Stormy weather

The last few sleepover adventures left you crabby and snappish and generally impossible, so we lowered the boom last summer: No more sleepovers until you are 12. So of course as your birthday approached you began planning a grand sleepover party, and were astonished to realize that no, actually, we were not going to green-light ten friends sleeping over. Because WE SAID. And WE PROMISED! When you were 12! And you’re turning 12 now and THAT’S NOT FAIR and WE ARE MEAN!

We calmly explained that “when you are 12″ meant “sometime after you are 12 we will resume letting you have a single friend spend the night,” not “and on your 12th birthday we shall lose our minds and agree to host a 16-hour-long screechfest.” I waited for the storm to pass. You stomped and grumbled and then set to the task of planning. By the time you were done, make-your-own tacos and a sundae bar and head-to-head Dance Dance Revolution were all on the agenda, and you were happy.

Invitations were made and some of your friends—caught up in their own tween dramas, no doubt—hemmed and hawed and didn’t RSVP, and soon you were sad again, convinced no one was coming, convinced you would never have another happy birthday in your entire life. I waited for the storm to pass.

In the end, a loud and excited (and did I mention LOUD?) group assembled and the games began. The volume climbed and climbed and I cautioned a bit of modulation, at which point the noise level dropped for all of about fifteen seconds. The pack of you swarmed inside and out, leaving a wiimote-littered wreckage in the family room and then taco carnage in the kitchen, a swath of discarded items through the entire upstairs, and finally sticky ice cream residue on the porch. You all ran and screamed and I thought to myself that the only difference, really, between this party and the one we had a decade ago for your second birthday, was that I was not expected to stand in the middle and direct traffic. The exuberance was the same, some of the misunderstandings and failure to share were the same, but now I watched from the window (or listened from another floor) as you all worked it out yourselves.

When the last girl was picked up, I asked you if you’d had a good party and you nodded and hugged me tight, but you seemed a little melancholy. We snuggled and chatted a bit before you went to bed, while I waited for the clouds to pass. When you seemed drowsy and calm I sent you off to sleep, adding that this was the last time I’d see you as an 11-year-old.

The next morning you knocked on the bedroom door and came and slid into the bed next to me, something you never do anymore. We chatted and poked Otto and got up and did presents and had pancakes for breakfast. Otto, of course, made you pancakes in the shape of a 12. And I, of course, bought you the ridiculously expensive sneakers you don’t need, because I remember what it’s like to be in middle school and feel like you simply MUST HAVE that one item in that one brand to fit in. (And also because I knew you never expected me to do it, and the joy on your face when you opened the box was absolutely worth it.)

We went out for pedicures (courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa), and you settled into the coveted FRONT seat of the car for the first time with a flourish and a grin. As we drove and chatted I said, “You know what’s kind of sad? I can’t remember anything about my twelfth birthday. At all. Isn’t that weird?” But it was the wrong thing to say to you, my tender-hearted girl, because it made you sad, and as I waited for the storm to pass I spoke of silly things to try to distract you. We stopped to buy you a pair of flip-flops—all of yours from last year shrunk during the winter—and for the first time, you now own a pair of shoes slightly bigger than mine.

By the time we arrived at the salon you’d perked up, and you giggled uncontrollably while having your feet scrubbed. While I opted for a neutral shade, you picked “Toe-Quoise” and I complimented you on your bold taste. After the pampering we walked around and did a bit of shopping. But while in the dressing room arguing with me about a dress that made you look 16 (“Why is this inappropriate?” “BECAUSE IT GIVES ME PALPITATIONS”), you looked down and discovered the design on your big toe had been smudged off, somehow. You crumpled onto the little bench behind you and wept.

I gathered you up in my arms and waited for the storm to pass. “Oh, honey,” I soothed, “don’t cry. We’ll go back and get your toe fixed, that’s not a big deal. And we will find you a fancy dress that’s beautiful and RIGHT. Just because this isn’t the one doesn’t mean we won’t find it. Please don’t cry, sweetheart.” You sniffled and dried your tears, and we headed back to the salon.

