“Mom! Stop it!” scolds Firstborn, and snaps me out of my proverbial reverie.
“What?” I say, though I already know. It is her recurring complaint.
“You’re acting like a bobble head doll again! Were you even listening to what I said?”
Well, good grief and excuse me. My answer should be “Probably not”, but she already knows that. I just can’t help it. She was using those big words that she has been learning in her biology class, and darned if I know what they mean. So what else is there for me to do but enjoy her attention (she’s talking to me!) and allow my eyes to glaze over while I admire her close up. Sigh.
For some reason, that bugs her. She tells me “All you ever do is smile and nod, no matter what I do (forgot her keys), or how I screw up (a lowly B on a calculus quiz). You never see it – you just smile and nod your head like a bobble head doll. If I want an honest opinion, I have to go to Dad.”
What? But my bobbling is always honest: my reactions are genuine. I have been enthralled by her since her birth. Honestly, I am just amazed that I had it in me to produce something so utterly magical. So when she does something that might be less than perfect, I just smile and nod. I know from experience that everything passes.
I’ve smiled and nodded through the gymnastic lessons that didn’t last all that long (wrong body type, the teacher said) , and the riding lessons that she fought after a year but then fought to pursue. I smile at her cat (the one she had to have when she was three years old), then wash my hands after every petting and go take my antihistamine. I smiled and nodded through those first cello lessons when she couldn’t find the strings, then the harp lessons. Both instruments now gather dust now that she has discovered Science.
I smiled through the history bees, which might be why she actually enjoyed them while the kids around us were gobbling antacids like they were candy – supplied by their parents. She never won, but she competed without studying and even made it past the first round.
I even smiled when she told me that she wanted to manage the boys track teams. Well, I think I did. I really tried. And she was right anyway – it was a great experience.
I know that there are some who disagree with the unconditional love approach: that a child needs to know disappointment and overcome it to succeed. Sure, disappointment and failure exist, but why should it come from a parent? I learned years ago that my daughter has an inner drive more compelling that any pressure I could put on her, so I can sit back and enjoy the ride. (It wasn’t me who made her practice that cello until her fingers bled so that she could win first chair.)
She recently participated in her first horse show. The very first one, after nine years of lessons that made her very, very happy. (So was that a waste of money? I don’t think so.) She earned a small handful of ribbons, but none blue. She had a great time: better than the blue ribbon winner who vomited in the corner of the ring. Of course, I smiled and nodded from the other side of the fence.
I just bask in her glow and realize that with every passed test, every first date, every college application, and every first show she realizes that she doesn’t need my help in, our days of co-dependency are getting shorter. Well, at least hers are.
I love this young woman unconditionally. If that makes me her bobble head Mom, so be it.