This year I kind of hated Fourth of July–which is not my very favorite holiday at all, but one that I often like a lot. With some months (this time around) of regular work under my belt, I’m still having big trouble adjusting to some parts of my particular post-recession- back- to- work life. Less money (a lot less of it than before I was laid off from the last job), hours that are too long and flexibility that is too limited nag at me. A holiday on a Wednesday just exacerbates it. I’m a long way into my career but I don’t have enough annual leave accumulated to take a weekend plus two days off and still have leave time for that two-week vacation we are having trouble planning. So we just had this dangling holiday on a ridiculously hot day. We actually had a wonderful time with close friends we’ve not seen in months– and a fun time going to fireworks at a park that we could walk to– but still I wanted a long weekend instead of one short, hot day. It was a glass half-empty day.
I love and am blown away by the growing-up human being who is my daughter, but I’m also having trouble adjusting to 11. My daughter’s age now. I don’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually quite good. She’s truly thriving and a lot of things that she had been struggling with last summer and this school year have shifted and come together for her beautifully. But life with someone 11 is different from before. As a parent every year, sometimes every six months is different, but 11 years old seems– well more different.
It’s a different identity– being the mother of a pre-teen girl. My mother role is different. I would definitely say it’s not less. There seems to be more laundry, more forms to fill out, and there are more decisions to be made on a shorter time frame. There is so much to figure out but you figure it out differently. It’s less hands-on. It’s more hands-on.
You become a sleuth in a certain way. You don’t, for example, go into the school or the camp or the home of her new friend and just watch what is going on to figure out what you think. You watch, sometimes, from a greater distance and listen to conversations that happen in the back seat of the car while you drive and try to participate and try not to. You have to be available a lot, a lot, a lot. But you may save the whole day to be together only to have your child use your good attention and love and confidence in her to decide to call a new friend and then leave for the whole day. I’ve not completely figured it out. I’m looking ahead at her life as she grows up, at my life as she grows up.
All that said, I feel the same way, which was a very touching-sweet way– a mom who was a complete stranger described her feeling about 11 years old. 15 years ago. It was Fourth of July weekend then and my sister had come to visit us for the Fourth with her older (4 years old) and younger (11 weeks) old sons. We were walking around the Lincoln Memorial, and I had the 11 week old in a sling on my body. A woman about my age stopped to peer in and admire the baby–she reasonably assumed he was my new baby. She asked, how old is he? and I replied– 11 weeks old. She smiled and nodded off into the distance presumably at her boy but I wasn’t sure which boy, of several in the distance, was being pointed to. She said in a nice way, not a cloying or weird way– Mine’s 11 years old. They’re just as special and wonderful at 11 years— and smiled and congratulated me on the new baby and left. Her tone, her pleasure in her son, her pleasure at being the mother of someone who was exactly her son, at his exact age, was unforgettable and I have often thought of her. I thought of her when my older nephew turned 11 and then again when the younger one– long out of the sling on our bodies– turned 11 and then again this year with my own daughter.
Still, I’m uneasy in my new working-at-a-new-job-mother-of-an-11-year-old skin. And I’m having trouble writing– not just trouble fitting it in, but trouble mapping out what I want to say. But I will marshal on and hopefully insights, more clarity, a sense of ease and well-being or at least a sense of humor and more writing will return.