The wait this time was long, but we talked and joked and eventually you were all fixed up and we got smoothies and headed home. My first job, upon our return, was to assemble and frost your cake, which I’d left to cool when we went out. I got it done, somehow, which is a minor miracle because SOMEONE kept sticking her hand in the frosting while I was working. Ahem.

Then it was time to give Otto a haircut, and while I did you went and worked on Monkey, telling him that he would look awesome with shorter hair, and it would be cooler in the summertime, anyway, and Monkey—who had a hard week, last week, and perhaps a hard weekend while the spotlight was on you—grumped and balked and eventually stormed off. But as I was putting everything away, suddenly he appeared at my side, asking if maybe I could cut it just a little.

You swooped down on him with hugs and high-fives, telling him you thought he was awesome, and offering to come watch and coach me on his new ‘do. I followed your directions for a “cool skater haircut” and we stood back and surveyed the results. Um. He still looked like a girl, just now he looked like a girl with a very stylish bob. Whoops. A little more cutting and you declared he looked “so very cool and just like a boy.” We all took a moment to behold the heaps of hair surrounding the stool on the porch, as Monkey declared he was sure he’d lost several pounds.

We ate dinner; we watched Mythbusters; you talked to Daddy and then to Grandpa and thanked him for the pedicure and told him about your party. We lit candles and had cake and ice cream. You got ready for bed and then curled up on the couch with me, sad again.

I waited for the storm to pass while tears leaked out your eyes and you said you had no idea what was the matter; you’d had a nice party and a nice day and it doesn’t make any sense to feel sad. “It just seems like birthdays used to be a bigger deal,” you said, wistful. “Not that I didn’t have a lot of fun this weekend, just that I used to look forward to them more, and they felt like more of a HUGE thing. But now… I don’t know… getting older seems more scary.” I reminded you that this is not the first time you didn’t want to grow up, and it won’t be the last, but that this is normal.

It’s normal to feel happy and sad all at once or in rapid succession at this age.

It’s normal to be excited about getting older but scared about it, too.

It’s normal to feel feelings that don’t go with what’s happening, sometimes, because that’s part of growing up and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong, but is just part of the territory with hormones.

And finally I reminded you that you will look back and remember turning 12, both because a lot of memorable things happened this weekend and because I would write about it. I thought to myself (but did not say) that someday you will be in the car with your daughter on her 12th birthday, and you will be able to tell her “Oh, I wanted this dress that my mom wouldn’t buy me and I got so mad about it! But it was a pretty good day, anyway.”

I didn’t say it, though, because your head was nestled under my chin and I was waiting for the storm to pass, and right then it made more sense just to kiss you again and whisper, “Happy birthday, baby girl. I think today was a very good day.” And you nodded and smiled a little, then headed up to bed.

Happy birthday, my darling little bird. I know I’ve only got a little umbrella, but there’s always going to be space for you under it, no matter how old you get. I promise.

51 Responses to “Stormy weather”

  1. 1
    Sheila April 19, 2010 at 9:36 am #

    Can I get under that umbrella, too? There seems to be water running down my face over here.

  2. 2
    Kelly April 19, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Awww. I need a kleenex.

  3. 3
    Anna Marie April 19, 2010 at 9:43 am #

    Mir, once again you have floored me. What a wonderful mother you are.

  4. 4
    chris April 19, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    I have tears leaking out of my eyes now. I remember my 12th birthday. It was the one and only time I was allowed to have a sleep-over party!

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee.

  5. 5
    Jen April 19, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    What a lovely post, and how wonderful it will be for Chickadee to have when she is older. She WILL be able to recall her twelfth birthday, thanks to you.

    You are a great mom. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  6. 6
    Eden April 19, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Only approaching the 8th birthday round these parts, but tears streaming down my face none-the-less. Simply beautiful!

  7. 7
    Jean April 19, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Could you please come live with me?? And help me raise my 12, almost 13 year old daughter? Because you really seem to understand a lot of the stuff I seem to be losing sight of. (Of which I seem to be losing sight. Nasty dangling prepositions…)

  8. 8
    elz April 19, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    Chickadee has a sweet story to remember her 12th birthday, and a saintly mom. I can’t remember my 12th birthday, the (ahem) 23rd anniversary of which is a few days away, but I’m sure it was full of drama and angst. lest we forget about Monkey in all the angst, kudos for sacrificing his gorgeous hair. Good job momma, now go eat some cake (wheat free, I guess?).

