Boom, Clap

September 9, 2014

It was a hard week with my almost-teenaged daughter, a week filled with misunderstandings and hard words and more than a few tears. There was mistrust and resentment and hand-wringing. By the end of the week, I think both of our hearts were battle-scarred and weary and just so…full.  I felt fragile, like I was teetering on a very thin wire, and just the barest nudge would send me tumbling into something deep and scary. I couldn’t find my balance; I just felt off somehow. It’s almost like I’d been split in two, and the heart part of me was running after the rest of my body, struggling to keep up, and it just couldn’t.

Something was going to burst, and finally at the end of the week, it did.  Of course, it burst at the most inopportune and inappropriate of times. I was at a party, for God’s sake–a party full of friends and music and games. An end-of-summer, let’s blow off some steam and have a great time kind of gathering. And there I was, in a corner, unable to stop the flow of tears and heaving of the shoulders.

It was awful and embarrassing, losing myself like that. Once the first tear fell, it’s like the spigot opened, and whoosh! it flooded everything.  It felt scary to me, because I’d been trying so very hard to keep myself in check, to keep the bubble and the roil of feelings carefully contained.

“I’m sorry,” I gasped, swiping at my eyes with a ball of wet tissues. “I didn’t mean to bring this here. I didn’t mean to bring this with me. I should have left it at home, where it belongs.”


It’s a new week, and Miss D. clunks down the stairs, freshly showered and clad in a black skirt and a…bright pink shirt.

“Wow, you look really pretty, D.” my husband says, and gives me an eyebrow over his coffee cup.

We have a conversation without saying a word.

What kind of development is this?

I have no idea. Fuckit, as if she tells me anything. I mean–pink! Huh. Where’s the Black Widow?


“You do look great,” I say carefully. “That’s a terrific color on you.”

“It’s Spirit Week,” she says, in clipped consonants. “Today is color day. Seventh graders are supposed to wear pink.”

“Even the boys?”

“Yeah. Even the boys.”

It surprises me that she’s willing to participate in Spirit Week, since she has very little “spirit” for school or for seventh grade or for anything, really, as of late.

Half an hour before we’re ready to leave for school, she thunders up to her room. She comes down wearing one of my lightweight over-wraps–the kind of thing I always toss over my shoulders when I’m going to a restaurant that might be over-air conditioned or a place where the weather is uncertain.

It is black.

I can see the bottom half of her pink shirt peeking out underneath it.

I don’t say anything.

I could have said something. I could have said something like, “It’s going to be 80 degrees today, do you really think you need that?” or “Oh, do they keep the school that chilly?” but no, no, I keep my mouth shut.

Ten minutes before we leave, she thunders up to her room again.

When she comes down, she stuffs a black t-shirt into her backpack.

“Backup shirt?” I say, and then hate myself.  Why can’t I just leave it alone?  Stupid, stupid–always opening my big, fat pie-hole.

“In case I get sweaty in gym class,” she says, eyes narrowing and head tilted, daring me to challenge her.

I know better; that’s a look that says do not engage if I ever saw one.

“Smart idea,” I mumble, and busy myself wiping down the countertops.


As the car approaches school, D. watches out the window, eyes darting back and forth like a falcon, studying the packs of teenagers funneling into the building.

I know what she’s doing.

I know what she’s watching for, because I’m doing it, too.

I’m studying those kids, waiting to see flashes of pink.

I see cargo shorts, hoodies, sweatshirts. Black. Khaki. Gray. Red and white striped.

C’mon, pink. Somebody’s gotta have something pink on. Show up. Show up.

Shit. Has everyone decided to boycott this thing and D. didn’t get the memo?

We inch up the drop-off queue, scanning and hoping and scanning. Her shoulders get stiffer and she wraps her arms tightly around herself in a protective hug.

Finally, at the last moment, right before she exits the car, we see it. A girl with a mini-skirt and a swingy, pale blond ponytail. A ponytail wrapped in a bright pink ribbon.

