I remember once, many years ago, a middle-aged woman who came up to me after I gave a talk on grief at a local church. I had been describing how painful it can be to lose someone you love, how disorienting and crushing — after the talk, she said, “Everything you just described is how I feel about my daughter growing from a sweet little girl into a teenager. She’s still alive but I feel a loss. My sweet girl is gone.” At the time, I knew what she meant intellectually though I had not experienced it personally. Why, my little girls were still adorable and adoring and I could never imagine that they would change. HA!
Now, I want to tell her, “Oh, I get it. I know exactly what you meant.” My sweet little girls are also gone . . . one after the other. They have entered the space that I call ‘mean teen land’, which involves nasty glares, barely suppressed attitude, and a disdain for all things ‘mother’. What happened to the sweet child who couldn’t get enough mommy time? What happened to the little girl who asked me to be her roommate in college?
I hear that one day a sweet kindness will return (at least I hope so). But one thing is for certain: the little girl is gone. The mean teen may be replaced with a compassionate young woman in a few years, but I will never know the sweet little girl again except in my memories and my photographs. And so I grieve, just as I was told I would, and I learn to live with teen transition.