My eldest daughter is thirteen, and in many ways, still very much a child. She still takes pleasure in the simple things, still sleeps with a stuffed animal, can even be persuaded to play "pretend" with her eight year old sister- and likes it. She still gets excited when I make her favorite dessert, still enjoys SpongeBob, still gets pretty tired around nine in the evening.
And yet... everyday I see her making that transition from child to young lady. It goes beyond her wearing a bra and having a period- it's in her mannerisms, her opinions, her likes and dislikes. She considers herself an artist and a writer, and is serious when she says these things. She actually listens to me, and others, when we speak, not because she has to, but because she wants to. She has her own opinions that have nothing to do with mine- even in direct opposition of mine- that she has formed herself. She considers her future in ways that she didn't even a few months ago. She talks about traveling, about adopting, about what she can do to contribute to the world when she's an adult. She speaks of her education in broad terms instead of the here and now.
She has her own voice. She has her own style. She wants to express herself her own way. She is starting to forge her own path instead of me forging it for her.
I think the contrast is so obvious to me because she has younger siblings, and the demarcation between child and young adult is becoming clearer with each passing day. Her younger sisters, who are eleven and eight, and her nine year old brother, are still very much children in every sense of the word. Not so with my eldest daughter. I watch her start to move through the world, still very sheltered by her family, but beginning to do it under her own steam.
I know that we are only on the threshold of teenage'hood, and that the next years could be a trial (believe me, I know- I have two elder bonus sons, 21 and 17, and I've lived through the teenage years), but I still find myself enchanted by her developments as she makes that transition. I like that she likes me for me, instead of just because I'm her mother. I like that she has her own ideas and opinions, and isn't just a copy of what I think and what she thinks I want to hear.
At the same time, I do feel nostalgic when I think of her little girl years, of her complete joy in everything that she encountered. I don't want the world to mark her, but I know that it's inevitable, that she has to know hardship in order to grow and develop, that sometimes the hardest lessons are the most rewarding. I hope though, that the woman she is slowly becoming will be able to meet those challenges head on, and still be able to embrace the beauty and wonder life has to offer with all the simple joy of her younger years.
In the end, I want her to always be true to herself, and so far, that is exactly what she seems to be doing. I am a proud mother.
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