“Damn, she’s tall!” I marveled as Sophie stood beside her friends the other day. She towered over her 10-year old peers by several inches and although her rapidly increasing height wasn’t news to me, it was still startling to see the contrast.
Since I first mentioned Sophie’s growth spurt last September, she’s shot up another three inches. Her feet are now bigger than mine. Finding children’s clothes that fit her properly is an exercise in futility. By this time next year, I suspect she’ll have left Chloe and me in the dust and will regularly laugh about how short we are compared to her.
I’ve often written about how Sophie, at the beginning of her second decade, is straddling childhood and adulthood. Until now, I’ve mostly attributed her between-two-worlds awkwardness to puberty. But as I watched her interact with her buddies, I realized that her height is a screen behind which she can pretend to be older and more mature than she actually is. At the same time, when Sophie acts her age, she seems that much more childish because her stature deceptively screams, “I’m a teenager!”
How does a kid navigate those confusing waters? In observing Sophie the other day, I suddenly understood her unpredictable mood swings better. Raging hormones are only part of the equation.
What it comes down to is this: her psychology has yet to catch up with her biology.
My husband’s colleague recently remarked that Sophie looks like me. I don’t see the resemblance, at least not in the way Chloe more obviously looks like me. I’ve always thought of Sophie as her father’s daughter, especially when it comes to height. Tall runs in his family. It doesn’t run in mine.
She’s the French child in lots of other ways, too. The one who looks like her Parisian cousins and has their same deep olive-toned skin. The one whose French accent sounds so authentic you’d be fooled into thinking she actually knows how to speak the language. The one who likes fromage and saucisson and has a sweet tooth just like her French aunt.
Sometimes I scarcely believe that Sophie’s mine. That I gave birth to her. That her infant body once fit comfortably in the crux of my arms. That she’s so incredibly creative and artistic when I can barely draw a stick figure. That she’s kind-hearted, warm and empathetic when I’m so cynical.
Today, Sophie’s just a few short months away from middle school. I wonder whether the last vestiges of her childhood will finally disappear for good when she starts to navigate adolescence among hundreds of other adolescents, in all of their peach-fuzzed and pimpled glory.
She’s always been proud of being both the youngest and one of the tallest in her class. Will there come a time when that combination no longer seems so wonderful to her? Perhaps.
For the past four years, we’ve kept track of the girls’ heights on a wall in my small office nook next to the kitchen. Lately, Sophie and I – and our handy tape measure – have spent a lot of time there.
With each new notch on the wall, I command her to stop growing so fast. And she looks at me and grins, taunting me, just like the Gingerbread Man. “You can’t catch me!” her twinkling eyes seem to tease.
“You’re right,” I say to myself. “I can’t catch you.”
And while I’m not quite ready to let her go, I am ready for her to start pulling ahead.