My youngest, Olivia, just became a teenager. She turned 12. No, she doesn’t have the “teen” in her birthday yet. But as I explained to her, this birthday means she completed 12 years of life, and the day actually begins her 13th. So best for her to embrace it.
I, on the other hand, am a wreck.
I’m not worried about whether I can handle another teen. After all, she’s the youngest of eight that my new husband, Tom, and I have between us. Teens don’t scare me — been there, done that.
Rather, I’m worried about whether I can let go. I know, I know: Six more years, Lord willing, of her living with Tom and me. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m worried about whether I can officially let go of the little-girl years. Because when the last one leaves a real “phase” — and she’s been leaving the little-girl years for a while now — well, it’s hard.
The next one up from Olivia, Madi, is 14 according to the calendar, but was more like 30 when she was born. The next one up, Victoria, who’s now turning 17, lived a long time in the little-girl years.
And the little-boy years? I only had one shot at those. My oldest, Pete, is 19. But my daughters coming up behind him provided lots of distractions, so I coped.
Anyway, I knew during the Christmas season that I would be a wreck about all this. That’s when Olivia was cast as “Madeleine” in “Madeleine’s Christmas” at our local children’s theater. Everything about that production was adorable.
She was tall for the part, so instead of “... and the littlest one was Madeleine,” the cast sang “... and the youngest one was Madeleine.” I loved it.
The dozen girls with Miss Clavel were adorable in their sweet outfits, with pleated jumpers and saddle shoes and tidy white blouses and frilly nightgowns. I thought how Olivia was at the point when she would never again wear anything so little-girlish in real life. I looked at Olivia on the stage, and caught my last glimpse of her as a child. I knew that, in so many ways, she was even then just acting the part of little girl. And, I admit, I sobbed.
At the end of the show’s run, when we parents had the opportunity to buy those little costumes, I think they could have asked for $1,000 from me and I would have found a way to pay it!
It never ceases to amaze me how attached I am, not just to my children, of course, because that was going to be the case, but to the idea of children in general. I’ve written before about how I was never much interested in them until I had my own. Now I see a little one, especially in that 2-to-5 range, and I just melt.
So, I expect that soon, when I see 6-, 7- and 8-year-old girls unself-consciously dressed in real little-girl clothes, just like I got to see Olivia doing onstage as she acted something she’d really already lived through, well, I probably won’t be able to get enough of them either.
I know I must deal with this. Olivia is happy and healthy and full of life and looking forward to what comes next. And I should be, too. OK, I’m just being a mom, and kind of rolling around in the emotions. It’s allowed.
And, I’ve discovered, maybe this is when a guy, those men who typically like to just fix things, comes in particularly handy. As I began to share all this agony with Tom, he simply said, “Bets, she’s 12. Don’t start with the whole ‘teen’ thing yet.”
So, yes: Thank goodness for little girls. And thank goodness for husbands, too.
Reach Betsy Hart at www.betsysblog.com.