I sent my 10-year-old to spend a few nights with her cousins.
Tomorrow I’ll get an 11-year-old back.
Nothing has really changed in the course of a day. You’ll be pretty much the same kid you were before. This growing up thing is so slow we barely see it. Over the course of this day and the next and the one after that… and pretty soon 365 days of barely noticeable changes leave their mark. This year, more than any other before, you will grow up.
Ten was a great year! You were still young enough to enjoy silliness, and insist your Dad piggyback you downstairs to bed each night, and draw pictures for me to put on my mirror, and tell me every detail of every thing that happened and how you felt about it and what you thought. You were old enough to watch interesting shows on TV I actually want to see too (like “Get Out Alive” and “Top Chef”), and make us laugh with your sly wit, and talk about things like the evils of marketing and consumerism and fair trade (or at least pipe in with a few thoughts before rolling your eyes). I’ve always thought of myself as a baby-person, but I think I enjoyed you as a 10-year-old, more than any other age!
I hate to say it, but… it gets complicated from here on out.
Don’t worry, this isn’t another “beautiful-changes-your-body-is-going-to-experience” talks (I know how much you enjoy those). That’s definitely part of it, but there’s more. Over the next few years your relationships – with friends, with your family and, yes, with boys *shudder* – will get more and more complex. Your choices and opportunities and temptations will get bigger and more important. Your feeeeeeeeelings…. oh, all the feelings… will get stronger and louder and more confusing and more exciting and more all-consuming. It’s horrible and wonderful all at once.
You’ll probably think I don’t understand and couldn’t possibly know how you feel and am so out of touch I don’t have any good advice left under my belt. Sometimes, you’ll be right.
But no matter what…
No matter how frustrated we are with each other
No matter how long we’ve talked circles around each other
No matter how busy, and distracted, and overwhelmed I am by all the other things in life
YOU are important to me!
One of the MOST important people.
One of my FAVOURITE people in the whole world.
And that’ll never change.
nothing and no one can love you like I do!
So bring on 11. We’re ready for you.
Bring on the emotional intensity – because that’s something we already have in common. It’s exuberance, which makes us fun to be around… aaaaand it’s temper and overreaction, which is slightly less fun. Bite your tongue. Take a deep breath. Respond, don’t react. I’ll try to do the same.
Bring on the laughs and the silliness (because the best people never outgrow that entirely) and the subtle wit that comes with age (and all-around general awesomeness). Of all the qualities you have, your sense of humour is one I’m most proud of. It’s more than just fun – it’s an instant connection to other people and it’s an important coping mechanism when life inevitably gets hard. I’d just as soon send my children out into the world naked, than have them tackle adulthood without a decent sense of humour. One piece of advice about our favourite form of humour: sarcasm is like a strong seasoning; apply lightly and skillfully and it works, but too much, in the wrong time and place, leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. You are the Queen of Snark; wield it well.
Finally, bring on the social butterfly. You are already the only extrovert in a house full of introverts (since the 3-year-old doesn’t really count yet). I’ll admit, this isn’t something I understand or relate to. Much like you don’t “get” why we all like to stay home, or sit quietly, or be alone. On the other hand, you’re ALWAYS looking for a party. I’ll try to remember that you NEED a lot of people time and a lot of talking time… and a lot of me-listening-to-you time. At 11, I’ll enjoy the fact that you’re still happy to party here, at home, with us.
Bring on 11, with all the feelings and all the fun. You’re going to love it!
And now… a letter from Dad:
I’m writing this letter the night before your birthday, but you’re not going to receive it on your birthday. That’s because, for the first time ever, we’re not going to see you on August 20.
You’ve been away a lot this summer: camping with P… a week at summer camp… staying at Lake Okanagan for five extra days… and now a couple nights at Opa and Oma’s as you take on the role of Junior Leader for the second time this summer.
You’ve been reminding me all week that you only have a few more days of having to order off the kids menu at White Spot. But the truth is, you don’t have to remind me. I can see the evidence all around me: you are not a little kid anymore.
I see it in the way you care for the little ones – S and B, yes, but also your younger cousins, and the kids that you’re helping with at all these summer camps.
I see it in the jokes you tell – no longer silly kids’ jokes that I have to pretend are funny, but the kind of dry, sarcastic wit that I actually find hilarious (and that I like to think you got from me).
I see it in the books that you read, and in the movies and TV shows that we love watching together. I see it in the clothes you wear, and the wild colours in your hair.
I see it in the pictures that you draw – already easily the best artwork produced by any member of the family. I see it in your hip hop moves, and your courage in enrolling in the dance class that you don’t want to take, so you can take the one that you do.
I see it in the hours you spend texting your friend on your iPod – already.
When I see the young lady you have become and are becoming, I see my pride and joy. I see passion, I see persistence, and I see love. I couldn’t be happier with what I see.
Happy Birthday C!