This wasn’t the first time my
14-year-old daughter Jordan and I fought about closed doors and, similarly
disrespect. In fact, we’d done it so much that my “the door is coming down”
speech had grown stale and expected—practically inaudible to astute teen ears.
Each time she tried to close the door mid-lecture, my anger swelled. Night
after night, she ignored my husband, Bill, and my calls for dinner, requests to
put the dishes away or feed the dog. It was as if she were no longer a part of
our family. Where did we go wrong?
Bill and I took turns yelling, I noticed for the first time how Jordan looked at me—a stare
of disbelief that said: you don’t get me and I don’t get you. I
didn’t understand. The three of us had always shared such a wonderful and
unique family dynamic. Jordan was our only child and
we were—not to be cliché—the quintessential three musketeers. So why did Jordan hate us now?
Bill and I decided that a
metaphorical time-out was much needed, so we allowed Jordan to stay with a friend
that evening so that we could have some time to plot a new strategy. We tossed
around thoughts behind Jordan’s sudden urge to shut
herself off from us, asking the usual questions about drugs, problems at school
and possible romantic issues. That’s when I began thinking back to the ’80s,
when I too was 14.
I instantly visualized my bedroom
with the powder blue comforter set and the Peaches Records crate perched next
to my stereo filled with 45s and alphabetized albums, from KISS to Prince. I
couldn’t picture my mom or brother spending more than a minute within the walls
of that room, my room. Sure, arguments over curfew and mall money
escalated at the threshold of my room or into the hallway, but rarely did they
spill over inside my sanctuary.
Behind closed doors, I didn’t plot
to distance myself from my family, but rather contemplated ways in which I
could connect with the person I was meant to be. I danced. I sang. I talked on
my Trimline telephone with friends. I picked out outfits and accessories—leg
warmers, hair glitter and Jordache jeans. I judged my looks. I styled my hair,
painted my nails and wrote boys’ names on my Nikes. I dreamt about the future.
Over the following weeks, I bit my
tongue every time Jordan’s door slammed shut
for hours. But I knew she needed that time alone. As hard as it was for me to
let go of the control, I did. Because that’s what parents do. We raise our
children and take the utmost of care with them, so that they can take care of themselves
From the other side of the door, I
pictured her acting just like I did in the ’80s, but with New Millennium flair.
Chatting with friends on Facebook, blogging on Tumblr, watching Gossip Girl,
listening to Maroon 5 and Adele on her iPhone while styling her hair, painting
her nails and dreaming about her own future—I got it.
Jordan turned 15 last winter.
She spends more time than ever behind her bedroom door, but we don’t fight
about it anymore. Slowly I’ve learned to let go in order to hold on. We only
have a short time left living together in the same house. Before I know it
she’ll be on her own in college, visiting us on the occasional weekend and living
her own life on her own terms.
For now, the three musketeers still
watch movies as a family, cuddle on rainy days with a House Hunters
International marathon and chat about the past week over Sunday brunch in Manhattan. Jordan shares her day with
me as soon as she gets back home each afternoon. We’ve grown to know each other
as individuals, not just as parent and child.
And every now and then I make it to
the other side of the door, but only when she invites me in.
Maria Riley is a social media consultant and writer
who lives with her husband, teenage daughter and their 5 lb. Chihuahua on
Roosevelt Island. She captures all-things New York on her
blog, Life of Riley NYC.