Tag Archives: growing up

Change of life part two; one dad’s perspective

N is just about done with her first week in Bilbao, Spain.  I can’t tell exactly how it’s going– but we adults seem to want to categorize things simply and I think it’s complicated.  She’s really sick with either allergies or a sinus infection– I can’t really tell what’s going on exactly, but I can tell she feels kind of lousy but not so lousy that she stops doing all the stuff they are doing each day.  When I see the photos that come through she seems like she is really enjoying herself.  But also on one night mid-week she texted me– very early in the morning in Spain– too early to be awake– and said, “I feel so, so bad, Mama.  Can I come home now?”  So, I think it’s both, a great and awesome trip and a trip that is hard and challenging in different ways.  I get confused, but I am moving toward understanding that it may be hard, but it is not too hard for her to handle.  She doesn’t need someone to rescue her, but it’s good she can show me that it’s very hard some of the time.  

Just two weeks ago, we spent much of the day at the Shabbat service marking the Bat Mitzvah of a friend of my daughter.  Another Jewish girl of color, a girl we knew from the park, from preschool days, and then the two girls were in elementary school together until my daughter’s friend went on, as did a number of N’s friends, to a different middle school.  

I forgot (I really did) as we walked into the synagogue, that my daughter is older now and wouldn’t sit with us, but would join her many friends in the synagogue. So M and I sat together in the service, holding hands some of the time, and M cried openly through a lot of it.  I think she was crying about the passage of time, growing-up daughters and I don’t know exactly what else.  

At the party that night– a nice dinner and a rockin, rockin dance party– we sat with a dad– Jim– whose daughter is still in middle school with mine.  His wife was home with a bad back.  I’ve always been a little intimidated by him.  He is a very progressive US Representative from a small-to-mid-size, very working-class city on the east coast.  He told me that until he was elected he had lived in the same district, same precinct his whole life. He doesn’t come off as a really a big-city, cosmopolitan kind of guy, which I really like about him.  I’ve hardly ever talked with him at all.   He is as unpretentious and good-hearted a person as you could ever hope to sit next to at a dinner party and it was great talking with him.  He’s extremely low-key and most things come out in about the same tone regardless of what he’s saying.  

At some point he told me how lucky he feels that he doesn’t just love his daughter, but he really, really likes her– thinks she’s great and fun to be around and great to play with and talk to.  She struggles with reading and academics in school, I think.  In the 4th grade, she discovered, and we all found out, she is an awesome basketball player. She had a great coach– my partner, M– and she’s all about basketball these days.  

Anyway, at a certain point in the conversation I said– something about the hard time I am having getting my mind around and adjusting to all these changes– to the fact that these girls, recently little girls, seem so grown up now and getting more so week by week.  I didn’t want to be perceived as overly sentimental or as a mother who cannot let go.  So I threw in, “I know kids have been growing up for thousands and thousands of years….” and I was ready to follow it with something– that I now cannot remember.     But Jim interrupted me in the most animated and booming voice and cut me off.  He said, “Yeah, but not our kids, not our kids– our kids have never grown up before“.  Enough said.

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Change of life

I don’t mean the euphemism for menopause. But I am very much in the midst of a change of life—actually several changes. I will experiment with trying to write some different posts around this change of life theme in the coming days.

A few teasers are: My daughter (age 12) is, this very morning, in Bilbao, Spain on the second half of an exchange program with her middle school. She chose to take on the project of making such a big trip (and she really did make a big internal decision about this trip that her moms had nothing to do with). Now, for the first time since we brought our baby home, we find ourselves in the house with her away for two weeks. I am thinking about things I wanted her to know about, things I wanted her to know how to do before she went off on her own, and how we found times to talk about those things. All of this, time without her at home, working to get her ready to do something big without us– all a big change of life for me, and for M and me. Last night and today I am taking a deep, internal breath and reflecting on her strengths, her ability to form deep connections with people, her smarts and good common sense, her generosity and clarity about certain things. All this leaves me incredibly proud of her, fairly secure that she will be ok, and ready for her to do this. All that is a big change of life.

This Bilbao adventure has involved three parts that I know of, and there will surely be at least a fourth– the aftermath, but that’s for later. Part One, was my daughter’s decision to go, and all the collective work of the young people, parents, and school administration to plan and fundraise for a big trip that is not managed by an international travel company—it is managed by us parents. Part Two, was our Bilbao “daughter’s” trip here along with the rest of the Bilbao kids and chaperones and our many adventures in large and small groups with them. I loved that part and was more profoundly affected by it than I ever anticipated. So I have meant, for nearly two months, to finish some writing about parts one and two of the Bilbao adventure—the months and weeks leading up to, and the two weeks our Bilbao “daughter” was here all of which were eventful and rich with feeling and insights. But now I will skip to part three–what is happening yesterday and today and tomorrow– my daughter, N, in Bilbao.

