For My Daughter, Who Isn't Sure She Wants To Grow Up



Eleven-almost-twelve is a hard age to be. You know that. You tell me all the time that you don't want to get bigger, that you wish you could stay little. Sometimes I wish you could stay little too because little was so easy to comfort. You would climb in my lap, I would sing you a song, read you a story, tell you everything was going to be okay. And it would be. That was enough for you. But now you don't fit on my lap, you know I can't carry a tune, and you read your own stories. However, I am still here to tell you that everything will be okay. Because it will. I promise.

Growing up is never easy. At every stage of growth we have to leave something behind and it is okay to mourn the things we are losing. Because growth does mean loss. Sometimes the old us doesn't fit anymore as much as we may desperately want it to. It is like the favorite pair of sneakers you keep trying to shove your feet into long after they are too small. But the thing is, the old sneakers don't fit but there is always a new pair. They may be different, not quite the same style and color, but you will grow to love them just as much.

Change is hard and change is scary.  You wouldn't be our kid if you weren't basically opposed to change. We are a family of traditionalists who love our routine. But the thing is, change can also be good. The more we change the more we have an opportunity to grow, to try new things, to broaden our horizons. And then those things, the new things, become part of our traditions.

You don't have to grow up all at once. It is fine to still love your stuffed animals. You don't have to be interested in boys and makeup. Go outside with your backpack full of snacks and your notebook and pretend to be a spy. We will all pretend not to see you creeping up on us. Enjoy being you at whatever age you are. But I do want to tell you that some things about being a grownup are really not too bad. So here are a few things to look forward to.

Chocolate cake for breakfast. I got your attention there, didn't I?  Once you are grown-up there is no one to tell you to eat a balanced breakfast or that cake for breakfast is unhealthy. (Well, at least there isn't for many, many years. Then doctors will start mentioning such horrors as cholesterol levels but we won't think about that.) Many a horrible day has been improved by an unhealthy breakfast. Hey, what did you think I did after you left for school?

On a similar note, there are no bedtimes. Just think, no more begging for just another half hour. You can stay up as long as you want.

No more school and no more homework. It is starting to sound like paradise, isn't it?

Your friendship circle widens. When you are eleven-almost-twelve your friends are basically all the same age. You are unlikely to be best friends with a five-year-old and an eighteen-year-old is unlikely to be best friends with you. When you are an adult age doesn't matter as much. You are friends with people because of similar lives or similar interests, not just because you are both in sixth grade. It makes it much easier to find people you are comfortable with.

Adults still read children's books and play on playgrounds and collect stuffed animals. It is fine to like all these things and more. Some of the best adults I know have kept a bit of the child in them. That is what makes them fun and quirky. And yes, quirky is good when you are an adult.

Not everything about being a grownup is great. There are bills and jobs and chores and other stresses. But not everything about being a kid is great. There are school and homework and way-too-early bedtimes. But whether you are eleven-almost-twelve or seventy-five-almost-seventy-six there are good things in your life and new things to learn.

For now, just know that I will always have a lap and a story and a slightly out of tune song for you whenever you need them.

And maybe, just maybe, the occasional piece of chocolate cake for breakfast.





9 comments

  1. I wanted 11 to last forever. I hated the idea of 12 and I felt it was to do with even numbers and '2' for some reason being a particularly ugly number. Of course it was because I understood 12 to be The Age of Change, it meant periods and high school, and I was scared witless by the fact that Everyone Has A Boyfriend By Second Form. Or else.

    If I knew any 11 year olds I would try to tell them that there is never anything they HAVE to do, to trust their instincts about right and wrong, and to always tell mum.

    And it is perfectly okay at 11 or any age, including 53, to have a stuffed mouse in your bag. And to be a spy. Personally I am not a spy but I've been in the French Resistance for at least forty-five years :)

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    1. Being in the French Resistance sounds like it would provide so much scope for the imagination!

      Twelve is such a transition age. And change can be very scary. It is not an age I would happily go back to. I keep telling my daughter that growing up is fine but she doesn't have to do anything she isn't ready for. And she can keep her favorite stuffed animal, Superbunny, forever.

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  2. If I could go back I am not sure if I would want to grow up either :) But As you say, some things about being a grown up are good.

    This is a neat and insightful post.

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    1. Thank you. Being a little kid is fun but I definitely would not want to be a teenager again. Being an adult is way better than that!

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  3. Aw, this is lovely. I hadn't realized your daughter is pretty much the same age as my older niece, who turned 12 at the beginning of May. I think it's not an easy age; she is also struggling with new responsibilities and a growing awareness of some of the not-so-nice things that happen.

    I don't really remember being 11 or 12, but I do know that I wasn't particularly happy, and I have been so much happier since I've grown up!

    Hope she does love growing up, eventually, but holds onto the best bits of being a kid.

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    1. I was a miserable twelve and thirteen-year-old. Not because anything in particular was wrong but because they are such difficult ages to be. I hope my daughter and your niece both hold onto the best bits of being a kid while enjoying the good bits about growing up.

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  4. So beautiful. I particularly like the bit about widening friendship circles; I've been struck a few times recently by the realisation that I have NO IDEA how old most of my friends are - I know some are in their twenties and some are in their forties and I suspect most are in their thirties, like me, but I'm not sure which are which!

    Eleven to twelve was a tough age for me (and everyone!), in particular because we moved the summer before I started high school so I was suddenly away from my old friends and surrounded by people who seemed to like completely different clothes and music and whatever-else-was-deemed-important and whose secret toy stashes I didn't know about; I was very aware of feeling out of place.

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    1. We moved the summer before eighth grade and it was miserable. It was oddly like walking into a different world even though it was just a town or two over. I eventually settled in but it was never quite the same for the rest of my school years. Thank heavens for growing up and being able to make friends wherever and however I want.

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  5. As Jennifer's mother and her daughter's grandmother, I can say they were, and are, both charming even during their difficult years. Nevertheless the growing up stress is genetic in our family. When I was 16 I was turning somersaults in the back yard, and it suddenly occurred to me that someday I would no longer want--or be able--to do that any more. And when that time arrived, I remembered the fear I had felt, and shivered. It seems to me that people either mentally rush adulthood or wish to delay it. Of the two, delay is better. Turn somersaults while you can.

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