We'd made the appointment and entered it into our calendars at the same time on Wednesday afternoon. She's often delayed a few minutes, but never for long without calling.... without answering her phone... without letting us know that she'll be late.
She'd never miss a meeting. Of that, we were certain.
But, the time came and went and the doors had to be unlocked so we toted our trash and trekked through the lot and up the stairs, after arguing with the unlocking mechanism until it was set, just so. The students began arriving, I adjusted my achy hip to a new environment, and then he was on the phone, listening, nodding, smiling, looking at me.
"She's going to call you, right now," he said as her face appeared on my screen. And I answered and I listened and I smiled and I nodded as she told me that there had been a meltdown, that she couldn't leave her tween, and that she was sorry, so very sorry. Reassuring words about parenthood taking priority over everything else poured from my mouth to her ear, as my heart raced back to when I'd been the one making similar calls.
Twelve is really hard, thirteen isn't much better, and, while fourteen has its moments, it's still braces and growth spurts and zits and insecurities thrashing around inside a body which is suddenly unfamiliar to its occupant... and those around her.
It's easy to lash out at the people you know will still love you in the end, which is why, in hindsight, I was so mean to G'ma and Little Cuter couldn't tolerate me. "She's bothered by the fact that you are alive and breathing on the planet at the same time that she is, and since you can't change that fact, you just have to suck it up and have courage," was TBG's sage advice, advice which sent me to my closet on a regular basis. There, with the door closed and my mouth buried in piles of sweaters, I'd yell "COURAGE!" to myself, over and over again, until I thought it was safe to come out.
I was putting myself in time-out. As I'd told the kids while carting them off to a similar fate, sometimes it's good to take a moment to get yourself back on track.
Tactics are useful, but watching the meltdown as it happens is painful. Knowing that others have been there before is of little use while the tears are streaming and the tempers are flaring and the solutions are unobtainable.
Perhaps it's a karmic resolution. I remember G'ma's response to an email I'd sent, describing some act of terrorism associated with my darling middle-school daughter. I'm sure I was looking for advice, for comfort, for succor. I got none of it. I will quote her reply in its entirety:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!I remember when my 9th grade boyfriend asked someone else to the dance. NO, I was not going to share the facts with G'ma. NO, I would not tell her what was wrong. NO ONE had ever been in my situation before, of that I was certain. NO ONE knew my pain. There was NO hope.
It's such an awful peak of growing up on which our kids get stuck. We know they'll find the other side. We know there's not much we can do to smooth their passage. It's a shame when the meltdowns interfere with our lives, but we know that we have no choice.
And, we know that someday, perhaps, we'll get to send a smug and snarky response to the older incarnation of the puddle on the floor when she shares her own tale of parenting woe.