On Toenail Clippings and Transition

11 Jan

Most of the year, in most ways, I am an adult. Paying rent, working, cooking food.

I come home for a month for Christmas and, in most ways, I am seventeen again. Driving my car, seeing high school friends, eating dinner with my family.

Then, every once in a while, I’m seven.

My mom clipped my toenails today. She (bizarre, I know) loves doing it. I come home and she says, “Can I clip your toes???” I tell her that I’m perfectly capable of grooming my own feet. “I know,” she says, “but it makes me feel like a mom.”

My little brother is still in elementary school; she has plenty of years of parenting ahead of her. But I’ve spent less than two of the last twelve months at home, and even though we’re close, I guess she doesn’t feel needed the way she used to.

“I can make my own breakfast, mom.” “I can pack by myself, mom.” “I can do my own hair, mom.” “I know how to get there, mom.”  “I can shop for underwear by myself, mom.” “Mom! I do this every day at school!”

An embarrassing amount of the things I say to my mom are me telling her I don’t need her help. I sound like a 3-year-old: “No! I do it meself!” It’s not that I don’t appreciate all the years she spent doing those things for me, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate her offers of help. It’s that I, in my still-adolescent brain, interpret her offers as insinuations that I’m not capable of doing something on my own, that I’m not good enough, that I’m not grown-up enough to do things to her standards.

The older I get, the more I realize that’s not her point. She knows I take care of myself most of the year, getting places on time and living (relatively) healthfully. She’s not trying to fix me, she’s just trying to be my mom and baby me a little bit before I go back out into the big, scary world.

So this morning I bit my tongue. I sat there, swallowing all my claims of being competent at handing a pair of toenail clippers (What was my point? She knows she didn’t raise a Neanderthal) as my mom held my foot, carefully clipping away the little bit of excess growth. She finished in about two minutes and we both said “thanks” at the same time.

I think my mom will want to clip my toenails every time she sees me, for the rest of my life. And I think that’s okay.


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