My daughter started middle school last week. At first, I was excited that she was so excited. She was ready for the change, the extra independence, and, of course, the a la carte lunches in the cafeteria.
A week later, as I watch her morph almost instantaneously into a preadolescent, I find myself thinking fondly of her at three, "Mommy, play with me!" her constant battle cry. There were days I thought she'd never learn to play independently. Now, when she plays, not only am I not invited, if I so much as venture into the room with clean laundry, she wants to know how soon I'm leaving.
Okay, so that's not really a new development. I found that humorous when she first started it a couple of years ago (and still do), and though I felt a twinge of sadness, mostly I understood that it was normal for her to feel that way. I saw it as a sign of her burgeoning independence, something I wanted her to achieve so she could be a healthy, self-reliant adult. Some day.
These days, someday doesn't feel so far away, and I find myself wondering when I became un-cool in my daughter's eyes. I'm suddenly self-conscious of whatever I say to her in front of her friends, and anywhere from unimpressed to embarrassed by the behavior she adopts in front of those same tweenagers poised on the edges of their own cocoons.
I wonder sometimes if it's age. I'm far from thirty-something, and can barely see twenty-something in the distance, even with my glasses. If I were younger, more fashionable, more contemporary, would I still be as much of a relic? Probably. But would I perhaps feel like less of one? I don't know.
I do know that this is normal. She is nearly twelve and this is her job, another step on that road to independence that I want her to travel. I don't want her to be tentative and clingy, but I feel much like I did when the need for bifocals materialized overnight a few years ago - as though I blinked and my vision changed. And once again, the view in the distance is clear and desirable, while the close-up view is murky and somewhat disconcerting. A new lens proved useful in bringing the whole picture into focus in the first case; perhaps that's also the prescription that I need now.
Perhaps I should order a progressive lens for middle school - one that will let me keep the long view sharply focused, but simultaneously balance it with the close-ups that seem like a confusing jumble. Maybe then it will all make more sense, or at least give me a sense of perspective. I don't want to pull my daughter off the road to independence, but some days, I wish she would walk more slowly. Maybe then I could keep up.