12 years old; My heart in her hands

I am cleaning up her room so we can redecorate it as a Christmas present. I’m sorting through her clothes and books for things that don’t fit or suit her any more than do the pale pink walls and kitten-themed quilt on her bed.

Same as me, she leaves her private journals strewn about in plain sight. I wonder what she’s written there, and how much of it is an indictment of my parenting skills verses boys she is crushing on. I wonder if my mother  wondered the same about me at these ages – me at 12 going on 25, she at some spot in her 30s I couldn’t be bothered to keep straight. I do remember writing something like, “When I am a mom, I will NOT do these things…”

And I made a list I’m sure I’ve betrayed.

Her bulletin board is tacked with swim medals and dream catchers made in summer camps she doesn’t want to attend anymore, and also writing by me, for her.

The meaning she assigns her favorite objects: I wonder how different it is from what I’ve assigned those things, or if she’s assigned any such meaning at all. I wonder how annoyed she’d be if she knew I was in her room at all, much less thinking about her things.

Last week she told me she didn’t want to spend Christmas with me, then she begged me to take her Christmas shopping.

Cleaning out her closet, I found two of my dresses and a pair of my heels.

The other morning, she asked me to french braid her hair for school. I don’t french braid, but I tried. She scowled and rearranged it into a ponytail, then complained that we were going to be late, then freaked out upon realizing we’d be further delayed by me having to scrape the ice from the windshield. “I will be late and they won’t let me take my midterm!”

She shouted it was my fault, I shouted louder that it was hers, and we arrived at school – on time and unspeaking.

I called my mother and asked how long and frustrating this phase of our lives would be, and Mom and I talked for an hour.

I love-love her, like you like-like certain boys at her age: beyond the day-to-day and with bittersweetness.

Tomorrow she’ll be someone else I’ll love just as much.

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Mother-Daughter Day of Spontaneous Fun

Things I remember doing with my mom, when I was more or less my daughter’s age:

- Browsing books and eating quiche at Davis-Kidd bookstore when it was still at Grace’s Plaza, before it moved to Green Hills mall and then closed.

- Buying gifts for her students at the Parent Teacher Store. She taught sixth grade and rewarded her kids with cool pencils, stickers and other supplies.

- Singing somewhat obscure old camp songs in the car on road trips to my grandparents’ house.

Interspersed throughout the shopping, browsing, driving, lunching and singing, there was a great deal of Mom getting to know what was happening in my life outside of hers, and of me getting to understand Mom’s values in life.

I hope that’s the sort of thing my Lily takes from today – when she and I spent a mutual day off exploring a part of town my friend Andrew calls SoBroLoCo (for South of Broadway / Lower Convention Center) – and not just “dang, so that’s what a record looks like.”

Here is what we did on our outing: Continue reading

Things I Want My Daughter To Know About Sex

Some friends and I were discussing this article about whether parents should feel comfortable with their teenagers having sex in their homes. I personally would not.

But certainly what I do support is making sure that as my daughter grows up, she knows what I think about the issue – not about sex in my house, specifically, but more importantly my thoughts on sex in a woman’s life in general.

Here are some things I’d like her to know:

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Defining “family” when there’s a divorce

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As a child I remember spending time with relatives and mentally drawing the family tree while everyone played cards and mixed cocktails and cheered for Auburn. These hilarious and super accomplished women are my mom’s first cousins. Their kids are my second cousins. Mom’s sister’s husband’s nieces are my cousins by marriage.

We had a couple of divorces in my family, and sometimes the “related by marriage” person would appear again at a funeral or wedding. But for the most part, in those cases, they drifted away from the rest of our group. I didn’t think about those folks’ relationship to me.

Sometimes it has to be that way, and I don’t judge any families in which that is the case.

But divorce does not have to split a family.

