My daughters turn 8 next month. There is no question that they are big kids.
When they were infants and toddlers, I looked out for the milestones that would indicate their growing: rolling over, sitting, pulling up, walking, talking. I knew that they would do these things on their own schedule. I rejoiced for each one, even as it brought me closer to the day that my girls would leave to me embark on their own independent lives.
Now they are schoolchildren, it feels like the milestones M and J are reaching are externally scheduled. Sure, they’ve lost teeth at their bodies’ whim, but progressing from one grade to another, their increasingly complex dance recital performances, academic accomplishments… all these markers are scheduled on the calendar.
Now, when I discover something that shows me that one child or another is growing up, it’s unexpected and still as bittersweet as those early milestones.
Take bath time, for example. My daughters have been washing their own hair and bodies for a while now. They still need me to squeeze out the shampoo and bath soap, but they can take it from there. They like me out of the bathroom while they’re bathing so they can play a game titled Ocean Water Girls with their Barbies.
Earlier this week, I went into the bathroom to get my daughters out of the bath and discovered that M had gotten out by herself, dried herself off and put on her bathrobe. I didn’t make a big deal of it, just saying, “Nice job drying your [waist-length] hair.” She responded with, “I think I prefer this. Sometimes you dry me too rough and sometimes you dry me too gentle and leave me soggy.” There’s something about the idea of a soggy M, that most precise and perfectionist of children, that warms my soul.
Last night, I found her trying to cut her own fingernails. She hadn’t quite mastered it, so I took over with her blessing, but I thanked her for trying. “It feels more private,” she told me, “to do this stuff.” I told her I completely understood and that she should feel free to whatever self-care tasks she felt like handling.
J still wants me to dry her off after bath and cut her nails. She’s my physical touch love language speaker, after all. However, she does little things to show me that she’s growing up too. For example, she mentioned in passing that two friends had their birthday parties at the same time last weekend. She and M decided which one they wanted to go to and didn’t even bother me telling me about the one they’d miss. I let J know that she still needed to give me such invitations, since a “No” RSVP was at least as important as a “Yes.” She understood, but it struck me that not long ago, my daughters would have come to me for help in deciding between the parties or just handed the invitations over without recognizing the conflict.
J is no terrible hurry to grow up and is farther behind on her self-care milestones. As she told me last night before nodding off, “I’m glad I have a lot of years until I’m 17. I don’t know where I want to go to college yet.”
You have plenty of time, little one.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.