The Invisible Mom

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In the 1980s television series thirtysomething, the character Elliot Weston complains to his best friend and business partner Michael Steadman that they have become “invisible to teenage girls.” That remark really resonated with me as a new mother whose body was now a soft and nurturing landing place for my infant daughter instead of a curvy and sexy one men might find attractive.

That feeling of invisibility has changed over the years as my children have grown and I have experienced a different way of being invisible to teenagers. As a mom, I’m sort of like Mt. Everest – never-changing, solid, and just there. Immersed in their world of Snap Chat and Instagram, my kids seldom really notice me, except when they’re hungry or need money.

I’ve felt that same sense of invisibility in the hallways of the local high school. On the few occasions when I have been there during the school day, I will be walking down the hall and hear all kinds of profanity being shouted between teens who are blissfully unaware of the middle-aged woman in knee-length skirt and sensible shoes. It’s a bit jarring to hear, as is the sight of boys and girls canoodling in corners. This is their world, and I am just a vapor floating through it.

Still, there are some benefits to being invisible to teens. As frequent chauffeur for my kids and their friends, I have the ability to be a fly on the wall, listening to their teasing, gossip, and teenage patois, all while being perfectly unseen. The only way to break that spell of invisibility in the car is to interject my own comments, so I have learned to be the silent specter getting a glimpse into the teenage world.

On my recent visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, puppeteers did a skit depicting the story of a man gifted with a cloak of invisibility. Thus clad, the man was able to escape Death, who roamed the Earth ceaselessly in search of souls. Harry Potter himself uses the cloak to defeat the powers of evil represented by Lord Voldemort.

Invisibility can be both blessing and curse. It can hurt to be ignored by others because everyone wants to feel important, to feel recognized. I sometimes get annoyed or hurt by my kids’ seeming indifference. But invisibility can also be a gift, wherein one can be a spectator in life, observing, noticing, and learning.

I’m keeping my invisibility cloak handy for that next chance to gain insight into the world of my teens and their friends. Who knows what fascinations I may find?

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Getting It Right

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Since I’ve written in the past about pre-teen angst, it’s only fair to share when things go right.

This morning was a comedy of errors as my thirteen-year-old tried to shoulder a huge, heavy backpack while carrying her lunch bag and saxophone in each hand. It was still dark out but time for early morning band practice.

As the car glided through the quiet suburban streets, I told my daughter that the size and weight of her backpack reminded me of Cheryl Strayed, the woman portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild, who hiked the Pacific Coast Trail by herself.

It had been a three-day weekend, and I said to my daughter, “You know, you might not believe it, but I’m kind of sad – ”

She cut in, in a mimic of my voice, “You’d think I’d be tap dancing to have you all gone, but no. Back to school, back to work, back to responsibilities.”

“You always say that, Mom,” she explained, as I chuckled at how perfectly she had nailed my way of speaking.

“But aren’t you glad I feel that way?” I asked her.

“Yeah, but you said it after Thanksgiving, you said it after Christmas, now Martin Luther King Day.”

We both giggled. I can be something of a broken record, a trait that only worsens as I get older.

As my daughter struggled her way out of the car, hoisting that horrible backpack, I called, “Bye, Reese Witherspoon!”

She laughed and closed the car door.

As I pulled away from the curb, I smiled, reflecting that in the realm of parenting my teenager, sometimes we get it right.