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BY MARY MALLOY She was the sweetest baby. She had large, round, blue eyes that took in the world at an early age. Passersby thought she was older than she was - her alertness, her ...

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She was the sweetest baby.

She had large, round, blue eyes that took in the world at an early age. Passersby thought she was older than she was - her alertness, her knowing look, her interactive and animated hands, eyes and mouth. I nursed her, carried her, marvelled at her. She is my second child, but my first daughter.

You could tell she was smart and wanted to know more about her surroundings.She "cruised" the furniture and walked early at nine months old. Her first word was "tree," pointing to our decorated Christmas tree. She had such little blonde fuzz on her head that I had to velcro pink bows to the strands that were there.She asked to go to preschool, a year before I was ready to send her. And she went in the door without turning around to say goodbye. I should have known then that this was the start of her independence.

But none of that could prepare me for what was to come. I hold onto these memories because my sweet girl is now --- a TEENAGER!!

What have they done with my baby? My son as a teen was certainly a bit surly, moody and got into some trouble, but he didn't look at me like he despised me, didn't roll his eyes in disgust when I asked him where the hairbrush was. He didn't insist I talk to him through a closed door. ("I can hear you," she moans...)
She seems to hate the sight of me. Others chuckle. "Oh, yeah...they do that." There is some peace in knowing that it's not unusual, that their brains are wired differently at this time in their lives. It's just very trying to live through it, and with it.

Somewhat reassuringly, there are physiological explanations for our offspring's behavior.
"The brain is undergoing more change now than at any other time, except just after birth," says Linda Spear, PhD, professor of psychology at Binghamton University in New York.
"New connections are being made throughout the adolescent brain, even in the gray matter where we do most of our rational thinking. What's more, the brain is feverishly reshaping itself, pruning neural connections at the rate of 30,000 per second, producing a leaner, meaner brain."

I get the "meaner" part.

I am trying, though. I didn't mind when she started wearing black. Only black. And then black with lots of silver. And some chains. And then her hair was red. Really red. And then she got her first boyfriend. There were no whispers with me about how cute he is (well, he was - he's the ex-boyfriend now) No asking for advice. I did squeeze in a "boys will be boys" talk, and for a free-spirited, opened minded person such as myself, it was still a sweat-producing chat. Not fun.
It is hard to complain. She is social, she is healthy, she is a good student. She is a wonderful actress, singer and director of videos.Her friends respect her.
She needs me for things now - rides to the mall, food ("there is never any food in this house!") She needs clothes, warmth and shelter.

But what she doesn't need now is my companionship, and I miss that. This is the "breaking away" part and frankly, it hurts like hell. It's my heart that breaks sometimes, missing her friendship.
Would she believe that I dream of the day she will call me on the phone, just to chat? That we will be joking, teasing each other, talking about these days and how hard they were for the both of us? That I picture her touring Europe, and eventually with a family of her own?

There are signs that my loving daughter is still there, somewhere. When I say, "I love you" she does respond with something that sounds like, 'yatoo" before she turns away. But I heard her. She loves me, too.

She just won't be able to show it until the year 2012. I am a very patient mother.

Mary Malloy is a published writer, having written humorous, ongoing columns in local newspapers including The East Rockaway Observer,The Five Towns Forum, Nassau Tribune, Nassau Community Newspaper Group, & Long Island Woman periodical. She recently married her childhood sweetheart and is the mother of five children, ages 12 to 30 --and the grandmother of a lively toddler name Thomas. She experiences every day life by coping, juggling and living on (and loving) Long Island, New York and sharing the humor and the ironies of life with others.