Posted by: Kate | September 5, 2010

Ready or Not

Something happened to Emily over the summer.

It’s hard to quite put my finger on, because in some ways it happened in the blink of an eye, and in others it was so gradual as to be nearly imperceptible.  It’s subtle enough to be ignorable, some days, and then other days it’s so glaringly obvious I want to ask her for some tangible form of identification.  It’s a positive change, for the most part, and yet it breaks my heart into a million, achy little pieces.

She’s growing up.

She’s not done yet, of course; it’s not like she waltzed out of her room one morning having undergone a complete metamorphosis overnight.  It’s an ongoing process for all of us, and I’m not all the way there, myself, so she’s got a long way to go.  And some days, when she decides to stay in her feety pajamas all day and play with Legos and argue with her brother and giggle until she snorts, I’m comfortably reassured that she’s still very much a child.  Just ten, just a few years away from toddlerhood.  Still my baby.

But other days… well.

The first time I was fully aware of it was sometime in July or so.  It was just some random weekday afternoon, too hot to send the kids outside for very long, and everyone was getting a little bit noodgy and bored, so I decided to rally the troops for an unplanned midweek grocery store run.  A change of scenery, one that involved air conditioning but not an entrance fee, seemed necessary.  Emily trudged into her room to change – she suffers from a rare but chronic condition known locally as choreitis, in which her energy level takes a sudden and inexplicable plunge, often accompanied by debilitating stomachaches and angst.  This dreaded syndrome only manifests when one’s parents have the audacity to request completion of chores or accompaniment to any outside event not specifically focused on the child’s entertainment.  Onset is sudden, and symptoms can be exacerbated if the victim is requested to not only perform housework, but to suspend playtime first.  There is no known cure.

Anyway, she made the obligatory effort to weasel out of going to the store once it was determined that the purchase of toys was not on the agenda, but I was relatively certain that leaving her home much longer with her father was going to result in some form of misery, so she dragged herself into her bedroom to get dressed.  She came out in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, stuff she hadn’t worn in a couple of months.  But still fit her, technically… but the jeans were just a little bit tighter than they used to be, and the shirt’s hem fell just a little bit higher… and somehow, in the blink of an eye, she was older.  Not so much about her static appearance, but I think she has started moving with that long-limbed, coltish awkwardness of adolescence.

It took all of my self-restraint not to send her immediately back to put the pajamas back on.

Willem saw it, too, though he has worked even harder than I have to deny, avoid, refuse to acknowledge… just whatever it takes to keep her as perpetually 7, just a goofy little kid, without any of the signs or symptoms of impending puberty – or, even worse, adulthood – appearing on the horizon.  Out of respect for her privacy, I won’t share further details, but suffice it to say that I have been made aware of some other aspects of my baby girl, things that make it that much harder to ignore the inevitable.

Aside from the physical, there’s a certain something about her personality that has evolved, too.  I’m sure that some of it can be attributed to my illness, and the household stresses and changes that have stemmed from it.  But more, I think, is simply due to a developing and maturing mind.  Her sense of humor has taken a step beyond knock-knock jokes and sarcasm, and her conversations are more two-sided, less authority-child in nature.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s still the child and I’m still the parent – maybe it makes me uncool, but I’m very much of the opinion that kids and parents shouldn’t be friends at least until the parents stop being legally responsible for the children’s behavior.  But there are times when we’re able to banter differently; when we’re able to riff off each other or just interact in a way that is less instructive and more, well, interactive.

I suppose this is something to celebrate, right?  She’s growing, she’s maturing, and really she is, the vast majority of the time, a delightful person to be around.  And when she’s annoying, well, good.  I have my days, too, and it would be horrifying to have created a child too much more perfect than myself.  But oh, it makes my heart hurt, too.

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Responses

  1. Ah, the dreaded choreitis. In my family we have suffered from a similar malady, going back several generations, which my maternal grandmother dubbed schoolaroostayhomeis.

    Good luck with the tween years! I’m watching you to see what to do when we get there…

    • I agree with you!! Watching you to see how to carefully navigate those years. I can hardly stand to think they’re coming, my baby’s only three!! ahhh! 😉

  2. Well I’m not sure if I should cry or say “congratulations she has survived this long.” 😉 Gosh time flies doesn’t it. Hopefully the tweens and such aren’t chaotic.

  3. *New reader* My daughter just turned 10 and at the beginning of summer she tried on her swim suit from last year (it was a little big then) needless to say while it fit…technically…

    We (my husband and I) made the executive decision to buy a new, bigger & more carefully designed swimsuit…we won’t speak of the other things that have made it even more clear that she has evolved from ‘little/big girl’ to definitely ‘big’ girl…I don’t know that I will ever be ready, but I’m trying.

    Also agree with your ‘uncool’ stance on parenting, its the one we go by as well. I would rather be their mother than their friend and for quite a few years to go yet I don’t believe I can be both without harm to all.

    –Aileene


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