D. makes a hard exhale, and I realize I’ve been holding my breath too.

“You look beautiful,” I say. “Have a great day.”

“Hmmp.” She thwacks her backpack over one shoulder and slams the door behind her.

I watch her as she squares her shoulders, straightens her stance and stalks into the building like a wolf–a soldier preparing for battle.

I tear up a little on the drive home.

God, why is it so hard?

And I forget, I forget how hard this all is for her. How hard it was for me, long, long ago.

How you feel like an over-ripe melon, just waiting to crack in the center, spilling guts everywhere.

How even something little and silly and stupid, like a pink shirt, can make you feel wobbly and off-kilter inside.

It’s only 8am but I feel exhausted.

No wonder we adults forget–who wants to remember this stuff?


I sit at a stoplight, fighting tears.

I punch the radio button viciously, changing stations.

“Boom, Clap, the sound of my heart,” some little young pop-starlet sings.

“The beat goes on and on and on and on.”

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer September 9, 2014 at 6:39 am

Oh Kitch! My heart dropped into my stomach as I read these words this morning. My son is in 3rd grade and I can already see the divisions being placed and what side he will be placed on, and steeling myself for the road ahead. Middle school is so hard and I can still feel all the feelings I had from middle school (and into early high school too) and most of them aren’t good ones. I send love and hugs to you and D and the rest of your family. I miss the younger years with my son already and am already starting to ask myself why does it have to be so damn hard?


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me September 9, 2014 at 6:52 am

Ugh, my heart. I want to cry right along with you. I think you’re right – it’s hard for us to remember because really, no one wants to remember that it sucked that bad. And having just come off of nearly fifteen years in the high school classroom…it’s way way worse than when we did this. Makes me with there was some way to keep Kidzilla from all of it. I suppose there is, but it’s not the right answer, either. So the Hub and I are kind of in an eternal state of holding our breath as we wait for the inevitable to begin. In the meantime, we pray really hard that she just continues to love school and gets so focused on the fact that she absolutely loves learning and sticks with that until she’s about 30 and PhD’d!
Think of you and your girls often…hang in there!


Annette September 9, 2014 at 8:41 am

You’re such a good story teller — I felt like I was in the car with you! My heart smiled when we spied the pink ribbon. It sounds like she’s coping really well — she dared to wear pink, and she had a backup plan! She’s going to be leading the pack one day.


Kimberly September 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

My son is only in grade one and I, thankfully, haven’t had to go through this. I dread it and hope that he doesn’t have to face school like this. I don’t know her or you but I am proud of her for wearing that shirt.
Big hugs to you.


Dana Talusani October 8, 2014 at 6:49 pm


I know this reply is like, a month late, but I am finally getting around to things (because Boom, Crash is taking a lot of my time and spirit). Thank you for reading and commenting and enjoy your sweet grade-one boy. The way they love so freely at that age is such a great affirmation that things aren’t really so bad in this world.


Cassy September 9, 2014 at 10:25 am

Whoa. Times triple infinity. And a big fat YES on top of that. Because. This is the stuff. The whole of it. And there isn’t a mother of a teen girl alive who didn’t just read this and have a thunderclap in their heart. I adore you for capturing it so perfectly, effortlessly, and with your heart beating bat wings on the outside of your shirt. Damn girl. xo


Dana Talusani October 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm


I love you. You make me laugh and smile and think. Meeting you and getting to know you and the whole LTYM thing–just really grateful for that. And you. Sorry this is so late re: response. I have been dealing with the Krakon.


Jennifer September 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I’m chasing you on this. I’m dreading it and hurting for you and our girls and wondering why can’t this one thing be easier. Just this thing.


Jamie September 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm

No advice here, just encouragement. I’m one of six girls and my mom is an EXPERT on those middle school years. 2 of the six of us had hellacious middle school experiences (I was spared, yay me!) So don’t dread miss Ms future experience because it may not be bad. Also, the 2 that had a horrid middle school experience were happy in high school, so hang in there!!


