My plan to live our most epic summer ever has encountered a roadblock.
She is 12 years old, this roadblock. And she is over it.
Over summer. Over family time. Over things that are epic.
I understand, from interrogating every parent I corner at holiday barbecues and weekend little league games and, occasionally, public parks, this is a common roadblock.
"Over it," a friend concurred on the Fourth of July.
"Over it," another friend confirmed from her car, where she waited for close to 20 minutes for her daughter to come out of my house. "She's drying her hair," my daughter informed us 15 minutes in. "It's almost dry."
(We resisted the urge to list the things we regularly accomplish in 15 minutes: assembling dinner for five, changing the headlight in a car, folding four loads of laundry, paying a month's worth of bills and reserving airline tickets, a rental car and a hotel room for the family vacation next month.)
"Over it," a colleague may as well have captioned the photo she shared on social media the other day. "Vacation with a preteen," she wrote above the photo. My colleague and her young son smiled gamely. The preteen stared into the middle distance, shoulders slumped.
Just really so over it.
When I plan an outing: Do we have to? I just want to relax.
When I plan no outing: Can we do something? I'm bored.
When we are walking out the door to an outing: Wait, can I go to Leila's instead?
When we are at an outing: Can we leave soon?
When we come home from an outing: Can we do something? I'm bored.
It's possible this is karmic justice for the time my parents drove me and my brother to Yellowstone National Park, through the Grand Tetons, past Mount Rushmore, into the great wild, and we could hardly be bothered to look up from our Archie comic books. ("Kids, look! A moose!" "Hang on. Archie's jalopy broke down again.")
I read once that parents of teenagers (my daughter will be 13 soon) should repeat a daily mantra: This too shall pass.
But I don't want to grit my teeth and wait for it to pass. I don't want to wish away any of these kid phases, even the ones that test my resolve not to day-drink.
I want to be present for all of it, especially because my daughter still, when she's not busy being over it, giggles with me and goes in for hugs and sings silly songs and pulls me in for fireworks selfies and asks if I'll play cards with her.
So I'm grasping for something other than "this too shall pass" to help me make sense of what she might be feeling.
I stumbled upon a Psychology Today article called, "How to deal with your moody teenager." (OK, fine, I Googled "how to deal with moody teenager.") And there was a line that stood out.
"Very often," Mark Goulston, assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles' Neuropsychiatric Institute, wrote, "A teenager's moodiness is tied to something in their world having changed and their continuing to use an approach that no longer works."
That makes sense to me.
Summer used to be as simple as rolling out of bed, not going to school and doing whatever fun thing her mom (that's me) announced we were doing.
Now some of those things have started to feel baby-ish. More fit for her younger brother.
Now friends are a bigger part of her world than they used to be.
Now she's trying to figure out who she'll be next year, in seventh grade, in a new school surrounded by all new kids.
The old approach, the one that used to leave her feeling relaxed and happy, has started leaving her a little restless.
Am I doing this right? Is this what my friends are doing? Is there something I should be doing instead?
Basically how I feel when I try to use LinkedIn.
Everything I read about parenting tweens and teens says to spend more time shutting up and listening than searching for the perfect thing to say or do that will return our children to their previously effervescent, easygoing selves. That too has passed.
All of which tells me two things.
One: I can relax and quit trying to solve this completely common and mostly benign affliction.
Two: I should keep building in ample together time – outside the house, inside the house, with friends, without friends – even when it means enduring a bunch of over-it complaints.
Because that's when I can shut up and listen. And that's when, if she's ready, she can tell me what's really on her mind: the changes ahead, the newness of this age, the nostalgia, maybe, for the simplicity of 6 or 9.
I'm not ready to abandon my plans to live our most epic summer ever. But even if we fail at that, we'll be together. And that's pretty epic in its own right.