Yesterday as I was getting into my car, there was an early teen-aged girl (probably 12 or 13) walking toward me from across the parking lot.
For some reason I watched her for a moment, long enough to see her jump up on a curb, then playfully hop down again – landing with a sort of silly childish stomp. With her first step back in stride she looked around a little nervously, patted her hair and bangs, making sure it was still in place. There was perhaps a splash of embarrassment in her face as we locked eyes.
In our glance I realized I had witnessed something profound. [I know it’s weird, but I’ve always been some sort of freak who sees gorgeous sacred moments in parking lots with strangers (and other inconsequential events). But I can’t help it; it’s how I roll. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a Hemingway novel. Or Melville. Definitely something sad and deep and American, and hysterical.]
What I saw was a perfect encapsulation of our girls’ precarious dilemma – all that troubles our beloved tween girls.
All that troubles my little girl.
Because as she trotted alongside her dad she let herself be a kid for a minute – risked her hair getting messed up. Risked her friends seeing. Risked play. Risked abandon.
And I wanted to hug her.
I knew the power of what I was witnessing. I knew how real it is to her. That moment of fear, of regret, of uncertainty “Did I do something wrong? I shouldn’t have done that.” It was all there, in that moment. The juxtaposition – the transformation – right before my eyes, in 3 seconds, from girl to young woman. Almost.
My little girl is there. Nearing there. Standing on the brink of adulthood. Teetering between freedom and restraint. Jumping up on curbs then looking around nervously. Wearing bows in her hair to look more “grown up.” Rolling on the ground like an insane puppy.
Pulling away sometimes.
Playing in the sand with buckets sometimes.
Holding me sometimes.
Patting her hair nervously sometimes.
Trotting along beside me.
Kateri Von StealThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 11:43
And I can completely see this scene from your description…
I think we all remember that moment…. and then once we settle in our skin… trying to get back to the happiness we once had as a child just seems impossible… where everything was so simple…
Happens to all Children/Tweens I suppose…
Just makes you wish you could prepare them for it… without seeming like an “OH MOM!”-moment
EllyThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 11:53
If I knew as a tween what I know now, I would have jumped off of more curbs and smiled a lot more…and not have given 2 shits what “The Bops” (the cool girls) at my school thought…especially The Top Bop. I’m hoping my daughter (7) keeps jumping off curbs and smiling for many years to come.
SharThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 11:53
Oh how I remember feeling that way! And oh how I worry for my daughter when she gets there!
ShellyThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 12:44
I love how you always take time in the moment to see things for what they really are. I never take the time to do that and in the process miss whats going on.
PS Sorry i wasn’t able to call you yesterday things have been crazy around here but I’ll see you at the party.
Mommy BagsThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 14:53
What a beautiful post. I teared up becasue I have a almost 2 year old and I do not want her to become a tween…I want her to remain innocent…Oh I know I can’t but I totally wish I could. New follower from bloggy moms hope you can come by and check out my site.
anaThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 15:24
Ahh. Wonderfully written. What a good reminder for us to stop and observe. Our little one’s grow up and they grow fast. Thanks for reminding me to cherish the moments my 1 year old is a total clingon because I’m really going to miss it when she starts wanting me to drop her off around the corner. lol =)
New follower from Bloggy Moms <3
JenniferThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 15:50
I love this. And I remember it well.
MarieThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 17:26
I still feel that way sometimes! Young at heart is the way to be 🙂
mamawolfeThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 19:43
This is exactly why I’ve loved teaching middle school for the last 20 years. Kids at this age are so unpredictable. The can act so cool and grown up one minute, but then their little kid vulnerability shines though at other moments. I love that because of this they’re so malleable-they’re not lost to adult intervention, even if they act like it. They watch us more now than ever, even if they won’t admit it!
SaraThursday, 20 October, 2011 at 21:47
I still skip to remind myself that it’s okay to be myself. Sometimes I skip while holding Husband’s hand and he obliges by swinging his arm. Adolescence is rough, wouldn’t repeat that for anything, but skipping helped.
Katie VyktoriahFriday, 21 October, 2011 at 0:31
Great post. I know exactly what you mean about seeing other people’s “moments.” I see so many beautiful little miracles every day, and it amazes me that I’m able to appreciate them, even though I don’t necessarily relate to them yet.
Your little girl is gorgeous!
Melissa Blackburn CanslerFriday, 21 October, 2011 at 13:04
Beautifully written!! I’m following you now.
kimSaturday, 22 October, 2011 at 6:54
Isabella is 7. I found an old Halloween costume from two years ago and just assumed she’d have no interest in it anymore. Not only was she SUPER excited, but she wore it on our walk to the store. There she was, on her scooter, with her Super Girl cape flying in the wind, and it just made me so happy…I never thought I’d see her playing dress up anymore 🙂 Anyhoo, it made me think of this post. Love ya, kitten.
CheneyThursday, 27 October, 2011 at 13:01
“Teetering between freedom and restraint..”
One of things I’ve hated most about growing up is that as I have aged, I have cared more about what people think about me. I’m trying to get over that hump and go in the opposite direction. I want that freedom back.
Thanks for sharing such a beautiful moment. I might have kept it to myself.
MimiMonday, 21 January, 2013 at 6:07
Hi. Your posts are great fun to read, this one especially. You seem to notice the moments in life that sometimes go unnoticed or often just ingested visually, but you can put them into words so well. You mentioned Hemingway in this post. I think you should read Fitzgerald. You share a keen observation on the human spirit. Thanks for writing!
emolliemacTuesday, 24 June, 2014 at 8:58
I just stumbled on your blog and loved this one… I can relate to these moments of peeking behind the veil, or just seeing the forces at work on us- and calling it beautiful and sometimes sad, and always precious. I have sons and see this in them- especially my oldest.
LaurenMonday, 21 December, 2015 at 9:35
I’m just now finding myself free from that tension. I’m 28. Anymore the little girl wins out most days, and that feels good.