  9. 9
    anne April 19, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    A lovely post, written by a lovely mother with a lovely daughter.

  10. 10
    Aimee April 19, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    *sniffle* How beautiful! Happy, happy birthday Chickadee!

  11. 11
    Half Assed Kitchen April 19, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    What a good mom.

  12. 12
    Heather April 19, 2010 at 11:21 am #

    Aw, Mir. Beautifully written, and beautifully done. You are a wonderful mama.

  13. 13
    Jess April 19, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Oh, my gosh, I’m crying. I was just thinking about how in four years my daughter will be eleven, and that I just can’t imagine what sort of person she’ll be. I imagine she’ll be a lot like Chickadee. ;) (Also, yay Monkey. Seriously, short hair in the summer is a GOOD idea in your neck of the woods!)

  14. 14
    Jess April 19, 2010 at 11:23 am #

    Okay, I just totally contracted myself there in that comment, but we can imagine I didn’t. ;)

  15. 15
    s April 19, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    dang, how poignant, sweet. You never cease to amaze me how you roll with all of this – I’d be stamping my foot impatiently telling my daughter to quit the drama vs trying to keep her on an even keel.

    I so remember how hard birthdays were after age 10 – how I wanted to grow up but at the same time did not, and my dad actually was always the one to comfort me. I feel the same way now as my kids get older – thrilled to see them grow but heart stoppingly sad at the phases we are leaving behind, especially as I know the time left with my daughter in my house has tipped the scale now in the other direction.

    Thanks for capturing your daughter’s birthday not just for her to look back and reflect on but for all of us – for me to remember to look past the drama in front of my face and reach out to the confused and sad girl (or boy) behind the tears, the screetches, the foot stomps.

  16. 16
    Suz April 19, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Oh, that was sweet. Thanks.

    It’s my turn in a wee bit more than a month to usher my younger daughter into being 12. Yikes.

  17. 17
    Crista April 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Happy belated Birthday Chickie.
    Mir, Beautiful post :)

  18. 18
    Jamie April 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    It’s not even Love Thursday, but it feels like it!

  19. 19
    RebeccaF April 19, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    Good job talking her through it. Really that is what’s needed most, a calm, reasonable explanation to process the feelings due to the hormonal changes.

    You have built a good foundation of trust and communication with both kids. It will sustain all of you through these growing up years. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that, though.

    I found that being involved with activities requiring a lot of physical exertion helped my kids through middle school and high school – just a thought!

  20. 20
    Megan April 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    April showers – but boy is she going to bloom.

    Happy birthday Chickie – 12 is wonderful, and definitely worth all the storms.

  21. 21
    Melissa April 19, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    Happy birthday to Chickadee!

  22. 22
    Lady M April 19, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!

    Our weekend with the 2 and 5 year olds was not so different roller-coaster-emotion-wise, although you can substitute the pedicure with Lego activities. Good to know what is in store. ;)

  23. 23
    dad April 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

    Uncharacteristically, I will be BBC (brief but cogent).

    Great insight. Great job. Great post. Its great to be your biggest fan.

  24. 24
    Tracy April 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    ok, pass the kleenex over here. Jeez, I was doing good up until the every end…One day, she’ll tell her 12 year old daughter what a meanie you were. Jeez…pass the kleenex, please.

  25. 25
    Jennifer Joyner April 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Wow Mir…that was wonderful. Happy Birthday Chickie….I hope you know what a great Mom you have! And Mir…my 6-year-old daughter is emotional over the little things…you mean that doesn’t go away with maturity????? Oh, boy…..

  26. 26
    Jeanmarie April 19, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    No fair, Mir – now I have to explain why I am sitting here sobbing at my desk…

  27. 27
    Marie April 19, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHICKADEE !!

    Wonderful post Mir !

