Somethings in parenting slowly creep up on you, like Princess turning into a little lady, and you barely notice the change until suddenly it’s too late. Other times, you hit up against it like backing into a telephone pole behind your bumper. Or last week when Tall Girl decided, at least intellectually, to enter puberty.
Okay, okay. I know it didn’t happen overnight, but it felt like it to me. It was during the half hour before school. I was corralling the the kids to make their Scholastic book order choices, so I could write a cheque and send it off. Tall Girl wanted something whose title sounded like A Bieberful of Bieberness all about, you guessed it, Justin Bieber. While I have no problem with this so far clean cut kid from small town Ontario, locally he has become a lodestone of derision in the Grade 4 and 5 classes. And since the book order was being sent through Sweetie Pie’s Grade 4 class, I nixed that idea.
“Nope.” I said. “Sweetie Pie will never hear the end of teasing, and she doesn’t even like Justin Bieber. Pick something else this time.”
I thought I was reasonable. I said it nicely. I was even smiling. But when I looked up from my cheque book, I saw two red rimmed eyes, and a quivering lip.
“Honey, you could get a Gallagher Girls book. Don’t you want to see how things go at the spy academy? How about more Goddess Girls?” I blathered trying to cheer her up. No success. She just started crying and crying. I chased her around the kitchen, proffering Kleenexes and begging her to tell me what was wrong.
“But I don’t know why I’m crying, Mom.”
Oh. Hi, Puberty. I wondered when you would get here.
Since then, I’ve seen other signs: hair smoothed in mirrors when she thinks no one is looking, unmentionables are starting to be hidden away instead of left on the floor in front of her bed, a desire to tackle Romeo and Juliet, phone calls that last 40 minutes.
“I know.” I overhear he declare to her friend. “That’s exactly what I thought.” Finally, someone who understands. Someone who isn’t her family. The beginning of bonds cemented all her own.
I can feel and see it already, ever so slightly, the pulling away of this time of her life. The time when she establishes herself as forever part of this family, but somehow separate from it. When she begins to reflect on how she was fed, clothed, raised, and taught, and realizes that these were our choices. And they do not necessarily have to be her choices. Critical eyes rolling behind my back. “Why not??” pleaded at the dinner table, proceeding exasperated sighs. “It’s not fair!”
Maybe not, sweetheart. Especially not for me, as I have to patiently watch as I lose my child, to gain a young woman. Good luck to both of us.