This article originally appeared on BlogHer.
Last year this time we were sneaking in mid-day matinees between the back to school doctor, dentist, and ortho appointments. When I asked her if she wanted a new sweat suit (the daily de rigueur fashion statement of 7th grade) she said no, the one she had was just fine–ripped knees and all. She insisted on pulling her long hair back into a sloppy ponytail to keep it out of the way when she played soccer, softball, or basketball. She wore tank tops under her tee shirts to hide the “mosquito bites” (her brother’s words, not mine) but that was the only concession made to her blossoming body. Boys? Tolerable at best and mentioned only if, on the rare chance, they beat her on the athletic field. Oh, what a difference a year makes.
This back to school season started with the hair consultation. Now thirteen and entering eight grade my daughter has decided it is time for a new look. Despite the fact that she has been growing her hair long for the past two years in order to donate it to Locks Of Love (an organization that makes wigs for children affected by the ravages of long-term medical hairloss), she decided enough was enough, it was time to cut it short and sassy. The hairdresser assured her there was plenty to work with and so I left my daughter while I did errands–picking up school supplies for my ten year old who hasn’t decided that he will only accept this mechanical pencil or that folder with the extra pockets. An hour later I returned and found my daughter was gone but an effervescent young woman stood waiting impatiently for me.
“Don’t you love it!” she squealed and I did. So did the two teenage boys who walked past on their way to the nearby ice cream store, skateboards in hand, ipods in their ear. They turned back not once but twice and it was all I could do to keep myself from chasing them down and threatening their lives for the unseemly thoughts obviously ping-ponging across the expanse of their neanderthal craniums. Was this the future? Please God, stop time. Take me back to the past when scrapped knees and bruised feelings were all I had to deal with. This, this ominous future; I am not prepared.
Now, she explained, she needed an outfit to go with her new haircut. Getting my daughter to go shopping had always been a challenge but here she was begging to go and even had print-outs of the styles she liked, the look she wanted to capture. I couldn’t say no. Off to the mall we drove and three hours later emerged with three new bras (bras, not tank tops!), two dresses (dresses?!), and even a lacy top to go with her recently purchased pair of skinny jeans. Who was this person sitting in the car beside me? Where was my daughter? I wondered both delighted and frightened by the seemingly sudden change.
The coup de grace came a day later when she begged to go with me to get a mani-pedi; she even offered to pay for half the cost with savings from her summer babysitting job. My husband demurred. “This is just too much,” he declared that night as we lay in bed pondering the change in our little tomboy. And part of me agreed, this new obsession with beauty was concerning (mani-pedi today, designer clothes tomorrow?). But I couldn’t resist her. She rarely asks for anything and when she does, she is always so level-headed and reasonable, it is hard to argue. She knew the mani-pedi would be a small one-time luxury not a weekly occurence. Perhaps, I argued, she was using this as a way to tell us she is moving into a new phase, blending both athlete and angel. In short, taking the next step on the not so long road to growing up.
But, the next morning as I watched her choose between “Meet Me at Midnight” and “Pretty In Pink,” I realized she may be moving into a new phase but I am not so sure I am ready. My daughter and I have always been close. Each day she has come home from school or camp or whatever activity has kept us apart and given me the “blow-by-blow” detail of all she saw, said, learned, and laughed about. I know her favorite song (“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus) and why she loves playing goalie for her soccer team (“In the end, it all comes down to me and that ball.”). I know she loves to dance because it feels like flying and that her favorite ice cream is coffee with rainbow jimmies. I know her best friend’s secrets because my daughter trusts me to never say a thing. I know she dreams of being a dancer and a scientist and maybe even a poet (“Can I be all three?” “You? You can be anything.”).
One day though, in the not so distance future, I won’t know these things. She will tell others before she tells me. She will, rightly, have her secrets and will guard her privacy. She will yell at me to “Butt out!” and will storm to her room and slam the door. She will miss her curfew and will get her first ticket and will do things she will regret. Some of which I will know about, others I won’t even be able to imagine. She will travel far distances to create space between the woman I am and the one she will become.
But today, she sits next to me, some fingers painted black and others pink, laughing at a photo of Lady Gaga and her outrageous outfit (told her Madonna did it first) and asking my opinion on the newest trend: padded shoulders (told her been there, done that!). When she turns to me and asks if we can get some sushi, telling me she’s having fun and wants to continue our special day, it is all I can do to hold back the tears and say yes, my beloved daughter, let’s extend this day, our special day.