‘Tween as in Stuck Between…or Happy 10th Birthday, Ari!

Yestwild krattserday you turned 10. As you requested…

1. a parent was in the room with you when you woke up (Mom beat me to it)
2. you ate a chocolate croissant for breakfast, and
3. Zoe and Simon gave you a present (which I wrapped. Sorry! The truth is out! We bought it!)

But something else happened today that you didn’t request. Yes, you didn’t get all the presents you wanted…and the  day was rainy…Mom had a headache (and so did you)…we fought while you lost at Horse-opoly….but that’s not what I mean. It’s something else.

When Auntie Nikki asked you if you were excited about being 10, you told her you were a little excited and a little sad. I find that interesting. Because right now you’re a little bit mature and a little bit child;  a little bit “over it” and a little bit wide-eyed; a little sassy, self-protective and all-knowing; but also sweet, vulnerable and innocent.

A couple of weeks ago, at Busch Gardens (on our first-ever visit to Nana and Papa’s house in Florida!), you and I were waiting in line for our second ride on the Cheetah roller-coaster. I attached my usual rubber-band contraption over one side of my glasses and let it hang there by my ear, while I waited for our turn. Once on board, as always, I would attach the other side to my glasses and ride the coaster without fear of losing them. But before the coaster arrived, I looked down at you and asked, rubber bands flopping into my earlobe, “are you old enough that this embarrasses you, yet?”

“No,” you said. And you totally meant it. But I made the mistake of using my confident, performer timing when I asked the question, so everyone around us turned and looked. I had a rare moment of extroversion and said (fully aware that everyone was looking) “Good. Because that’s coming soon.” The parents around me laughed. And then I’m pretty sure I saw you blush. Just a little. Now you were embarrassed. And there it was again, that in-between place. Suddenly the word Tween makes so much sense to me. I finally get it.

We went to the Wild Kratts show–a huge, staged version of their animal-themed PBS animated show. It’s something you love. You really wanted to go. You even wanted a power suit…we still don’t know what for! As I sat next to you during the show, I could sense the Tween Condition in you: half in the kid world, enjoying the spectacle, the obvious jokes, being in the presence of two of your favorite TV stars…the other half feeling like one of the oldest kids in a room full of thousands of screaming 5-year-olds…and a little bit over it. A little unimpressed.

What has been a resistance to growing up too fast, and a desire to be your own person, has another dimension that I literally became aware of yesterday: You’re mourning and resisting the death of the child inside you. There’s a part of you that still loves and embraces being young. And a part of you that is metamorphosing. It’s like there’s a metastasizing young adult within your child body. I expected that this would be hard for mom and me (especially mom!) But I did NOT expect it to be hard for you. But now that I’ve seen it, it makes sense.

Happy birthday, my sweet daughter. I hope you remember this one fondly…because to me, it felt a little “complicated.”

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