I brought her into this world, but she might take me out of it. She hasn't decided if she will do it in a slow and painful way or by a quick and terrifying method. Last Sunday, she waffled in the teenage wasteland of indecision, tentatively dabbling in a bit of both strategies designed to get under the skin of her annoying parents and peel it back until they cry mercy or "Go to your room!"
The dark cloud of unjust parental love overshadowed the simple task of backing out of the driveway to go to church, and it hung low over much of the day. Sitting in the unlucky position as co-pilot, I instructed my 15-year-old daughter in driving in reverse so she wouldn't plow down the landscaping with the rear tires of my car. "I know," she protested then plowed down a portion of our weary landscaping with the rear tires of my car.
As she picked up speed, I reminded her to please stop at the end of the driveway before pulling into the street. "I know," she protested again, pressing the brake to the floor, which sent her passengers lurching forward. Her father barked from the back seat, "You didn't check to make sure your passengers have on their seatbelts!"
"She just did," I pointed out. I could see this day smacked of the quick and terrifying variety of demise. There was no need for him to give provocation from the backseat.
The next seven minutes were peppered with harrowing near-misses, road safety reminders from me, "I know!" from her, and loud panicked repetition of her name from her father. I implored her 17-year-old brother, who silently rooted for quick and terrifying, "Let's talk about calculus to distract ourselves."
When he reluctantly lost me in implicit derivatives, my daughter saw an opening to whip the car into the church parking lot without slowing down. Her father barked her name like a machine gun, and a vulnerable family withdrew to safety between two parked cars.
Our rattled driver straddled my Toyota across two parking spaces, threw it in park, cut the engine, leapt out, slammed the door and stomped the keys over to me. "I'm not driving home," she huffed.
I'm a glutton for this type of teenage punishment. I raised my hands, looked to heaven and breathed, "Thank you."
My daughter's scowl accompanied by, "That's so rude," heralded the coming travails of her slow and painful method. She refused my affection and declined my encouragement when I put my hand on her shoulder and said, "You did a pretty good job overall."
To my sharing of the hymnal with her, she indicated a preference for solitude in our pew, going as far as to request I stop singing, as well. She put a finger up to her ear to block my harmony.
Later, when I changed clothes for our afternoon hike at Phinizy Swamp, she told me to take off my plaid shirt because it was too much like the plaid shirt she chose to wear. She then plundered my closet for my L.L. Bean boots and crammed her size 8 feet into my size 7 shoes. I resolved that if my end was to be slow and painful, I would be wearing my plaid shirt when it came.
So the day dragged, towing teenagers with it, until sometime in the afternoon she came around to the plaid shirts. She announced she and I are like The Gilmore Girls. And she suggested we cap our day off with Starbucks.
I'm not fooled. She's young. She lacks fortitude. When both "quick and terrifying" and "slow and painful" failed to produce immediate results, she resorted to killing me with kindness.
Lucy Adams is the author of "If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny" and other books. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org.