Friday, October 30, 2009

Sweet sixteen

Yesterday we gained another driver-to-be in the house. Alexandra turned sixteen, and following the precedent set by her brother, I took her to the Department of Motor Vehicles and she got her learner’s permit right on her birthday. She even managed to pass the eye exam without glasses (unfortunately, she rarely wears them). And true to her character, she scored a perfect 100% on the written test.

Because Jacob needed the van to drive to his mechanics class in the morning, Alexandra and I got to the Motor Vehicle Department just before lunch. I’d expected a long line, but there was none, not a single person waiting! It took less than an hour to fill out all the paperwork, take the test, and pay the $92.50 for the permit.

Then I offered to take Alexandra out to lunch.

“I’m not eating until supper,” she announced.

The last several months, she’s been doing a lot of fasting – skipping a meal or two during the day, or not eating for 24 hours. Considering how thin she is, I’m not so happy about this frequent fasting, but she doesn’t do it for weight loss; she does it because the Bible says to pray and fast. I know that she prayed and fasted for our pastor when he had a very serious operation last month, an operation he was told he had only 50% chance of surviving, yet he was back in church within a week! So I said nothing about the day’s meal-skipping.

“Where were you going to take me?” she asked as I turned the van towards home, her interest obviously aroused.

“Olga’s Omelets,” I said. This restaurant specializes in omelets and egg dishes. I had taken all three kids there only once, but it was many years ago, and they still talked about it.

Alexandra sat in silence for a while.

“Where is Olga’s Omelets? How would you get there?”

“I’d take a right on one of these cross streets and drive right through the city. It’s in the city on Commons Avenue.”

More silence.

“OK, let’s go,” Alexandra said, her willpower broken or perhaps her fast put off for a day.

I certainly didn’t want to push her to give up something that she’d promised herself, but I was glad when she agreed to go to lunch with me. This day she was uncharacteristically friendly to me as we went for her permit, and I wanted the moment to last. Unfortunately, for the last several months, she has not been very pleasant toward me and even announced to others that she and I are very different, and she didn’t like me, to which a girl in her youth group said, “I think your mother is pretty cool.” No other mothers in our church travel to Africa, lead mission trips to Mexico, or cook weird (that is, Middle Eastern, Thai, Mexican, etc.) food. Perhaps that embarrasses her.

“She’ll come around,” my husband has assured me over and over as Alexandra’s teenage moods pushed me out of her world.

Didn’t I read somewhere that girls tend to pull away from their mothers during these years? Doesn’t that have something to do with growing less dependent or asserting their own individuality as women? Whatever it is, it’s painful for me. She doesn’t open up to me and often responds in curt, one-word answers. But she fawns on Dad.

At the restaurant, we talked like old friends, shared bites from each other’s omelets, and discussed the mission trip that we’re going to take to Dallas over Christmas break. Through that lunch, I had a peak at what our relationship might become one day after Alexandra outgrows her teenage moods.

Although I had wanted both daughters to go with me on this mission trip, perhaps it was better that Larissa didn’t want to go and that I would spend one on one time with Alexandra.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)