Friday, May 4, 2012

When a Daughter Turns Twelve

The Year of the Dragon
It's not so much that my sweet daughter is turning 12.  It is more that there are only six years separating her from adulthood and a potential exit from our home.  It has my head spinning, this thought.  I feel ripped off.  She came home at three, meaning she has only been home 9 of those twelve years -- meaning that when she leaves, she will only have been home 15 years.  Yes, the numbers matter here; they matter to me.

From an educational standpoint, I find myself wondering sometimes: Will she be ready for college?  Does she know how to do this?  Have we covered that?

Mostly, I wonder if we will get in all those things we want to do as a family before our little unit is altered forever by her departure.  We wanted to travel so much more than we have.  That plan was thwarted by the economy.  Still, we can't complain.  We've driven to Florida and flown to California.  We've been all over the mid-west by car.  We wanted to take in so many more cultural events, another plan abated by finances.  There are so many lessons I want her to learn.

See how I torture myself?

In reality, six years is as long as it is short (That made sense in my head).  Now, she is more ready for some of those cultural events, the ones I would not have wanted to spend money on only to have her bored, uncomfortable, or fidgeting through the whole thing.  When we travel at this point, she will take most of it in.  It will change her in ways she can remember.  The things we discuss now are the things that she will someday quote (to herself or aloud), either with eyes rolling or eyes sparkling.

And we will always have the hours snuggled up on the couch reading together, the long summer days spent playing freely on the beach and at the park, our marathon family bike rides, and family sing-alongs with her violin at the helm.  Those memories, I believe, will someday mean more than all the trips and cultural events in the world.

I can see how disjointed this post has become.  It is what happens to my soul when I look ahead to the next six years.  Thoughts and plans and things I want to say flit about in my head like dragon flies, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes escaping me.

With that, I wish my daughter a happy twelfth birthday with the following poem by Peggy Orenstein, as written on her blog -- words I wish I had written myself for this particular occasion:

For My Daughter
“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” –Clementine Paddleford
Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes—
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.
Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women—
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.
Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.
Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.
Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress—
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.
Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear—
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.

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