Something has happened to my child this summer. She has changed and mutated and sometimes I feel as if I have lost her to this thing called "teen". This "teen" disease snuck up on us too soon because, after all, she is only 12. But somewhere along the line this year, her box-shaped t-shirts became fitted, v-neck t-shirts. Her hastily pulled back ponytail has become 10 minutes of primping in the morning to straighten her hair. Her plain jeans have given way to shorts that, although completely appropriate, can't make me stop growling at the boys who only see her extremely long legs. Her "up at the crack of dawn" eagerness has pushed further and further into mid-morning, stumbling out of bed at 8:30 or later. The first time this summer she slept until 8:00, I listened at her closed bedroom door to make sure I could hear her rustling about.
Her attitude hasn't changed. She is still the sweet-natured child who is always willing to help and very rarely complains. But last summer, if she was awake, she was content to be in the same room with me. She enjoyed going places with me. This summer she spent the first week in her room rearranging her nest and now she disappears into it for hours on end. She reads, listens to music and texts her friends all in this space where I no longer dare enter. This "teen" disease means that suddenly I am not enough for her.
The real shock came when her school assistant principal called to personally ask that we enroll her in 3 high school courses. She is 12. She is a rising 8th grader. She skipped second grade so she is even younger than her school mates. And yet, here she will be, taking 3 high school courses because, really, that is what she needs to challenge her. But that also means that she will be 3 courses ahead in high school and the goal is for her to fill those slots her senior year with college courses offered through the school district. How in the world did I go from gawky, awkward tomboy child to a college student in the blink of an eye?
I just feel sad that this is all happening so soon. I want to do what is best for her and I know that I need to allow her to grow up, but at this very moment she is walking with her BFF down to the boardwalk to play in the arcade. I am not there to protect her from perverts, thieves, drugs, cigarettes, bad choices, bad drivers and BOYS!!!! Somehow she became old enough and wise enough to be able to protect herself. And it all happened in a heartbeat.
Someone needs to tell you when you are going to experience last times. If I had known that I was holding her hand as I crossed the street for the last time, I would have held it tighter and cherished it more. Or I might not have grumbled when she woke me up because she was afraid of the thunder that last time. All those last times I wish I could call back and get one more chance to do it right are just gone. Everyone tells you it goes so fast and to enjoy every moment because you will miss it, but when they are young, you think "yeah, right" because you are just too busy keeping them from sticking things up their nose or drinking pretty colored things that have skulls on the bottles.
I am so happy that I have this wonderful, smart, driven young woman as my daughter. She is so beautiful both inside and outside that she makes me hurt. I know that up to this point I have done my job well. But now my job makes me hurt, because it means standing back and letting her make her own way. It means being there when she starts to fall off the path, but not push her back onto the way I would have her go. Sometime this summer, her life became her own. Lord, I hope I am ready.