My daughter turns 14 this Sunday. Fourteen is not necessarily some milestone birthday. I mean its not 13, its not 16, its not 18 or 21. It’s just 14. But its not. For some reason this particular birthday is causing me to reflect and be nostalgic and a bit sad. She’s such a person now. With all the good and bad that comes with that…a REAL PERSON. She has opinions & grit & sarcasm & kindness & sassiness & determination & attitude & a deep, way-too-young understanding of the world. Shit.

I lost several pregnancies before I had Maddie. Several pregnancies that were far into term. It sucked. Turns out I had a blood clotting disorder. Once it was discovered then taking blood thinners during my pregnancy resulted in a very healthy baby- SCORE! I wanted her so badly. I never knew how badly I wanted her until she was here. Now there are days I’d like her to go FAR FAR away. The joys of teen-hood.

But in all honestly I like my kids so much better now than a few years ago. I was not a fun person to be around when I had 2 toddlers. The noise, snot, bodily fluids, screaming, tantrums and lack of sleep were just too much. And that was all me! The kids weren’t easy either.

I do, however, truly appreciate those years. It felt like I lived in a little world where only me & my kids existed. Day in and day out was ultimately just about survival. For all three of us. Maddie was my buddy. We talked a lot. I missed adult conversation since I was a stay at home Mom and so I’d just talk to her as if she were an adult. We watched CNN together & talked about big stuff. I never allowed Barney in my house. NEVER. Hated that purple dinosaur. I just was not a great “baby” Mom. Don’t judge. Survival man- it was all about survival.

And then they got old.

And I like them better. I am more suited to parenting teens I think. My sarcasm, lack of empathy and repulsion to poop lend to older kids. And my kids get it. Especially Maddie. There are times I want to wring her neck. She’s so damn opinionated and strong-willed and sarcastic and funny and smarter than me (sometimes). Its so frustrating. And then I realize- holy crap she’s me! Well ain’t Karma a bitch. Im sure Karen Ellis is laughing & I know wherever my Dad is that he gets the irony. I caused some serious distress to my parents for a few years there. And the apple and the tree and the falling….I get it.

Along with all of the “bad” she got from me she also got the “good”. A lot of that good is from her Dad- definitely the smarts. Im no dummy but he’s like serious smart. Like what-the-hell-was-he-thinking-marrying-me-smart. So glad she’ll most likely pass Algebra and Chemistry. But I passed on some good too: The hard-headedness, the sarcasm, the thick skin, the lack of sensitivity, the over-thinking, the obsession with making things right for those that have been “un-righted”, a love for Buddha, a disdain for brussel sprouts and unfairness, a need to be on time, a love for music (thats a big one). OK did I say “good” things. Maybe all of those things aren’t considered good but its cool to see a little bit of yourself in your kids. Its weird. And good.

I hope she is more than me. I hope she is smarter than me. I hope she makes better decisions than I did. I hope she is more successful than me. I hope she doesn’t have any trouble having children if she wants them because that just sucks. I wish as we all do that I could put a bubble around her and protect her from pain. From boys and broken hearts. From financial worries. From disappointment. From people who will let her down. But I can’t. And I shouldn’t.

My approach and philosophy to parenting is certainly not conventional. I probably let them watch things they shouldn’t. I cuss a lot. In front of them. Always have. I fight with their Dad in front of them. And apologize in front of them. I don’t cook well. I don’t save them from school stuff- they forget their assignment then they get a zero. I explained the birds & the bees when they were very young. I’ve always talked about sex, drugs, whatever, as if it were ok to talk about. These little people did not come with a manual. Sometimes Im just winging it and crossing my fingers. Im in awe of all you parents who have your shit together.

Funny thing is they both are turning out pretty normal. Whatever that means. Andy is so sweet to me and hugs me and is so affectionate and such a huge pain in my ass. Maddie is….amazing. Im in awe of her talents academically, musically and artistically. She can make me want to stab my eyes out one day and make me beam with pride the next. She’s smart as a whip and she’s going to rule the world one day. Either that or ride a bus to Berkeley with a guy named Moonbeam and live off of the Earth. Either way I’ll worry. And be proud.

Fourteen. In a few years she’ll be driving & I shudder at what that means. The freedom that comes with that. All I can do is hope I have not ruined her too much, that therapy won’t be too expensive and that she’s kind to me in her memoir. Its so amazingly cool bringing life into the world. Its even more amazing watching it become a person. Proud of my little person. Happy Birthday Madelyn Renee.


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