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  • Lijing Cobb

Regret

My 10yo no longer allows me to kiss her in public. In the morning when I walk her down our driveway to her bus stop, as soon as the bus makes the last stop before us and is about 15 seconds away, too far for anyone already inside the bus to see what’s going on, she would hurry me to give her a hug and a kiss, and then stands just slightly apart from me until the bus gets to us. Every Sunday when we take our skating lessons in the same ice arena, as soon as she finishes putting her skates on, she would go away and not say a word to me until we are done skating. While my 9yo and 7yo hold my hand as we practice and wait for our lessons, she is with the rest of the crowd, always gliding away from me.


I’ve teased her a few times about this, but I didn’t know how much it bothered me. Yesterday the whole family went out to dinner, and I casually brought the subject up. My 10yo sat to my left, and my husband to my right. I was “complaining” to my husband that our 10yo was withdrawing her affection from me. Before I knew what was happening, I blurted out these words:


“Don’t be mean to your own mother. You know I don’t have a mother anymore. I can’t be nice to her anymore. I wish every day that I’d been nice to her when she was alive. You never know what would happen. You could lose me tomorrow. You don’t want to have regrets like this.”

I was sobbing. My husband rubbed my arm to comfort me. My 7yo looked over to me, alarmed, and raised her right thumb in a question and mouthed “OK?” in concern, and I nodded in return. My 10yo pushed her fingers around her eyes and leaned her head back in her chair, heaved a few agitated sighs while my husband continued to flesh out my “point,” but didn’t say anything.


While we were driving to the restaurant, our three kids sat in the back row and my 10yo was playing with a little fluffy toy that didn’t look much like anything. At some point she was so amused by the nonsensical story she was telling about the toy that she called my attention and tried to share her amusement with me. While she demonstrated her storyline, both my husband and I were puzzled, since what we heard made no sense and was not funny to us at all, yet all the kids guffawed and hooted as if what she was saying was the most ingenious thing they’d ever heard.


Ah, generation gap.

Out of the restaurant, we walked the minute back to our car, and my 10yo jumped on my husband’s back to be carried back. “What would you do if any of your friends saw you now?” I mused out loud to my daughter. She laughed and did not move from her perch. A child again. While she’d already outgrown my shoes, can wear most of my clothing, and can lift me up easily, she can still take a ride on her father’s back and relax in her childhood. She will probably always think that her father is strong enough to carry her, but not her mother…


At the end of the day I went into her room to say good night. She was securely wrapped in her comforter and all settled in for the night. Right in front of her bed she’d finally folded all the laundry she’d been needing to fold for 5 days, and now the empty hamper was towering over her bed astride the bedside stool with her journal and iPod inside it. I fussed with the nonsensical set up to take the hamper out of her room, and my daughter protested in a made-up language. She does this when she’s not happy with what I’m doing to her space, but she knows that my reason would probably trump her reason in the end.


On Saturday, when she had the opportunity to sleep in, she chose to get up at 6 o’clock so that she could go to work with my husband. My husband is in animal care, my daughter loves animals, simple as that. By the time she finished and sat down for dinner, she’d been working for about 11 hours.


While working with her father, my 10yo is competent, independent, and helpful, at home she finds herself reckoning with what I want/expect her to do all day: keep her room clean (man this girl takes after her father!); be the adult to her siblings and yet not too domineering; practice her instrument; take care of her dogs; stay away from electronics; be active and not read all day. Working with her father allows her to be more grownup than she is; staying at home she’s confined in her role as a child.


In 2 months and 1 week she will be 11 and an enigma if I don’t crack the code now. Although I asked her to be nicer to me yesterday, I know that if I really want to get closer to her again, I’d have to put in the work. I was 11 once, but it’ll take her 34 years to be where I am today, so it is unfair for me to expect her to understand and appreciate my perspective just yet. One day she will, but the magical thing is that I can already understand and appreciate hers to a certain degree.


When she showed me her nonsensical toy yesterday and asked me what it was, I took a casual glance and ventured my guess, “is it a butthole?” The kids burst out laughing. It was by no means a guess I would bet my life on, but I had a feeling that it would make my kids laugh. I could turn it on and be silly with my kids every day if I wanted to. I understand what makes them tick, even though I choose not to be one of the kids all the time.


Every morning when my 10yo’s alarm goes off at 6am, she walks out of her room in her pjs, makes a right, and sits her 84lbs down in my lap. Most of the time the computer is on and I’m in the middle of writing. While she lets me hug her, her eyes are always glued to the screen. Sometimes I turn my chair around so that she can’t see the words on the screen just to say good morning to her. She’s not necessarily interested in reading everything I have to say right now, but maybe one day she will. Maybe one day when her child is 10yo and she’s meeting with the same “issues,” she’d chance upon this blog and remember something. Maybe a spark would fly. Maybe we’d reconnect then.


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