Another teaser for another post in the Change of Life series. As you may or may not know or remember, I work for a state-level elected official. I work for a state-level elected official in a jurisdiction that is so Blue that the election is, in most races, over when the outcome of the Democratic primary has been determined. And in April, my boss, after four terms in office, and in a huge surprise upset, lost the Democratic primary. So I will be out of a job come December. Since the election, the fact that this job will end has felt like liberation, a very good thing. As my feelings and struggles about what I want or wanted from my career continue to evolve, I face this change as a definite, immovable next chance to figure out some important things about me, and work, and what I love and value. It is a chance to maybe do something closer to exactly what I want.

That’s the brief update, and those are the teasers. Being the parent of an internationally traveling young person who is still, (happily, for us) extremely connected to her moms, is like this. You help pack her things and take a deep breath and cry sometime—like before or after or at the airport—and give a some big hugs and send your big girl off. Then, in this magical era of texts and phones that take amazing photos and Skype and Facetime, you live like the parent of an infant but with less control. You should sleep and work when you can, because you will not sleep through the night and you will no longer be able to do anything without interruption. We got a Skype call at 1:00 a.m. (EST) when she landed for a layover in Paris and a series of dinging, ringing alerts at about 6:00 a.m. when the first parent learned that they landed safely in Bilbao and we all started writing each other and sharing photos that had been texted to us. And as I drove, late to work at about 9:00 a.m. here, the Skype call I’d been waiting for came in. N– safe and sound in a bedroom far, far away with her Bilbao “sister/ friend”, A. There they both were, together.

One last thought for now. Here’s the start and end point for me about the stunning fact of very tiny babies you once held in your arms, growing up. She is wearing a pink tie dye tee shirt she absconded with from me. A tee shirt I bought at our first trip out of our hotel, in El Paso, Texas, where she was born, to Target, when she was 12 days old and under 7 lbs. It looks awesome on her.

That is my first installment on Change of Life. Photos of travelers below but I loaded them in reverse order– Look first at the Air France desk where we checked in yesterday, next see N. sitting around the airport with her fellow middle-school travelers and parents and teachers milling around photographing the young people. Finally daughter N., and one of her best friends, Y.,– seated together on plane. And the text messaging began.

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Almost 12. Already.

at the end of 11 years old.

at the end of 11 years old.


At the end of 11 years old part two.

At the end of 11 years old part two.


Next week, well, to be precise, in just a few days, my daughter turns 12. I am, as I always am around this time of year, a puddle of feelings. Friday is, unbelievably, the 10th anniversary of my father’s death– a loss that seems very long ago and still fresh and not quite believable to me.

Last year, right after my daughter turned 11, I wrote that 11 was going to be a big year. And I was right, it has been a big year in outward ways that signal bigger kinds of changes too. My daughter grew tall and filled out. She is now taller than D, her former babysitter and our close friend. She is tall as or taller than my partner, taller than most other girls in her class. For this particular daughter– as a girl in an urban setting with her own particular interests and strengths and struggles and understandings of the world, 11 has held many milestones besides height. She is different and consequently I have shifted and am still shifting and adjusting my expectations and my understanding of who my daughter is. Not as a person really, but as a person in the developmental scheme of things.

Over this past year she became not only willing but sometimes anxious to run out of the car while I double parked to pick up something from the store, the dry cleaners, carry out food, etc. Last summer she and her friend made lemonade and baked cookies and collected a small TV table and some folding chairs as well as her working toy cash register– and went out on one of the most oppressively hot days of the year and set up a lemonde stand/ mini-bakery. Without my partner or me. She and a particular friend of hers have loved going the two blocks to play, without an adult in tow, at the toddler park that she practically grew up in. We have some rules related to safety and she carries a cell phone, but she plays in that park on her own. That fact represents for me the two threads of where we are right now. Young enough to want to play in that park, old enough to go without me.

This past set of changes are bittersweet and thrilling and unknown. Watching her change before my eyes is touching and deep and then raises all kinds of question marks about my own future and identity. For now, I’m very much a mom, but it is very different from before. I’m a little off balance in a way similar to but so different from the off-balance of having a new baby in the family.

As a mom I think strategically. But it’s no longer about those infancy questions about how I’ll get a shower or feed myself, or the toddler questions about how I will get some time to myself but quite the opposite. I see certain struggles of hers and I figure, I now only have about xx years (still figuring out how many) to really get in there with her and have some influence. But now she and I and she and my partner share jokes, confidences. And now, 12 nipping at our heels.

The other night, she grew sullen and upset about something between us. I had some real attention and I sat her down and said, warmly, openly– tell me, tell me about all the disappointments (in me– and related to what we were talking about)– “I want to hear all of it”, I said. And I meant it. She had a kind of loosely knit set of things, and she talked to me for real and I listened. She has been a child who always wanted me very near, who complained if I wasn’t near enough. But the other night among her complaints she said, “…and I want more priveleges, like going home after school alone…”

She had never walked to or from school without an adult, nor ever wanted to do so– but she suddenly felt constrained and injured by the lack of this. So yesterday she walked home from school with her friends and spent an hour and a half alone with two other 11 year old girls, before the first adult walked through the door. And today she rode a city bus across town with her friend to go to the friend’s house before her mom came home from work. Ready or not she’ll be 12 on Monday. And I cannot imagine, and I can– whatever will come next.

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