  28. 28
    Pam April 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow, that was one amazing post and stirred up so many memories of being that age and not knowing what was going on inside. God bless you and Happy Birthday to Chickadee. Monkey, I can imagine how awesome you look with that hair cut!!!! Totally awesome!!! Thanx for all the many parts of your life that you share…..

  29. 29
    Mama Bear April 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    Oh my… My daughter turns 12 in May. Thanks for the tears. Sigh. She’s my youngest, too, making it double-y emotional.

  30. 30
    Beth B. April 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    That was great; thanks for sharing that.

  31. 31
    Anna April 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    I still feel like these birthdays are not as big a deal as they used to be and I rarely had a party with the girls and all.
    Happy Birthday, Chickadee.

  32. 32
    Katie in MA April 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Chickie! I know it’s a tall order, but try to enjoy being a kid and an almost-grownup at the same time. It’s a great excuse to get away with a lot. :)

    And Mir…Really – wow. You and Chickie were absolutely made for each other. Watching your relationship grow in peeks and ganders has been a beautiful gift and given me such hope for my own mother-daughter relationships.

  33. 33
    Mare Martell April 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Mir…Tears are swimming down my cheeks in rapid flows. That is such a spectacular tribute to your number one gal that I have to say thank you for sharing such beauty.

    When’s the book coming out again?

  34. 34
    Lindsey Petersen April 19, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    I remember tearing my mom’s house apart when I had a sleep over, breaking doors, etc. My girls have never asked to have one, thank GOODNESS!!!

  35. 35
    Amy April 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Fabulous. Chickie is so lucky to have you as a mom. I wish all my middle school students had such understanding parents.

  36. 36
    Springsteen fan April 19, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

    I posted a longer response on your other site about saying yes, and just wanted to say, I am so happy for all of you. This is going to be a great year. And Chickadee will eventually have a sleepover again! ; )

  37. 37
    KG April 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Did you re-schedule Love Thursday?
    Because this was definitely Love Monday!
    You have SUCH a way with words Mir.
    Beautiful! Your children are so blessed.
    Thanks for inspiring…

  38. 38
    Megs April 19, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Tears! Lots of tears and things to look forward to with my two year old that won’t sleep, but some day we will have amazing adventures like you and Chickadee. Thank you for sharing!

  39. 39
    mamaspeak April 20, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    Wow!
    I may have to have your blog put into print for myself. With two girls in the house I’m going to need it for a long time coming.
    You are an amazing mom & writer. How very lucky for you both.
    Happy B-day Chickie!
    Oh, and Mir, I think it’s really neat you got her the sneakers. I remember that feeling too.

  40. 40
    J from Ireland April 20, 2010 at 4:24 am #

    Its too early in the morning to have me crying, Mir. That was just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  41. 41
    Brigitte April 20, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    Thank goodness I remembered to put a new box of tissues next to the computer, here. ;-)

  42. 42
    Randi April 20, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    Awww! This is such a wonderful story! And one thing that you’ve forgotten, dear Mir, is that your children will ALWAYS be able to remember their birthdays – all they have to do is to call up that day on your blog and they’ll be reminded of everything that happened, and how much their mother loves them.

  43. 43
    JMH April 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    My daughter is JUST LIKE THAT..only she just turned 9. I plan to save this to share those words of wisdom with her when she is 12…..I don’t know who will need them more-her or me!!

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  44. 44
    Fabs April 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Are you going to make me cry again on Thursday?

  45. 45
    Caren April 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Happy Belated Birthday Chickie!!

  46. 46
    Jaime April 20, 2010 at 7:14 pm #

    awwww….. happy birthday chickie!

  47. 47
    Pamela L April 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    This was beautiful!! Bless Chickadee and Happy Birthday!!

  48. 48
    Jackie Joy April 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    *Sniff* — great post! Great kid!

  49. 49
    Tirzah April 22, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    This is so adorably sweet, happy belated birthday Chickadee!

  50. 50
    Sarah April 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    My daughter is 10.5, and I see my future in your posts. Thanks, Mir.

  51. 51
    eni May 3, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    this is beautiful i have a 9 yr old and i saw us while reading this. It made me cry

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