“I can’t wait to move out,” remarked Chloe a couple of weeks ago. She had just walked in the door after school and we were both standing by the kitchen sink having a conversation – about what, I don’t recall.
As Chloe’s middle school graduation approaches, I feel a bit unmoored and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
For every positive thought I have when I think about the milestone – pride, relief, happiness, excitement for Chloe’s future – I have an equal and opposite reaction, and those reactions all essentially revolve around the overwhelming fact that in three short months, my 14-year old will be a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL. Setting aside the fact that this makes me feel old, it primarily makes me nervous, but not for the reasons you might think.
Chloe is 14. Chloe is 14. Chloe is 14.
I’ve been repeating that short factual sentence to myself for days now, getting used to the sound of it. It’s strange. Although it’s not a particularly momentous birthday, it feels like a bigger deal than it really is.
I don’t know why I feel this way. On the one hand, I’m happy. Chloe is healthy and content. She has made it through her first full year as a teenager and hasn’t yet turned into a monster. Maybe we’ll survive the years of Teenageddon after all, I muse.
At the end of the month, Chloe will celebrate her 14th birthday. She remains relatively amiable and hasn’t yet entirely forsaken the family unit in search of greener pastures with her friends. I count myself lucky that she still wants to spend time with us, even if she has taken to spending more solitary hours in her girl-woman cave, aka her bedroom.
I’ve started to notice other subtle changes in our interactions, too. We still talk, but not as often as we used to. She’ll arrive home from school and spend five minutes answering my questions and ingesting a second lunch before retiring to her lair until her stomach tells her it’s almost dinner time and she yells, “Mom, when are we eating? What are we having?”
My daughters are growing up. In fits and starts, perhaps. But mostly starts. I find that their recent forward momentum is simultaneously exciting and bittersweet. I haven’t sorted out where I stand in their evolution from child to tween and from tween to teen, but I’m not always as happy about it as I think I should be. Aren’t good parents always supposed rejoice in their children’s self-actualization and maturation? Am I being selfish in wanting to arrest their development for a few years? To stop time in order to collect as many hugs and as much laughter as I can before they no longer want to hug us and laugh with us?