By Kelly Hines

When my teen daughter got into the car last night, she immediately handed me her phone. She knew she was busted, and losing her phone was going to be the least of it. My plan was to drive home in silence, allowing the tension to build, scaring her with my silent hostility. But, I never can keep my mouth shut, and I began lecturing her almost right away.

She shirked her responsibilities in favor of hanging out with her friends, she willfully disobeyed me, she stayed out past her curfew, and – maybe worst of all – she’d pulled me out of bed at nearly 1 a.m. to drive 25 minutes away and pick her up. I was fuming.

She didn’t have much to say, mainly “Yes, ma’am,” and “I’m sorry.” At one point, I turned to her and yelled, “Stop saying you’re sorry, because YOU’RE NOT.”

And she wasn’t. She weighed risk versus reward and found it totally worth it. Welcome to life with a teenager.

I sent her right to bed, spot checked her text messages, and crawled into my own bed, still mad. My prayers these days seem to be filled with her name – requests, wishes, fears, hopes. She’s a good kid, talented, does pretty well in school, volunteers. I tend to forget this when I walk into her room and find dirty dishes under the bed. I worry that she’ll fall in with the wrong crowd, I worry that she won’t get into college, I worry that she won’t remember to brush her teeth and get cavities. When I think about her moving out of the house in just a couple of years, I go a little insane.

How has this happened? How has time gone by so quickly? How can she be leaving us when we still have so much work to do? She’s not ready. I’m not ready.

It has been a long time since I tucked her into bed. She kisses the top of my head over the back of the couch and calls “goodnight” over her shoulder as she walks up the stairs. Then a few nights ago, I heard her crying in her bed. “Are you okay?” I called up the stairs. She replied “yes”, but I heard “no”. She stiffened as I laid down in the bed next to her, and then softened as her own worry and stress and frustration poured out. She is scared, too. She’s overtired and over-hormoned and overwhelmed. I stroked her hair and her crying stopped and I asked, tentatively, “Do you want mommy to stay?”

“For a few more minutes,” she said. I lay next to her until her breathing slowed and she fell asleep. I looked at her closely, in a way she rarely lets me look anymore, always afraid of some criticism. I looked at her face and saw her at 3, thumb in her mouth, as she curled up close to me and asked me to sing one more song. I saw her at 5, marching into kindergarten like she owned the joint. And then at 10, all legs and gap-toothed, dancing with her friends in our living room. At 12, when she opened her mouth at the dinner table to sing and we sat, open mouthed, in awe of the gift we didn’t even know she had. At 14, getting her braces off, suddenly taller than I, looking entirely too much like a woman. And now, tears drying on her cheeks and a quiet, rare moment when she let her mommy hold her.

As I laid in my bed in the early hours this morning, trying hard to pray for direction, I remembered that night. I remembered myself, briefly and painfully, at 16. I believe in rules and consequences and expectations. But most of all, I believe in grace, especially the unexpected kind. I woke her up early this morning, directed her to get ready for church and, without a word, handed her back her phone. It may have not been the appropriate decision, but still felt like the right thing to do.

She is only here a little while longer. Sometimes, I have to let her skate.