I walk past the little girl’s section in Target and swallow hard as I see all the pint-sized treasures hanging on the racks. It never fails that I remember those days: first, with you in the cart, obliviously playing with whatever was in your chubby toddler hands, and later, while you were busy learning reading, writing and arithmetic in kindergarten.
I was busying myself, picking out all the cutest outfits in colors perfect for you and plenty of bling because you loved all things that sparkled. There were tiny shoes, so many pairs, lining the floor of your closet—my shoe addiction bleeding into your world on a smaller scale and causing your daddy to kid that he now had an idea where all the money went.
I don’t know who was more excited sitting on your small quilted bed as I showed you all of the newest treasures I had picked out for you. Your eyes would light up, and you would throw your tiny, warm arms around my neck and whisper, “I love them all, Mommy.”
In the past couple of years, I started to notice that the uninhibited joy you once showed when I bought you things was tempered. Oh, you still said thank you, folded or hung the clothes and put them away, but I knew you were being polite. In a few months, I would pull these same things out, never worn and tags still intact, and realize things were changing. I clung to my denial as I packed the clothes and shoes in bags to donate or give to friends with younger, smaller daughters.
You are one short month of being a teenager, and we still love Target but are finding ourselves in some of the trendier stores too. On a recent shopping trip, we walked together for a while, and I picked up a few things to show you. Then you picked up a few things to show me.
The denial was over. I realized I was done picking out your clothes.
You are finding your own style. Your love of sparkly sandals has been traded for chunky heeled boots in the same size as mine, and flowered headbands are swapped out for hats representing Doctor Who. Floral print skirts and bright-colored dresses are passed over for funky patterned rompers and camouflage shorts with pom-pom trim.
It is in that moment that my eyes are wide open, and I can see all of the changes happening with you. I’ve tried to stop the inevitable, but in a bittersweet revelation, I realize I can’t.
I miss my cherub-cheeked little girl with pigtails sticking straight out from her head, draped in fake pearls, smiling and spinning in her sequin and lace splendor. But I feel such a thrill to be able to watch you grow into a confident girl with her own fun and fearless style, who believes in the goodness of the world, practices compassion at every turn, and is enjoying the gifts of a nearly carefree and blessed youth.
The process of letting go, just a little, has begun. I’m getting to know the newer you, and I have to admit, I like your style.