I could hear her gait up the porch steps before she came through the door, and already, I could tell something wasn’t right. A mother of a teenager learns to read all the little signs. There was a defeated heft to the sound of her steps, a departure from her usually lithe feet. She tossed her book bag to the ground in the entry way and it skidded across the wood floor a little before it landed against the wall, something I would scold her about usually, but today, I let it slide. I watched her disappear behind her bedroom door, and let out a sigh, not bothering to ask about her day. She was so much like me, I knew whatever was bothering her would surface eventually, but not before she was ready.
She appeared from her room early in the evening as I was setting dinner on the table. No half-hearted objection to the menu, or questions about dessert, as was custom. Her silence and my curiosity broke my resolve to give her her space, and as she sat down to eat, I cooed, “Honey is everything okay?”
"Yeah," she feigned a lilt in her voice and raised her eyebrows in an attempt to fool me, but that trick was mine long before it was hers. I pulled her hair off her neck and twisted it around itself, a thing I’ve done since she was little, and she took a deep breath.
"Kav dumped me. For some skank from the tennis team,"
"Ohhhh," I pulled her head to my waist, letting her hair fall back into place, "I’m sorry, babe."
She said nothing at first, giving me time to run questions I wouldn’t ask through my head. How sad was she, how heartbroken? Was she in love? Was this other girl really a skank or had she just fallen victim to my daughter’s slander because because of her bruised ego?
"I’m so sad that it’s making me feel stupid," She said it bluntly, and all at once I understood her. We were so alike, and I nodded as she continued, "We weren’t even dating a month, I don’t know why I care so much. He cared even less. "
She shrugged through my hug and I sat next to her. “Rejection hurts, Hon. Always. No matter what it is or how insignificant. And especially when it’s boys. You… You make yourself available, you show them the real you, and you say I’m yours, here it is… And when they say ‘no thanks,’ it always hurts. Always. Even if it was only three weeks. Break-ups suck.”
She smiled then, and I was relieved. As a parent, coaching your kid through their first real pain, not “spilled milk” pain where you can give them some perspective, show them that in the grand scheme of things it’s not so bad, but the kind of pain they will remember, the kind of pain they will relive, it’s a daunting task.
She dove her head into the crook of my neck - funny, how it always seemed to fit there, when she was a baby, and now, when she’s all but a grown adult - and ran her fingers over my hand, lingering along the knuckle where a wedding ring never rested. In a smallish voice she asked, “What was your worst break-up?”
A small silence as my mind fell softly upon the answer. A place it had wandered time and time again.
"The Jonas Brothers. October 2013"