My adolescent daughter is like a cat

I made the groundbreaking realization the other day that Margaret is a lot like a cat. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is one of the highest compliments that I could ever pay her. (I hold 99% of cats in the highest regard.)

The incident that preceded the incident that led me to this conclusion was nothing out of the blue. It was morning – not my favorite time as I’ve lamented in the past – and I was driving her to school. My typical cranky-morning moodiness was MIA. It was one of the only times I can remember feeling alive – and oddly lucid – before 11 am. I asked Margaret a few questions about school to which she efficiently responded in one of her typical one-word answers. And then promptly asked, “Can we turn on the radio?”

Mag cat

I thought to myself, “Wow, we are so different.” Had that been my mother asking me about school, it would have easily launched a full-blown discussion about every emotion I was experiencing – and then some.

The next night, Margaret called me from her room. I heard anxiety in her voice, so I raced in, eager not to miss out on one of the rare moments in which she divulges to me. She was ready to go to sleep but was stressed about school and wanted to run a few things by me. As if she were holding a board meeting, one by one, she enumerated each dilemma as if they were agenda items, and asked for my feedback. I relished in giving her advice. After the last “agenda” item, something that I felt warranted a conversation (what doesn’t?), she says calmly, without a trace of the previous anxiety that consumed her just fifteen minutes earlier, “Mom, I really need to go to bed.” It was as if she’d made a motion to end the meeting, it got seconded, and the meeting had adjourned. Discussion over. Poof, be gone!

I sung to her, kissed her, and walked out scratching my head. My mind was still processing all that she shared with me. But she just needed to get it off her chest and then she was done. I definitely could not relate.

Every cat I’ve ever owned behaves this same way. When I want to cuddle with them, they couldn’t care less. They’ve got more important things to do, like lick the fur that’s furthest from their mouth. Or sleep with one eye open. Or engage in a staring contest with a lizard. But if they’re hungry, want to eat backyard grass and sniff coyote dung (we call these “outdoor playdates” due to the coyote manifestation in our neighborhood) or the litter box is in unacceptable conditions, I am buried in a thousand meows and crazy eights as they wrap their furry, elastic bodies around my legs.

I’m not sure how much of this is because Margaret is an adolescent or because this is her personality. Or perhaps both. What I do know is that as much as I have loved every single one of my cats, I love Margaret a gazillion times more. So, while things can become pretty hairball between us, I think the more I think of her like a cat, the less I’ll be overly sensitive when she doesn’t want to engage when I do. Because like my cats, she’ll always want her momma – even if it’s on her terms. And that’s felinely fine with me.



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