I never was a parent who lamented each passing stage of my children's development. I did not get sad at their first birthdays or when they started their first days of kindergarten. I didn't want them to stay babies. Instead, I was excited to watch them grow and tried to embrace each stage.
The days and months went by faster once they started school. Catherine started and then finished elementary school in what seemed like mere weeks. But still, I didn't beg for time to slow down. The kids were just growing up . . . that's what they were supposed to do.
But that has changed this summer. My girl is pulling away, and there is no going back. I feel like she's punched a speed train ticket to adulthood and I'm along for the ride. This is supposed to happen. I know this. I just wasn't expecting it to start so soon.
My daughter is eleven years old and will enter middle school in a couple of weeks (because school starts on August 1 and the world is nuts). She is looking more like a young woman and less like a little girl. Spending time with her friends takes precedence over being with her family. She is starting to be concerned with how she looks and what she wears. I embarrass her on a regular basis.
The time that she has left under my roof is less than the time she already has been in my care (my calculations show that we are about 62% of the way to move out time). For the first time, I want to hold up my hands and say, "Slow down just a little bit! Give me a few more of these days! Or make a few more of those special evenings last longer!"
Even though she is likely to pick her friends (or listening to music in her room or watching You Tube videos about slime) over her family, we still have fun together when those opportunities occur. Just today, the two of us developed a fantastic front flip, back flip, cartwheel, final jump flourish synchronized swimming routine at the neighborhood swimming pool. (And side note - my 42-year-old underwater back flip is still on point . . . other than the one time I scraped my face on the bottom of the pool.) She still asks for family movie nights on the couch and marathon board games sessions. She wants to talk to me every night at bedtime (well, when she's home) about whatever is on her mind. I am thankful for all of these things.
And besides, this growth is exactly what I want for her! Isn't one of our primary jobs as parents to raise kids who are independent and incrementally don't need us anymore? We seem to be proceeding down that "cut the apron strings" road just fine. It's the same road I remember walking from her perspective about thirty years ago (to the beat of Debbie Gibson and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam).
Still, I can't help but ask myself some of the big questions this summer when it comes to my preteen girl.
Have I spent enough time with her? Does she feel like I've been available in the big moments and the small? Does she have the confidence to make her way through the tough waters of middle school and high school? What will she remember of her childhood? Does she KNOW how much I love her? What do I need to tell her and teach her in the next seven years? Does she want me to ask her to spend more time together? How does she feel about growing up? Have I created a home that she will look forward to visiting for comfort once she is an adult?
Are there other moms of preteens out there experiencing these same feelings? Or moms who are further down this road who can offer some advice?