I’ve been doing the mom thing for a while now, it’ll be eleven years next February. And while I like to think that I know what I’m doing, at least a little bit, I’m forever going to be a new mom when it comes to my oldest.
Give me a baby who won’t latch on while breastfeeding, I know what to do. A baby who’s fussy and constantly nursing – I know to start block feeding instead. Teaching a baby to walk, talk and use the potty? I’ve got that down. After doing it three times, I’m pretty sure I know what works, most of the time. Even going to school – I feel like by the time Julie goes to kindergarten, I’ll be experienced enough to not fall apart on the first day. (You realize I’m kidding myself – I’m sure I’ll cry just as hard or harder when my baby starts as I did when Jessie or Sam did).
But this whole “tween” thing – I have no idea what I’m doing. Suddenly my beloved little girl isn’t so little anymore – and I’m rapidly realizing that all the tips and tricks I’d discovered over the past decade aren’t as helpful as they once were. Suddenly, she’s sleeping until eleven, and reading gossip magazines from her grandmother’s house. Paying attention to celebrities and listening to music that I’ve never heard of. She’s focused and determined, making plans and dreams for a restaurant, testing out recipes and planning menus. And it’s not the little girl, pie in the sky kind of dreaming – she’s actually got goals and plans that are realistic and smart.
It’s scary, because she’s not little anymore. She’s not an adult either – she’s not even officially an adolescent. But she’s not just a little girl either. She’s growing up, so much faster than either of realized she would, and I have no idea what to with that. Time outs are just silly at this point, and sometimes I wonder if I’m getting thru to her at all. She can fight with me on an equal playing field, not all the time, but more and more. She’s scary smart, and knows exactly what buttons to push to get maximum impact. I want her to learn to respect her weapons, because she doesn’t always know her own strength. Not physically, but verbally. I want her to own her independence, to be proud and determined and feisty and brave.
So much of parenting is just doing your best and trying not to let it show that you have no idea what you’re doing. I know that we’ll survive the next couple of years the same way we did the previous ten. With a lot of love, a lot of reading, and a whole lot of praying it turns out okay. She’s her own person – and we’ve been moving closer and closer to independence from the day she was born. Part of her job over the next few years is to rebel, to figure out who she is without me there, and as hard as it is on me, it’s probably a whole lot harder on her.
I just read a book that compared adolescence to a caterpillar cocooning. In the end, my little caterpillar is going to be a butterfly, but meanwhile, she’s in a fragile state of change. And it’s up to me to give her the safe space to grow.