. The world is exciting, intoxicating, yes. But it is a bit scary too. I need you still.
We are holding on….