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.