The title of this post has nothing to do with George W. Bush. (Although I was one of the people very happy to say "Adios" to that particular W four years ago!) The W I'm referring to is the one between the T and the two E's in the word "Tween."
My daughter graduates from middle school tonight. I'm officially calling her a teen from now on.
Where does the time go? When I was on maternity leave, taking long walks with my precious little newborn all snug in her Snugli, mothers would come over to coo. "She's so sweeeeeeeeet." I agreed. "What an aaaaaaangel." I agreed.
"Enjoy it, they grow up so fast!"
I smiled and nodded, but I really didn't get it. Those days were long and lonely. She didn't sleep through the night. I was tired and sore; my breasts hurt and I had an inordinate number of stitches that needed to heal. Don't get me wrong, I worshiped her already, but time moved slowly and I was looking forward to her growing up at least a little.
If only. If only I could transport myself back for one day, one hour, one moment even. Hold her tight, gaze at that tiny face, smell her sweet head. These days, I'm lucky to get a half-hearted hug.
Thank goodness for photo albums. When I look at the often sullen, always beautiful teenager who lives in my house, it's difficult to picture the chubby-kneed toddler who used to twirl and collapse in a fit of giggles. When I see the confident young woman who jumps 3-foot fences at horse shows, it's hard to recall the terrified seven-year-old who competed in her first "lead line" competition. When I barely get a "hello" after school, it's almost impossible to remember the little girl who would run across a room and jump into my arms when I returned from a business trip.
I'm a passionately committed archivist; all of our pictures are in identical burgundy leather binders with the year and volume number stamped in gold on the spine. So many memories. Vacations, family gatherings, school trips, dance recitals. Gymnastics and swimming and archery and piano lessons (and all that money we paid — ugh). There she is on Christmas morning. Here's the first day of preschool. Swimming in the warm water in Bermuda or the frigid water of Maine. Dressed up for a bar mitzvah, dressed down with friends. Not dressed at all on a fur rug. Of course, I'm forbidden to show that one to anybody.
Dozens of my Lovin' the Alien posts talk about the frustrations that come with the territory when you're mothering a tween. But at least a few have expressed how proud I am of her. She is a good person with a good heart. She is smart and courageous and talented. Her room is a disaster area, but underneath all the clothes and magazines and stuffed animals and empty bowls and discarded hair accessories, there is a remarkable young woman who is no longer a tween. My daughter is a teenager.
Heaven help me.
Tonight, my husband and I will sit in the high school field house and watch our daughter and her classmates "move on." We're going to bring her a card and flowers. She gets to choose the restaurant we go to afterwards. Hopefully, she'll pose for some family photos. Hopefully, she won't be too embarrassed if I cry.
Hopefully, she'll let me hug her — at least a little.