Chicken Little has grown quite a bit over the summer; her feet are now the same size as mine, and she has been experimenting with fashion and paying more attention to hygiene. Sunday, I picked up my twelve-year-old daughter from a slumber party before church."Look!" she exclaimed as she came down the stairs, "I did my own hair with a curling iron all by myself, and I didn't even burn down the house!" Yes, while she was darling with a curled tendril draping one side of her face, the rest of her hair brushed neatly back into a low bun, she was also wearing sparkly blue eye shadow, a clingy shirt revealing the fullness of growing breasts, and a short, sequined skirt. I mulled all this over as I thanked the host mom and drove back to our home for a brief stop before heading to service.
"Baby girl, let me just give your make-up a little touch-up." I used my fingers and a little powder to blend and reduce her swipes of sky blue to a subtle glow. She then ran upstairs to change from her sandals, and returned sporting high-heeled cowboy boots. She posed for a moment, waiting for my approval, and all of a sudden I saw her as others might see her-- a bit Lolita-like as she tenderly, but awkwardly strove to reach beyond her early-girlhood. You know that moment of parental crisis-- the one when only you hear the thunderclap? You are called to duty. Should you choose your words recklessly, you potentially damage her trust in your opinion and her confidence in herself. I searched for words that would redirect. "Sweetheart, that is a great outfit for a party. Why don't we substitute something to make it a little more appropriate for church?" Minutes later, we painlessly emerged from the home, a long flowing skirt and belted sweater complementing her blossoming form.
After the church service, I noted my daughter slump-shouldered and stomping beside me. "Baby girl," I coached once more, "If you are going to wear heels, you need to learn to walk in them." I pulled her shoulders back and encouraged walking heel to toe. Now, I didn't buy those shoes for her, nor would they have been my choice. They came from her step-mother, and while I appreciate the generous gesture, I resent the privileges of maturity being presented to her so casually by someone I will always consider a stranger. Giving a girl her first pair of heels is a kind of honor reserved for the woman who makes most of the decisions about that child's transitions. My own mother sweetly started me off in eighth grade with kitten heels. The shoes were a perfect height for girls attempting to look like young ladies. I remember being thrilled by learning how to walk in those miniature heels, and would practice in the hall of my home. I remember how I thanked my mom for letting me have those shoes. In them, I felt elegant.
Those momentary adult-like privileges, once given, can be so quickly taken away, reminders of a child's place aptly flagged at moments of necessity. Minutes later, when my daughter began to use those cowboy boots to kick her brother, I turned to her: "You can't dress like a young lady if you plan on acting like a child!"
"Yes, ma'am," she frowned.
Yes, still twelve. The only thing easing this transition is the knowledge that she'll grow out of those boots in a few months... and then I can wear them!