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How to do Paris with your tween

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When my 11-year-old daughter and I decided we would go to Paris, it was largely a reaction to our visit to India, which is not an easy place for inexperienced American travelers, one of whom was under the age of 10 at the time.

Securing our visas alone was quite the adventure and that was before we’d ever left Nashville. Getting to the Taj Mahal? Holy wow. THAT was the most difficult travel experience I imagine I’ll ever have.

So upon our return to the US after that trip (and really, I don’t mean to slag on India; we’re both very grateful to have had that experience), 9-year-old Lily asked if we could go … somewhere different than India … the next time we left the country.

Two years later, Paris it would be.
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Paris, Day 2: Bad With Maps

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Paris with my 11-year-old daughter, Lily. Our second morning, jetlagged and confused, but figuring things out.

We are back in our room after leaving at 6 am to take a tour of castles in the French countryside. We didn’t make it. We missed our bus by 5 minutes even though we left an hour and 15 minutes early.

I just couldn’t figure out the subway and got lost too many times to get there in time. So we will do castles tomorrow. Lily was great while I had my tearful meltdown. It is raining and cold, and this kind of day is better suited to museums and hot chocolate anyway, she said.

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The Link Between Hardship and Success

She was 12 and in junior high school and had a problem of falling down at inexplicable times. Kids were mean.

To prevent herself from collapsing all the way to the ground during these falls, she carried herself on crutches. That way, when she fell, she fell only as far as the rubber arm rest.

During class, when she sat at a desk, the crutches lay beside her on the ground. If a teacher left the room, the boys in the class would tug the rubber arm rests from the crutches and wag them lewdly in her face.

That was pretty bad.

But the worst part of this is she could not explain to anyone – not her friends, not her teachers, not her parents and not her doctors – why she was falling. She did have a growing sense that certain things prompted the falls – blinking Christmas lights, staying up too late, slumber parties at the house of a friend who played really loud music.

She was tested for things that scared the hell out of her parents. MS. MD. Something called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which – like severe forms of muscular dystrophy – paralyzes its victims rapidly and ultimately causes organ failure.

This was 1989, and before the internet, so she couldn’t do much research on her own.

When the junior high boys began with the sexually-charged arm rest bullshit, she decided she’d rather risk a fall to the ground. She gave up the crutches.

That Christmas, she sat at the dinner table with her extended family. Her aunt – a child psychologist familiar with neurological disorders – had a striking moment of realization when she watched her niece uncontrollably fling a fork across the table.

“Test her for epilepsy,” she said.

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Your Tween’s Perspective: The Five Most Annoying Things Parents Do

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I have a tween. I annoy her. See this picture I’ve posted here from a building that used to be a strip club before it was a church before it was a motorcycle shop? I love it! She does not! Therefore, I feel qualified to write a blog post for other people who want to annoy their tween children.

Here are five great ways to annoy a tween girl (girl, because I am pretty sure boys don’t pay enough attention to get annoyed).

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In Due Time: ‘The Story I Finally Feel Ready To Share’

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The following is a guest post written by my lovely friend Catherine. She writes about the longing to be a parent, her struggle with infertility, and the closeness she has developed with her husband, Joe. Catherine and Joe are my daughter’s aunt and uncle, which is one of the great lucks of my own life during good times and bad. Continue reading

Is There Anything New Under The Sun?

Lily on her last day of being 10.

My daughter, Lily, on her last day of being 10. She says, “Yes, there is much new under the sun.”

Is there anything new under the sun?

Solomon says no.

With a little more than one day left in 2012, the speaker at our church Sunday asked the congregation what we thought.

I gave the question a solid half hour or so, I promise.

Then my 11-year-old daughter and I went about our frantic, thank-god-the-holidays-are-almost-over, suburban rainy day.

Some lowlights:

- We argued about her nail polish. (She said it was dry, I said it was wet, and when she smudged it and I said ‘I told you so’, she refused to speak to me for at least three whole Taylor Swift songs.)

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