Happy birthday, Natalie
Natalie is 12 today.
Natalie, who I was told would never read as well as her peers, but who got a 96 in reading this quarter.
Natalie, who I was told would probably be dyslexic and wouldn't be able to form coherent written sentences, but whose teachers send home letters telling me that I should help her pursue a career in writing, because it's what she was meant to do.
Natalie, who I was told would never be able to do math, but gets consistent B's in that subject.
Natalie, who I was told was "socially retarded" but who has so many friends I can't remember all their names.
Natalie, who I was told had "autistic tendencies" and the most I could hope for was a low-functioning student who would always be in special ed, but who continues to surprise and impress me with her report cards and project grades.
Natalie, who wants to devote her life to cleaning up our environment, but can't keep her room clean, who wants her independence and freedom one minute and wants to be cuddled like a baby the next.
Natalie, who wants to be either a teacher, a basketball player, the manager of the Yankees, a drummer in an all girl punk band, a computer engineer, an artist or a writer and could really be any of those if she wants.
Natalie, who is unorganized and forgetful and a world class procrastinator with a wickedly sarcastic tongue, and who I yell at for being just like me.
Natalie who is at once charming and funny and sweet and a source of pride but who within the bat of an eyelash will turn surly and moody and make me want to pretend that I don't know her.
Natalie, who wants to single handedly save the world but forgets that she has to get out of bed in order to do that.
Happy birthday, Natalie. I'll stop holding your hand in public as long as you still want those kisses and hugs before bedtime, ok?
My daughter has moved from that little girl stage to the pre-teen angst-ridden life of an almost teenager stage. Some time in the past year, she lost any resemblance she had to that little girl who cried for me every day of pre-school. I miss that little girl, but I also like the young woman who has taken her place. Most of the time, at least.
Sometimes, when she rolls her eyes at me for the hundredth time in a day, I want to strangle her. But mostly I am proud of her and the way she has come to view the world. I am proud that she is a free thinker, independent and neither a follower nor a leader, but someone who just walks her own path.
I am, in many ways, dreading this year of her being 12. I have heard the horror stories, I have seen them in action. The social and emotional changes between 6th and 7th grade are frightening. I wish I could hang onto that baby inside of her for just a bit more, but I know I have to let that go. I have to let her make her own mistakes and I have to be there when her heart breaks or when her friends let her down or when she has a zit right before the big dance.
She doesn't live in the world I lived in at 12. It's bigger and wider and not as safe and comforting. But I can't hold her hand forever, can I? The best you can do as a parent is throw your kids out there and hope for the best, and when they come home crying just hold them and listen and hope for better days.
QOD still running