Growing Up to 12

July 1, 2021 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

At the end of one of those blistering days of Summer we were spending some quiet time in the backyard, enjoying the sweet spot between too hot and too many mosquitos. You were doing that thing where you make a video of yourself dancing to some random song. I was doing that thing where I sit in a lawn chair. I noticed something while watching you: you are always much taller than I realize. I am constantly surprised at how tall you have become.

I am not surprised that you are twelve years old today because you have been reminding me of this day for months.

When I look back on the year since your last birthday, it’s hard to think of the exceptional moments amid months of lockdown, stultifying routine, and isolation. The braces went away, your hair color changed just once, and you learned how to do a front flip on a trampoline. I am routinely getting shoo’ed out of the kitchen so you can cook without my commentary and unsolicited advice. Your cellphone has become your source of identity, and a source of frustration for me because it is my primary competition for your attention. 

At some point last year you established your own bedroom in the house. You had to steal my office from me to do it but that didn’t seem to bother you. Once you committed to being there you quickly made it your own spot with paint and decorations of your own design. Watching you learn about taking care of this space is more difficult than I imagined. I am constantly reminding you to clean this and put away that and to stop eating in your room when you just want to be left alone to manage your domain or nap the day away.

Your greatest challenge was school, a place where you had always thrived. The remote learning model just wasn’t for you. You need to be around people and it was difficult for you to stay focused on a small screen of faces for hours at a time. Often I would catch you “attending class” with the camera off and microphone muted, putting on make-up or filing your nails or poking at your phone. After a tough set of months watching your grades sink, the return to in-person schooling was a boost for your morale.

You continue to bicker with your younger brother about various kid things. I sometimes have to walk away to avoid getting dragged into another of your annoying arguments over toys or candy or the rules of the game you just made up. Despite all of those petty insults and power games, he is still your biggest fan. It broke his heart when you left your shared bedroom. Even now he would rather crawl in with me than spend the night in his room without his best friend.

At this age your brain is a fast-moving mess of ideas and emotions and you are prone to distraction. You have an obnoxious level of carelessness that is fueled by that busy brain and your growing desire to be in control of how you spend your time. There is an almost willful forgetfulness in you now. I often have to ask more than a few times for you to do a chore or clean up your messes. We play our own power games when I have had enough of being ignored.

Yet when that busy brain won’t let go of difficult thoughts you come to me. We spend late nights talking about whatever is on your mind, and there is always a full plate of topics to discuss. While you worry too much about what you can’t control, I think you are incredibly self-aware for someone who has only lived a dozen years.

As I watch you venture forth into middle school I sometimes feel this tension, a tightness in my chest, like we are approaching a peak on a roller coaster. You are changing so rapidly I am uncertain what kind of person you will be from one month to the next. My challenge is to be the parent for who you are right now, to spend more time listening than talking, asking rather than commanding.

What has not changed in these dozen years is this: you are the sweetest, silliest, most loving daughter. Your giant heart is filled with love for family and friends and that kitty who never leaves your side. My memories of you over twelve years are infused with joy, of learning how to be a Dad, and witnessing you grow into an amazing young girl. I am proud of all that you are and of the Love you bring to everyone around you.

Today is the day we celebrate you, my bright and wonderful girl, for you are now twelve years old. You are a blessing beyond measure and I love you more than Everything.

Happy Birthday to you my Sweet Boo, my Darling Doodles, my Norah Grace.

Entry filed under: Being Dad. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Don’t Mind Me Going Back to Something New

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