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Push. Pull.

Push. Pull.

By Mir Kamin

There’s only four months left until graduation. Seven months left until she leaves.

I said I’m excited. It was true then; it’s still true, now. But it’s so soon. It’s a door on the horizon, and we’re almost there.

What does a “normal” kid go through in 18 years? That’s an entire childhood, even on an uncomplicated trajectory. What do “normal” mothers and daughters go through, together, in that time? I don’t have a good basis for comparison. I only have us.

I have good years and hard years and murky years and years I wasn’t sure we’d both live through, and then just-like-that I have now, which makes the rest of it feel like not just a different chapter, but perhaps a different book altogether. This story, this one happening here and now, no longer feels high-stakes or terrifying. It is, I suspect, a common tale of mother and daughter on the brink of change. It is unremarkable. It is normal. It is ours.

It is punctuated by pulling together and pushing away, and it is always a surprise when the system heats up from friction, even though that is, after all, how the system works.

Pull: “Mom. Mama. MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIR! Do you wanna—” watch Neflix with me, go shopping with me, look at this thing I made, color with me, help me with this problem, cuddle? We laugh and laugh, most of the time.

Push: “Can I—” have friends over, go out with friends, stay out late, go by myself, handle this on my own, make this big decision, just be left alone? I say yes, almost always. As much as I can. Our time together is dwindling and I know I need to bless those new wings of hers, over and over. I really am thrilled, most of the time. Go! Have a life! You’ve earned this time; enjoy it.

It works, until those moments when it doesn’t. “Sorry, cancel your plans. You said you’d do your chores and you didn’t.”

“But I have time to do them before I go!”

“That’s not how this works. I’m tired of chasing you to get it done.”

From there, things devolve.

Push: It’s disrespectful to tell me you’ll do it and then not. It’s disrespectful to leave messes around when you live with other people. I don’t want your roommates next year to hate you; you have to learn to clean up after yourself.

Push: But I was going to! And I didn’t hear you! And you’re being ridiculous. Also thanks for just making me feel crappy, mother of the year. It’s not going to get anything done but at least I feel bad now.

Push: I’m not trying to make you feel bad, I’m trying to make you considerate. But thanks for saying that makes me terrible.

Push: I just meant… ugh. Never MIND.

We face off, me still holding a tiny shred of power, already unsure of whether this is too much, or not enough, or what. Our tempers flare in tandem. Apple and tree, no doubt. Time—far less time than we used to need—cools us down.

Pull: It’s fine, I’m coming straight home, I’ll take care of it.

Pull: I’m sorry about your plans. You can throw me under the bus. Tell your friends your mother is being unreasonable and is also a jerk.

Pull: Do you need help with that?

Pull: Why don’t you see if you can reschedule for tomorrow? They can come here, if you want.

As quickly as the heat rose, it’s gone again.

Chores get done. And she disappears, for hours, busy with her friends and other parts of her world which don’t include me. I resist the urge to knock on her door. I do my own thing, while she does hers, and try not to overreact when I get a hug out of nowhere. Play it cool, and all that.

She is lovely and perfect and maddening and unfinished and I am going to miss her so, so much. I already miss her, I realize. When I say “You’re grounded because you didn’t do your chores,” I wonder if she knows it’s because I can’t say “You’re not ready, not yet, don’t leave me until I’m positive you’ll be okay without me. Until I’m positive I’ll be okay without you.”

She’ll be 18 in three months. She’ll graduate in four months. She’ll be gone in seven months. My oldest. My only daughter. The one who walked through fire and came out even stronger.

Push. Pull. Let go.

About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Lauren

    January 20, 2016 at 8:50 am

    “Bless her wings” OH MAN THAT SLAYED ME.

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      January 20, 2016 at 8:51 am

      This whole post slayed me. I always feel so privileged that I get a first look at Mir’s writing here.

      • Mir Kamin

        January 20, 2016 at 1:21 pm

        STAHP. Both of you.

        (But thank you. I suck at accepting compliments but thank you for your kindness.)

  • Flic

    January 20, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I wish I’d had a mother like you. I’m so envious of the lucky girls who get to have such an amazing mother.
    You’ve done a fabulous job, and both your kids are such a credit to you.

  • I’m always behind | Woulda Coulda Shoulda

    January 20, 2016 at 9:24 am

    […] I listen?” or maybe “How do I make it more bearable?” You’re welcome to read more on Alpha Mom, but fair warning, it’s a little sappy. I’m sorry. We can always go back to talking […]

  • Jean

    January 20, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Excuse me I have something in my eye…..

    What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. She is quite the young woman 🙂

  • Mom24_4evermom

    January 20, 2016 at 9:53 am

    A friend once told me they’re so obnoxious between graduation and when they go that you’re *almost* ready for them to leave. Not completely true, but elements of truth to be sure.

    I completely understand where you’re at. I’ve had two go, it is so hard to be sure, yet I am so happy for you too. You’ve both worked so hard to get here. You give me something to hold on to.

  • Jodie

    January 20, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Oh jeez, far too early, far too pregnant and without enough coffee to read this first thing in the am.  This should be required reading for any mom embarking on teen-dom with a daughter.

  • js

    January 20, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Ah, damn it. You got me. I’m not ready, either! I’ve been reading for so long, I can’t help but feel pride and happiness for you both while clutching my girl closer.

  • jennifer

    January 20, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Have you ever listened to Amy Rigby’s song “Don’t Ever Change”? I think you might like it.

    beautiful post, as usual.

  • Jan

    January 20, 2016 at 2:17 pm


    And mine is only 11.  I am dead when her time comes around.  Dead, I tell you.

  • dad

    January 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    A wonderful post for anyone that’s been a parent or had one.

    My only daughter flew the coop a few years back and even though she continues to heap pride in my direction, I must admit…I’m still not ready.

  • Brigitte

    January 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    (T0T) *cry!*

  • Leigh

    January 20, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Beautifully described! My older daughter is a college freshman this year and you explained senior year perfectly. Btw the pulling might get a little stronger right before she leaves. Then it should get easier for both of you – an amazing new normal develops.

  • TH

    January 20, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I can’t speak for an entire 18 years… as for the senior year, this is totally “normal”. Like you I live in GA. I also have a senior girl along with a freshman boy. When I read your blogs sometimes it feels like I wrote the post myself. I needed this one today. Today was a “push” day for us. You give me comfort I am not alone in these happy/sad days of knowing the inevitable will be here in a few months.

  • JMH

    January 21, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Totally bookmarking this for later…I have a freshman and I am realizing how fast high school goes…Thanks for sharing

  • TC

    February 3, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    The missing. It’s like childbirth. Everyone TELLS you it will hurt. And then …. whoa. It F*#@ING HURTS. SO MUCH. In a beautiful, wonderful, ohmygodImadethat way. Which doesn’t lessen the pain at all.