As my almost 19 year old daughter Jackie, came home for winter break I had a laundry list of fun things we would do together like shopping, getting our nails done and meaningful late night talks over chamomile tea. I was so excited to have some much needed bonding time with my collegiate child.
My pipe dream came to an abrupt halt about a day and few frozen yogurts later when she declared she was going to get a nose ring.
"What? A nose ring? Who is going to hire you with a nose ring?"
She answered with a quick declaration of her age, independence and reminder that she is only a college freshman who does not live in corporate America. Her tirade concluded with unbridled conviction "everyone has a nose ring, it's no big deal."
No big deal? Was she nuts?
Suddenly I was eighteen all over again and home on winter break. I could feel my father's fury as he shook his head in disapproval staring at the three piercings I had recently acquired.
What was it about the dreaded nose ring that irked me so much?
It wasn't a tattoo or a strange piercing in her "bathing suit parts."
In fact, for a short time I also considered getting a nose ring. I envisioned myself walking around with a little ruby stud in my nose, writing screenplays all day at a dank coffeeshop.
My nose ring impulsion disappeared when I realized that the money intended for the piercing would be better spent on botox.
What was irritating me so much about this nose ring and why was I so upset?
Maybe it was because she didn't ask for permission and was going to do it anyway regardless of my opinion.
After a few days of ignoring the topic and hoping it was all a bad dream, my daughter came home with a pierced and Rudolph red nose. For a moment time stopped as we stood facing each other in outright silence. It was a "stare-off" right out of a scene from Unforgiven but I wasn't sure who was playing Clint Eastwood.
"Do you need Neosporin?" I asked in an unyielding voice ready to draw my verbal guns.
"I can only use antibacterial soap." she responded indicating she was open to negotiation.
This glaring continued until I broke down and choked up. Why was I allowing this to irritate me so much? It actually had very little to do with her nose being pierced and more to do with my fear of growing old, losing her and most of all relinquishing control.
Was I a self realized control freak all these years?
Was my mommy empire about to crumble as the end of my reign drew near?
I dried my eyes and looked in the mirror and I reconsidered sporting that ruby red nose ring.
My daughter knocked on the door.
"Mom, it's still me. Please stop making this into such a big deal. I just made a choice to get a nose ring."
In that moment, I realized that I was still needed, just not in the same way that I once might have been. It's hard to give up control and the role of decision maker, but this is what parenthood is all about, right? It doesn't end when the kids go off to college, it just changes form. I'm still figuring out what that looks like but I do know that it includes support, gentle guidance and of course a mani/pedi and some chamomile tea.