Somewhere along the way, my daughter has turned into a pre-teen. I’m not sure exactly when it first started, but I’d peg it at some point in the last two weeks. When school started. Middle school, to be exact.
In the back of my mind, I always knew it would happen this way—my quiet, funny, lively, ever-optimistic baby girl would leave for school one morning and come back home that afternoon sullen and attitudinal. Right now, all that’s missing is the Goth clothes and the black fingernail polish.
Last year, ask her how her days was and you’d be entertained for an hour. This year, ask her that same question and the response (if there is one) will be a shrug and a stern “Nothin’.”
Asking her what’s wrong yields the same answer.
Trying to figure out what’s going on inside the big brain encased in that little head is impossible. I’m not well equipped with such a task. I cannot understand my daughter. Which is only right considering I’ve spent the last twenty years or so trying and failing to understand her mother. It’s exhausting.
I’ve had help with all of this, of course. The aforementioned mother I’m still struggling to understand actually understands my daughter’s current state quite well. She remembers how it is, growing up. The memories of that murky place between little girl and young woman are still relatively fresh. “She’s just growing up,” is what my wife says. As if that is enough to make everything better. It doesn’t, not to me. To me, it just makes everything worse.
Because really, I don’t want my daughter to grow up. I like her just the way she is. Growing up means things I don’t even want to think about at the moment—things like the Family Planning class she’s getting ready to take (which I will not get into here other than to say DANG). It means things like smart phones. Things like boys.
The boy thing rests especially heavy on my heart. I was a boy once. I know what they think about and just how often they think about it. But I’m on the ball with that one, too. I recently got my copy of Ruthie and Michael Dean’s book Real Men Don’t Text. If you have a son or daughter (or niece and nephew, or etc.) between the ages of 11 and 30, that’s the book you want. My own copy’s going straight to my daughter in another couple of years.
In the meantime, I’m just trying to do what I can. Mostly, I’ve found that just means being there. Right there, right with her. Because it really is tough to grow up. At a certain age all of the shine you thought was on the world begins to fade and you find that what lies beneath isn’t always the bright and beautiful stuff you thought. You’re not supposed to save your kids from finding that out, you’re supposed to help them through it when you do.