The count down is on. Like it hasn’t been for the past three months. My firstborn is about to be 9-years-old, and I have mixed feelings. It’s the day before her birthday, and she’s reminded me at least half a dozen times that this birthday she isn’t just turning 9. She’s going to be a tween. Mom, I am not a little kid anymore.
Love of my life, trust me, I know.
For the first time last week, she rode off with friends on her scooter to their house without me. She didn’t need a drop-off or a hug and reassurance before going somewhere new for the first time. Of course, it all unfolded without incident. Her friend’s mom sent me a message to let me know she had made it there just fine. Truthfully, it’s less than a 1/2 mile walk, so I wasn’t really concerned.
But I find myself feeling some sort of way about her coming into her own. That’s good, right? I mean, it is all part of the circle of life (cues “The Lion King”). She is kind, polite, and having fun with her friends. All indicators point to doing something right with this whole parenting gig, so why do I feel so sad?
Remember how everyone told you your kids would grow up in the blink of an eye? I laughed at them, rolled my eyes, and thought, riiight. It felt so far from the truth during those 2 a.m. mornings, but if I’m being honest, I kind of want them back. I know, you think I’m insane! Who would give up full nights of sleep, uninterrupted showers, and the ability to actually sit down at a restaurant and have a full meal?
I would. I’d trade a full night of sleep for less worrying about if I’m doing this parenting thing right. I would trade uninterrupted showers for a few more snuggles and being chosen over tablet time. I would trade more homemade meals (let’s be honest.. read as take out) around the dinner table than calm and collected Sunday brunch at her favorite restaurant. Because at that restaurant, the rest of the world watches her, and she watches them. She doesn’t tell me about how school was, because she just spotted, let’s call him Bobby, and now is entirely focused on capturing (and avoiding) his notice at the same time.
See, this is the fun part. I remember my first crush, but I also remember not wanting to tell my Mom, because I thought she’d make a big deal about it. Kind of like I want to make a big deal about Bobby. But I won’t. Because I want her to be able to tell me things. I overheard her friend tell her about her boyfriend. I did my best to stifle a giggle. We all know at eight, excuse me–almost tween, boyfriends are people we talk to on the phone with. Oh wait, that’s right. I meant someone they play Roblox with.
And then there are those harder conversations. The conversations about why you weren’t invited to so-and-so’s birthday party. Or why your friends have a phone, but I don’t think you need one yet. Or how I am absolutely terrified that you will start talking about how much you want to change your body to be like your peers. Sorry kid, but you have my shape. I’ve already seen you do the jump-jump-wiggle into jean shorts that are more fitted on your thighs and hips than your waist.
I take so much comfort in the fact that you can’t go to bed without that pink teddy bear and that you still need at least two bedtime songs the first time I tuck you in. And yes, I know sometimes I tell you that you drive me absolutely insane when you ask me to tuck you in a second time, but all the other times, I treasure those cuddles so much.
There are so many feelings. So many unknowns about the road that lay ahead of us. There are a million things I’d change if I had a do-over, but it isn’t about me–this, my dear tween, it’s about you. My job is to love you unconditionally and let you make mistakes. To guide you but let you make your own unique mark on this world. But while you’re out there conquering the world through your new nine-year-old perspective, there are a few things I want you to remember.
Remember, your sister is watching you. I know she makes you crazy sometimes by doing everything you do and wanting to play everything you play, but it’s because she looks up to you. She is inspired by you. I only hope and pray you two have an amazing relationship with her when you grow up like you see me have with your Auntie.
Remember to never stop learning. Even when you think you have seen it all, heard it all, and know it all, hold space to grow. You’re so smart and so passionate about learning and reading–never lose that. I’ve never been so proud of you as I was the day I took you to get your first library card. Even though it’s a step closer toward your independence, I know deep down I’ll still get the opportunity to help you out. After all, you are my daughter. You are bound to lose it once, or twice, or until you can attach the tag to your car key. Lord knows I’ve even been able to lose that.
I could go on for days about the wishes I want to leave you with as you set forth on this new leg of your journey, but I will leave you with this. Remember to always be yourself. You are exactly who you are meant to be, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though I have all the feelings, I couldn’t be more proud of the tween you are about to become. This is about to be a wild ride–for both of us, but I promise I will be there every step of the way.