It was early on a Sunday evening. The three of us sat around the small round table in the area of our house that we have loosely described as the dining room. I can’t remember what we were eating. But that’s not what I will forever remember about that evening.
Daughter is 12 going on 17. She loves telling us about occasions when someone has mistaken her for someone who is older. She excitedly shares every detail, a tale told with a smile stretched across her face. It’s usually being mistaken for being 14, or guessing she’s an 8th grader.
It takes me back to the time in my life when I desperately wanted to be older. I didn’t have to push too hard. One time, my mother and I went together to a dress-up dinner function. I was 14 or 15 at the time. The next day, my father received a phone call from a well-intentioned busybody, who reported that his wife had been in the company of a romantic rival the previous evening.
Growing up always comes with an eclectic collection of baggage, doesn’t it?
Under my own roof, I have a daughter who experiences the typical hormonal, emotional, mood swings that characterize girls her age.
We’ve had the usual spats and dust-ups. She’s acted out a few times. I’ve delivered a couple of killer (verbal) blows in retaliation.
There was a time recently when she decided she was going to be my mother and scold me for every perceived shortcoming. Of course, my own mother never did that, but it was what I was feeling under Daughter’s heavy-handed scrutiny.
“Cover your mouth when you cough.” “Go wash your hands.” “Stop talking! I can’t hear the TV.” “You’re not really leaving that there, are you?”
You get the idea. Initially, my reaction was to come back at her, telling her (essentially) she doesn’t order a parent around. We get louder. We both let our frustration show like two sharks in a small aquarium.
Then something happened. I wish I could pin down the moment or the reason that it occurred. There was a tectonic shift. I noticed it when she started talking to me when she was in the back seat as we drove. Real conversations. Sometimes, important stuff. Her phone is still at the top of the list, mind you.
Back to that Sunday dinner. The three of us talked, shared, empathized, commiserated. The positive vibes coursed through my mind and body, and I’d swear I was lifted an inch or two off the seat.
At one point, I stopped talking. I simply fixated on Daughter, admiring her as the young adult she is. We all know that children grow up. One day we wake up and they’re heading off to high school, then college.
Listening to Daughter speak maturely and watching her graceful countenance, I had one of those moments, She’s not my little baby anymore, wearing her pink bucket hat or trying to muster the courage to touch a cow’s nose at farm. Joyful ice-cream make-up across her face. (Now she’s tangling with mom about using hints of real make-up.)
Digging out my home office this week, I came upon my cache of artwork, photos and other mementos I gathered for the past 12 years. It was all there. Pictures and hand-drawn artwork tracing her growth from infant to toddler to kindergarten …
When I’m out in public and I see a guy clutching a baby or pushing a stroller, I often stop to admire the child. (Always ask first.) The question for me that almost always follows: “Do they really grow up that quickly?”
I smile. I point to daughter. “She was just 2 years old yesterday, and when I woke up today she looked like this.”