My most tumultuous years with my mother were in my early teens. By the time I was driving and going to parties and making decisions in dangerous times, I had already mellowed out. I remember still being in high school and apologizing profusely for the way I’d treated my mom at the tender age of fourteen. Middle school wasn’t super sweet for me, and my entry to puberty felt a little bumpy. There was glitter in my hair and I didn’t even need to wear a bra yet. Things felt a little twisty.
So man, did I treat my mom like trash during that twilight between childhood and the teenage stage (which is of course when I reached total enlightenment). And the claws almost always came out in the morning. I’m an odd version of a morning person. I have no problem waking early. I pop right up without issue. Seriously, I don’t even need an alarm. But I don’t love lots of stimulating conversation first thing. I don’t want to eat before the sun rises, and I don’t welcome any constructive criticism before the rooster crows, either.
So back then I was a ticking time bomb, because all of those things happened on a daily basis. There were encouraging murmurs for me to eat. There was side eye about my outfits or the way I wore my hair. There were questions about lunch accounts and projects and how late did I think I would be at whatever activity after school. You know, that super offensive prying stuff parents do. And so I’d explode, always toward my mother. I’d say hurtful things and roll my eyes. I’d ignore her until she raised her voice just enough for me to look at her like she was idiot for talking so loudly. I’d huff and puff and complain and threaten.
After one particularly nasty spat, I stomped up to my room. Whether I was sent or took my own terrible attitude up there, I don’t know. What I do remember is pitching a fit about my outfit when I arrived back to my room. I had nothing to wear. It was picture day or something super important, and I needed to change for the billionth time. And my hair was a mess. I was crying and grumbling and trying to change when I got caught up in tights and buttons, which made everything worse. We’d definitely be late for school now, but I’d find a way to blame it on my mom.
And then my dad walked in.
My father is not like my mother. He is not naturally warm and nurturing. He does not struggle like she does, with serving and giving and pouring out until he’s empty. I grew up feeling very supported and loved by my dad, but also very fearful of him. He had a tendency to react harshly in heated situations, and then he’d process with me later. So there I was, stuck halfway through an outfit change with tears and snot in my hair, and Scary Gary entered the room. He was clean shaven and in a suit, not a hair out of place. He’d undoubtedly heard me and my mom while getting ready for work, and I was done. I was in for it.
But he didn’t say a word. He just walked across my bedroom to me and helped pull the new jumper combination over my head, zipping it up the back and pulling my ponytail out of my turtleneck. His silence told me everything. I was acting out, I was in the wrong, and he loved me anyway. He was going to let me deescalate and calm down and repent by myself. He was not going to drag me there this time, not when I was already so vulnerable and ashamed.
And then suddenly, he reversed the jumper backward over my head, leaving me in just a turtleneck and tights and shoes.
Anything but mauve, Rach. I tell your mom this too. I just don’t like colors like mauve and taupe.