My daughter turned 8 this week.
Sounds like a tiny, small number doesn’t it?
Think again. It couldn’t be less so, either in her eyes, or ours.
I feel like I’ve been a parent for 2 decades…. but never mind me, first lets look at her.
To her mind, she’s at last joined the ‘cool’ club of ‘Eights’ and left behind the babyish ‘Sevens’ in her class, that age which is probably looked down upon by her peers like it’s a mouldy banana. It’s so ‘yesterday’.
To psychologists and marketers, she’s taken a small but massive step out of the foundational first 7 years and into the ‘tweens’ (seriously dislike that word), that terrifying age where they become teenagers 5 years too early and make you want to wring your hands in despair at the terror that dwells within your four walls.
To us, she’s taken another giant step on that inexorable journey toward being ‘grown up’: away from sweet innocence and toward ‘knowingness’; from gay naked abandonment in a bathtub to being concerned about her slightly tubby tummy; from accepting every word that tumbles out of my mouth as gospel truth to pointing out my inconsistencies (did I really say that?); from doting on her constant playmate of a younger brother to realising how annoying and irritating he can be…..
Of course, this hasn’t happened overnight. Nor is it the whole picture. She’s a patchwork of yesterday’s sweet, affectionate little girl, offset by snatches of moodyness, “do I have to?” doesn’t-miss-a-trickness, complemented by sensitive, caring and thoughtfulness traits that weave throughout. It’s a patchwork of light and shade that is constantly being added to, but that is fundamentally beautiful and woven using the fabric of love.
I expect it’s as hard for her as it is for us. We’re regularly having to readjust to different emotions and moods, but for her, I expect she often feels confused by the gentle tug-of-war going on in her mind for independence/dependence, freedom/safety, and the desire to not always be with her family….
And without doubt, there are so many great things about her growing up that aren’t focused on by the press or parenting books, like coming up with her own creative solutions to family problems, being self-sufficient in play, asking interesting questions (“Mummy, why on earth does a long word like ‘abbreviation’ mean ‘short for’?!), being a brilliant board game opponent, and, GOING OFF PINK! Yay! Although I have to say, being left with a pile of perfectly good clothes from last year is very irritating.
And for us, as parents?
How can the number 8 do justice to the incredible life changing, sanity testing, joy bringing, exhausting journey that is raising a child. Is it really only in 2004 that we embarked on this crazy project that has no return?
I really do feel like I’ve been a parent two decades.
Ok, I’ve had 2 children, which is definitely double the work to begin with – don’t let people fool you into saying otherwise. And for the first 2 years of our second child’s life my husband was suffering from exhaustion/depression and working for himself. I can’t sleep in the daytime, no matter how disturbed a night I’ve had. It was like hard labour, no joke.
Parenthood has indeed drawn lines on my face like a child let loose with an eyeliner pencil. But what makes me feel like its been far more than 8 years is the deep changes in myself, and for the better, that parenting has wrought in me.
How much have those ancient and infinitely valuable qualities of patience, self-denial, perseverance, and sheer love been chiselled into my heart since we embarked on this project (and still are, oh boy, I’m no way near finished!)? And what a fantastic presence and perspective having kids around gives you – boy, the world would really be a poorer place without kids’ carefree innocence.
My relationship with my no-shoes Aussie husband has been sorely tested at times, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Our differences in how we approach tasks has been ‘interesting’. But it’s also massively enriched and honed us as we’ve learnt to love these two incredible ‘human beans’ together. It’s been hilarious and at times liberating (“See, its the way I’m made!”) to watch our own foibles and natural tendencies be displayed in our offspring. Humbling and illuminating when they point out our inadequacies. And rewarding beyond measure to watch them grow and unfurl into their own unique selves.
So, happy birthday Gregarious Girl! We love you beyond measure. You are the gift.