Wow. Double digits. I have to say, I didn’t see this coming. Okay, I did, but not.this.fast. It was supposed to be someday in the far future.
We did just bring you home, right? Hold you for hours in the evening when you screamed with reflux? Delighted in every roll or tooth or step you made as you grew, the center of our hearts and our only baby for so long? All that was just last week, right?
And this week, well, now you’re singing your heart out in the shower to some song I’ve never heard before that you’ve downloaded onto the iPod you bought with all your saved-up dollars.
Where did this person come from?
I’d like to say I am proud of the woman you’re becoming, and I am, but it’s not that simple. Because somedays, I have no idea who you are. I feel like every morning I wake up and have to get to know you all over again. Some days you’re my funny sweet girl, sometimes a fire-breathing dragon whose eyes are permanently rolled upward, and sometimes nothing more than a ball of emotion and tears. I never know which one I’m going to get, which, I have to admit, is kinda stressful. (And yeah, sometimes we are the ones rolling our eyes at you, because oh the drama.)
Not knowing you as well isn’t a bad thing, as I am sure you are struggling through it too in figuring out what you like and who you are. But I felt like I knew you a lot better when you were 3 and wouldn’t leave my side — I even knew what your imaginary friends had for dinner, and who you sat with at lunch, why you had a scrape on your left knee, and which tooth was loose. But now without all the daily physical care to give you (although I’m always, ahem, available to help you brush your hair), and the tears to soothe over going to kindergarten, and the princess dresses to do up the backs for and the silly songs to sing with you, and helping you put on your socks and shoes, pushing you on the swing, and buckling you in you car seat and even wiping your snot nose… well, I feel like you’re already halfway out the door (as you pointed out on your 9th birthday).
More and more that little girl who only wanted her daddy to read to her at night, who played for hours in her room with her imaginary friends and her baby doll, who wore tiaras and tutus and bows and dresses and liked to put on lipstick with me and who used to absolutely adore Merida and Mulan… I can see her slipping away. Now she’s someone who prefers black over pink and purple, who despises glitter, and who won’t wear anything with a bow or ruffle on it, and who never, ever cleans her room, which looks like it got hit by a Category 3 hurricane with clothes and books and papers everywhere.
I was sad when you breezed through the American Girl doll phase so quickly, but I’m still happy you enjoy LEGOs, because when we build with them together on your floor before bed it’s one of the few times we get to talk without your siblings around, when I get to try to get a measure on you again and feel you out and ask about your day. I wasn’t too thrilled when you wanted to paint two walls in your bedroom a very grown-up dark navy blue and not keep the pretty aqua, but I love that you still want your pink bunny when you are really upset. There is some relief of the pressure of morning logistics now that you want to bike yourself to school, but I’m still terrified every time you do it.
I know you’re ready to grow up, and we’ve had The Talk, and I see how much you’ve learned at school about leadership, how responsible you are with your siblings and as a mother’s helper, and how conscientious you were to take CPR and First Aid in summer camp. I didn’t say it, but I was proud of you for carefully saving all your money for the iPod when I told you I was not going to buy it for you. I know you know we are proud of you for being on school safety patrol and I love seeing how much being given this responsibility has helped you grow up. I don’t want to stop you from growing up, because of course, I want you to be brave enough to head off to college and out into the world, confident and happy, knowing your family adores you and is here for you no matter what.
I will miss my baby girl terribly. But I’m also excited, and interested, to see who this beautiful new person is emerging into as we wade into the tween years. I know I’ll only love her more.