Shannon September 9, 2014 at 3:58 pm

“Do not engage” has become my mantra when the 11/12 year old angst comes out. But, man, it’s hard. I really don’t think Middle School is easy for anyone, even those who it looks easy for.
She will prevail. And so will you. Wishing you fewer mountains to climb along the way.


Annie September 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm

You are doing a great job. This is so very hard- all of it. To live through for the first time and to re-live again through her. I don’t have the wisdom of experience but I do know that both of you are very strong.

You are strong individually and I hope that you will learn to become even stronger together by the time this is all over. I’m in your corner.



Tiffany September 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm

What else can I do but send a hug?


Alison September 10, 2014 at 12:35 am

Oof. I can’t even. The near-teendom-ness of it all. I’ve blocked out my own. I’m sorry it’s so hard. All I can offer is hugs, and my virtual standing-here-with-you-ness.


Living the Dream September 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

Wow! This was such a powerfully written post. It took me back the way a familiar song or aroma transports you back to time and place. I have two daughters, now 23 and 26, so I’m very familiar with these moments of angst. I’m sure you know it’s just a phase and your beautiful daughter will one day be your very best friend. Hang in there and keep writing these awesome pieces.


Dana Talusani October 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Living the Dream,

You raised daughters who lived to be to 23 and 26, and YOU are alive and THEY are alive? Dear God, you give me hope.


Biz September 10, 2014 at 9:02 am

Ah, junior high – I remember when my daughter was that age – trying to fit in. I’d drop her off for chorus and see girls wearing super short skirts with sweats underneath and I’d tell Hannah “that’s an interesting look!” She said that they only wore the sweats until they walked in the doorway and their parents drove off, then they’d just take the sweats off and have the super mini skirt on.



Sherri September 11, 2014 at 12:40 pm

I so feel for both of you. My older daughter is now a freshman in college – the younger one in Gr. 1. I am two ends of the spectrum here – having been through it with one – waiting for that time with the other – though trying to cherish the little girlness right now. Middle school – and high school, for that matter – are hard, as you know. She’ll be OK. The sensitive ones suffer more – but are usually the nicer ones with respect from classmates. It will pass – it will. Virtual hugs from here too. Can you guys do something mother / daughter – festive fall – like – go somewhere none of the other “middle schoolers” will be? Might make you feel better :)


Dana Talusani October 8, 2014 at 7:05 pm


I am so interested in the way you are handling the big age disparity between kids. We had that, too–my stepson is almost 10 years older than Miss Boom/Clap. Funny thing is, he has a really special relationship with the little one, who is almost 14 years his junior. They giggle and geek out over video games and it makes me so happy and emotional, watching them connect, They adore each other and sometimes forget I am even in the room, and I love it.


Barbara September 12, 2014 at 4:16 am

I will be forever grateful I didn’t go through that with my daughter. My sons, however, made up for it by putting us though hell. As Gilda always said: it’s always something.
Hang in there, this too shall pass. You just have to make it day by day.


S in AK September 12, 2014 at 11:06 am

The uncertainty hurts but I loved the immediacy of this piece.


pat September 14, 2014 at 7:24 am

Ah, yes. When people ask if I want to be young again, these are the moments I flash back to…the continual second guessing of self. I still battle with the need to compare myself to others – why is what I am not good enough? And with my own children, now grown, I thought some parts of their youth so hard, surely it could get no harder? And then it did! From this vantage point though I realize I made such a to-do of things that had I left them alone, would have worked out just fine. Be at peace though, one day your child will realize it was all about love.


Dana Talusani September 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm


That is one of the big struggles–trying (as a parent) not to make such a big to-do of things. You see them struggling and it just is so scary. Teenagers are also so tender and secretive that you think and you hope that you know what’s going on with them, but you wonder. Thanks for stopping by!


Pamela September 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

I too have blocked these days out and your beautiful and searing writing has them all rushing back. Poor Miss D. Lucky for her he has an awesome mom. Keep fighting the good fight. Xoxo


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: