- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Feb 2016
From the cover
Parting with Childhood
In the waiting room of my private practice, I met Maya for the first time. With an easy air, long limbs, and dark hair showing the beginnings of gray, she stood to greet me, then gracefully pivoted to return the magazine she'd been reading to its place on a low table, next to a lamp. She followed me to my office and took the far end of my couch. It's not the closest spot to the armchair where I sit, but not so far away as a chair preferred by clients who want more distance. She kept her light jacket on—we were meeting on a crisp, sunny day in late October—and crossed her legs, clasped her hands, and leaned forward as we talked.
Over the phone, Maya told me that she was worried about the sudden change in her relationship with her twelve-year old daughter, Camille. In my office, she told a familiar story— one that we'll consider in a totally new light.
Maya explained that until two months ago, Camille had been her funny, joyful companion who was almost always up for a trip to the library, grocery store, or mall. Yet at the start of seventh grade, Camille abruptly transformed. She came home from school and headed straight to her bedroom, where she closed the door and held marathon texting sessions with friends until required to join the family for dinner. Bewildered, Maya described how Camille sat sullenly at the dinner table and gave one-word answers to questions about her day. Even while saying so little, Camille managed to express that her parents were asking the dumbest questions she had ever heard and that sitting with them was the last thing she wanted to do.
Occasionally, the old Camille made a brief appearance; Maya's eyes brimmed with tears as she described these savored moments. Most of the time, though, Maya felt angry with Camille for being so prickly, missed her warm relationship with her beloved girl, or experienced a wearying mix of both feelings at once. Maya's friends reassured her that Camille was "normal" and that "girls break up with their parents when they become teenagers," but Maya had called me anyway. She worried that something just wasn't right.
Maya's friends weren't wrong, but their scope was too narrow and their viewpoint far too personal. They were missing the bigger picture. Girls don't dump their parents just for the heck of it. They pull away to start their journey along one of the seven developmental strands of adolescence: parting with childhood. By age twelve most tweens feel a sudden, internal pressure to separate themselves from almost everything that seems childlike and, as Maya was learning the hard way, a girl's pleasant relationship with her folks is usually one of the first casualties. Parting with childhood isn't always the first developmental strand that girls tackle during adolescence, but it's a strand that parents can't miss. When girls distance themselves from their mom and dad they all but announce, "In case you guys hadn't noticed, I'm a teenager now!"
If we step back from what feels like a highly personal rejection, we can appreciate that, when it comes to parting with childhood, our daughters have a lot of developmental ground to cover in a short time. They have to get from point A, where they happily hold our hands and act like total goofballs in public, to point B, where they claim the independence and self-determination that come with being young women and trade their goofiness for relatively mature behavior (at least when strangers are around). To progress along this strand, girls stop telling us their secrets, bristle when we use pet names, and make it clear that they're doing us a favor by agreeing to join...