‘It’s tough love she needs, Don. I’ve been telling you this for the last twelve years.’
Don and I are arguing over our daughter, Arabella. She’s just come home from the movies with her friends, and there’s been a drama of some description.
Arabella is sixteen and…well, I remember what it’s like to be full of hormones, to think you know it all, to believe you’re ready to take on the world. I get it, I do. But with her, it’s more than that. I fear she’s growing into a mean, unkind person, so I choose to remember her as a four-year-old. Back when she was cute, pudgy, full of affection and sloppy kisses.
When she arrived home five minutes ago, she began to recount—in excruciating detail—what had transpired between her and her friends. I left the room while she was midway and she flew into full meltdown mode, screeched a few choice words and closed with her favourite taunt: ‘You don’t love me.’ She slammed the door to her room, turned up the stereo so loud it’s distorting. Don wanted to follow her but I warned him not to. And boom! We’re engaged in Arabella warfare.
Don is glaring at me. ‘Tough love? You’ve got to be joking Sylvia. She’s sixteen, for chrissakes!’
‘You’re not helping her. Running to her every time she gets hysterical. You’ve always done that. And look at her now.’
‘What the fuck is that supposed to mean?’
‘I think you know.’
‘You’re a cold-hearted bitch, Sylvia. If anything it’s your absentee form of mothering that’s made her into this.’
His words cut deep. He knows me so well. Finds the pain and presses, as though it’s an open wound. I want to call him names. I want to hurt him. Instead, I raise my jaw high; wait a beat. I perch on a bar stool at the breakfast counter. Take calming breaths in, and out. Only then I respond, ‘Alright, go to her. You will anyway.’
‘Sylv, I’m sorry,’ he says. His voice is soft, kind. ‘We’ve both made mistakes in raising her. Nobody’s perfect. No one ever gets this right. That’s why psychologists exist.’ He chuckles at his own joke.
I nod. ‘I know. I’m sorry too.’
‘Arabella needs us now. More than ever. You must remember what it’s like to be sixteen.’
‘Of course I do.’
‘We can’t give up on her.’ He reaches for my hands.
Don continues, ‘Come on. Let’s go to her together. Show her we’re on her side.’
‘Alright.’ Together, we knock on her door and walk inside.