Urgh. Exhaustion is the word of the day here, and I’m spending all my energy working at bucking the urge to tuck up on the chesterfield with my knitting (and maybe go card some things sideways) with tea and the tv. I should probably just give in, since all I’m really managing is to gather my self up and go sit at my desk, not work at my desk, and if I’m not working anyway, maybe knitting and drinking tea while I’m not working would be more pleasant than sitting at my desk not working while feeling badly about not working. (Clearly working is right out.)
I’ll gather myself up in a bit and bake a cake for my wee Sam, who celebrates her 15th birthday today.
Sam is my youngest child, and that picture above was taken just about this time of day February 17th, 15 years ago (Sam was born at home) and I think it’s funny how much her being my third has influenced the whole way I parent her. I never counted her wet diapers, nor made pureed baby foods for her… as a matter of fact, I don’t even remember giving her solid food. I think she took it off a table.
This more relaxed attitude to parenting, her last-ness… makes everything she does so bittersweet to me, since it’s the last time a child of mine will do any of it – and that’s both sad and thrilling. Yesterday was the last day I would have a 14 year old- and it makes so much of it charming.
The last time a child of mine will go to grade nine, the last time a 14 year old will fight with me about privileges, the last time I’ll see a 14 year old daughter off to bed or tell her for the 1678765th time that no, she can’t go on facebook and I don’t think the mall is a valid cultural experience. It’s the last time a 14 year old (of mine) will blow off their homework … Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I think that the fact that she’s my youngest might be the only thing keeping me from flipping out (more) a lot of the time. There’s a lot to be said about knowing that you’re having your last argument with a 14 year old, and that there isn’t another teenager headed your way that can give a mother fortitude.
Sam’s a pretty lovely girl, with a great big brain and a wonderful sense of humour (and deeply witty sarcasm) and I think we’re well suited to each other at this point, although there’s no end to the irony of parenting her. For example, I’m convinced that the only reason she tries some of the stuff she does is because she had older sisters to inspire and instruct her (I had a great moment as a mother a while ago when I heard Meg tell Sam that she aught to just back off on something, because Meg could tell her that this one was a “no win” when it came to this issue and their mother.) conversely, I think that the only reason that I can handle the stuff she tries is because I had her same sisters to instruct and inspire me.
As she’s grown, Samantha’s been the only one of my kids that’s given me whiplash. I go from not worrying at all because I know what I’m doing, since I’ve had other people to practice on, and then being terrified as I realize that every kid is so unique that nothing can ever really prepare you for them. I sometimes wonder what it’s like to be a youngest child, and get a mother who swings back and forth from “I’ve got your number” to “what the hell is going on”, sometimes in a single hour.
Sam is bright to the point of brilliance, witty to the point of sparkling, persuasive in a way that’s almost dangerous, difficult in a way that makes you want to rip your own lips off, and she simply won’t be told what to do by anyone (which is a plus, I think… depending on which end of it you may be on.) I’ve met people like that before (and I occasionally spot a few of those traits in the mirror) and so I find her antics and adventures engaging, entertaining, terrifying and worrisome (partly because I know she’s capable of so much more in every possible way – better and worse) and some days – I can’t believe that this sort of incredible creature could have been made by me and some materials I found lying around the house.
Samantha is, and has been, since the day she was born – a surprise. She was the only baby I’ve ever held where I thought that it was going to be a cake-walk to raise her. I felt sure, on this day 15 years ago, that having been taught about parenting by her sisters, that she would always be easy. Having done it twice before, I was sure that now I’d know everything about what I was doing, and that being her mother would simply be a matter of applying everything I’d learned the hard way from her sisters. Samantha had a lot in store for me. She’s taught me a lot I didn’t know about individuality, humility, learning and the fact that no parent ever really knows what they’re doing – and that every teenager thinks they know it all. I love her to bits, and I’m grateful that she hasn’t been easy, because it would have been a lot less fun, a lot less loud and a lot less interesting to get to know her. Thanks Sam, I love you, and I can’t wait to see who you are next year. I know it’s going to be someone even more wonderful than you are now, because you’ve been someone better with every passing moment of your life. It’s a privilege to be your mum, and I hope the stuff we’ve both screwed up doesn’t matter in the long run… I don’t think it does, since Mum’s and 15 year olds have been working it out since the dawn of time. (Maybe we could both tell ourselves that on the hard days.) Happy Birthday. There’s no finer 15 year old alive, and I’m not just saying that because you’re my last one.
(By the way Sam? Just because I said I’m grateful you haven’t been easy does not mean you may infer that I want to have the talk about the mall again. Case closed.)
PS: To the anonymous woman sitting near me on the plane from Seattle to Toronto yesterday – nice socks. I have the same kit. Sorry I was too shy to talk to you, but I wanted you to know that I think it was cool that you were doing bead knitting on a plane, and you’ve inspired me to think about starting mine. They’re beautiful.