The big 1-0

Silence can be hard. I’m not talking about the silent retreat where I was not murdered in my fitful sleep. I’m talking about silence that used to be filled with easy conversation.

Gracie turned 10 yesterday. My even-tempered, affectionate, smart, funny, sensible yet silly fashionista who prefers her own company to the company of mean girls, is a decade old. And it has begun to show.

Lately I’ve noticed that she volunteers less information about her day. She’s nowhere near as terse as a teenager, but the stories don’t come pouring out of her the way they used to. She used to climb into my lap first thing in the morning. Now she heads for the computer to check her email. Not too long ago, she decided we don’t have to read together at bedtime anymore.

It’s a little sad.

I know: she’s just growing up. It’s unavoidable. Independence is a good thing, blah, blah, blah. But I can’t help looking ahead to the end of the next decade when (if I’ve taught her well) she’ll have a network of smart, loving friends who’ll provide her with support and laughter and a ride home when she needs one. I just hope she’ll answer my phone calls. I just hope I’ll know more about her life than my mother knew about mine after I left home.

I can’t bear to think of the distance that might separate us.

My challenge now is to allow our relationship to change without freaking out. To trust her enough to give her (age-appropriate) freedom and then make it easy for her to share her adventures with me. I find that if I am quiet and really patient, she starts talking. Unfortunately panic comes more naturally to me than patience.

Sane me: She’s independent because she’s healthy. It’s natural for her to be less open as she gets older.

Insane me: I hate this.

Sane me: It’s unavoidable. Did you think she would sit in your lap when she is 20?

Insane me: She’s only 10!

Sane me: You two are still very close.

Insane me: I don’t want to lose her. Ever.

Sane me: You aren’t losing her. Don’t be so dramatic.

Insane me: Don’t be so apathetic. This is our girl!

Sane me: You really are being silly.

Insane me: Oh, yeah, well you’re a big fat jerk!

Sane me: There’s no need to…

Insane me: La-la-la-la! I can’t hear you!!

When she was a baby, her eyelashes were golden. For six months she didn’t sleep unless I held her.

I know. I know this is all part of growing up. I don’t really want her to live with me forever.
And I know she will grow up to be a kickass woman. But every time I see her take a step away from me, it’s a struggle not to grab her and hold on tight.

Still, there are days when Gracie seems content to be my little girl. At the movies yesterday, she snuggled up next to me. Afterward, she giggled at one of my silly jokes, asking me to say it over and over again. It was heaven.

Happy birthday, baby.

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37 Responses to The big 1-0

  1. winsomebella says:

    Sweet and lovely and oh so true. It goes too fast. Enjoy.

  2. Patrick says:

    Beautiful post.

  3. I feel the same way about my sons! It is so hard to watch them grow! We just have to be there for them and hold onto them for as long as we can…

  4. gatehouse13 says:

    Wonderful, wonderful, brave, moving post.

  5. Lesley says:

    As a teenager my daughter was difficult moody and an absolute nightmare and I feared I’d lost my sweet baby forever. Once she passed her teens we become closer than ever and have a fantastic relationship now.
    Don’t panic about your daughter growing up, just cherish every moment – even the difficult ones as they’re great to tease them with and watch them squirm with embarrassment later!

  6. jules says:

    that is so true. I’m now not fussed into having kids (I prefer the idea of having stepkids) but it is hard to let your little ones go!

    Jules /

  7. bigsheepcommunications says:

    I’m discovering that the maternal angst continues, no matter how old your babies are. The good news is that my 14 year old daughter still likes to curl up on my lap, that is, when she’s not annoyed by my very existence. And, my 18 year old has found friends who care enough about him to yell at him for even thinking of riding his bike with a sprained wrist. Often I’m happy that my kids are more independent, other times I just want to weep. Bittersweet, but you’re not insane : )

  8. The best advice I heard was to think of your daughter at this age as mirroring the stages that she went through when she was in the ‘terrible twos’. She desperately wants to be independent “I can do it myself!” but is also frightened and needs your support more than ever. And try not to take it personally when she rolls her eyes at, well, nearly everything that you say. My daughter is 17 and she’s back to being affectionate, open and incredibly good company. Just wait – and try to get through the next few years with as little damage as possible!

  9. Gilly says:

    Happy Birthday, Gracie. This post had me a little teary-eyed by the end. 🙂

  10. Happy birthday, Gracie! This made me feel so bittersweet as my oldest is *almost 5* and I’m having lots of emotions about school. The start of school just feels like the start of the slippery slope into the my-moms-so-annoying years. I’m already terrified!

    • It really is scary. The elementary school years are filled with so much fun and great experiences. But it’s amazing how quickly it goes. It doesn’t matter that everyone says that it does. It still catches you offguard.

  11. Oh, honey. Happy birthday to your sweet girl, and congratulations on this brave new journey together. It will be good. 🙂

  12. Doc says:

    At times it may be tough but just treat her with respect and listen to her whenever she does talk. Offer advice if asked but don’t be surprised or upset if it is not heeded. She is- or is becoming- an individual who may not always agree with you. Now throw everything I just said out the window and enjoy your times together. Don’t overthink! The truth is she will always be your daughter.

  13. But look at the great conversation you had with yourself. There’s no way you could be lonely…

  14. This brought a tear to my eye…I can totally see myself in this — 9 years and 2 months from now. I identified with your “insane” voice and I aspire to be your sane one. : ) And yes, panic comes much more naturally to me than patience too. Great post!!

  15. gojulesgo says:

    Love this. While I’m not a mother, I do have a mother and we’re very close, so I have all the faith in the world that no matter how much she might seem to stray as she grows up, she’ll always need and want you to be her #1 fan! 🙂

  16. workmomad says:

    My Kayla turned 10 last week! I have moments too when I see the young woman come out from the little girl, and times when I see my big girl revert back to the age of about 5. Its just part of the whole package, I guess, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!


  17. Tori Nelson says:

    Happy Birthday to Gracie! And my condolences to you, mama. My son turned two last week and I’m still la-la-la-ing and denying that it’s true!

  18. I loved this post. I just teared up–the part about Gracie not wanting you to read together at bedtime anymore? Oh, my. But I laughed, too, because your conversation with yourself was hysterical and oh-so close to home. This was so sweet and dear and poignant, and absolutely terrifying because I have the same struggles–and my oldest is only 31/2. My own daughter tells me now that she’s never going to run away from me, and that she never wants to live apart from me. My heart cracks a little every time…

    I so hope you keep this post to show her in another 10 years. How lucky she is to have a mother who loves her so much, and has so much faith in her. And I only hope I have the same relationship with *my* girls in 10 years that you have with yours now. Good job, mama. What wonderful writing–this was my favorite so far.

  19. Aww, that’s so sweet. Daughters are the best.

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