The middle

It was after nine when finally I spoke to her on the first day of classes.  Our calls becoming an unintended game of catch, unanswered.  Her voice emoted excitement, a true happiness.  School, she said, was awesome.  The bus ride, an adventure.  Middle school would be fantastic.

I breathed in, holding the silence on my end of the line as she chattered on about her day.  The teachers were as she’d hoped – excited and welcoming.  One, however, seemed too strict already and she feared he’d get progressively worse as the year wore on.

This girl – my baby – spoke with such clarity, articulating about her new school with maturity.  At ten, she’s conquering sixth grade and it seems like my fears about her being too young were unwarranted.

She’d already made friends. The bus – the notorious big cheese that always seemed to come late in rain, snow, and frigid temps during my schooling – is her favorite. There seems to be a clique already formed – a posse of girls who giggle with private jokes and dish about the latest school happenings on the way to and from home. I’ve already been told that even if I’m near the school at dismissal, she’s riding the bus. Ohhh-kay…
my beauty

After a few failed attempts, we finally secured her sports physical and Chi determined to join the track team. A required “concussion training” assembly, theoretically aimed at teaching the warning signs of traumatic brain injuries caused at competitions, shocked me. It wasn’t the session; that I was fine with. Rather it was the snub by my daughter – the first since that time long ago in daycare when I was told she was not to be called “love bug” in public. I signed us in, writing her legal name on the line while fighting with a squirming Ri. “No. Write “La’Chi.” That’s what they know me as,” Chi proclaimed.

I reminded her of her name, adding, “That’s what I named you. That’s who you are.” And yet… maybe this new moniker is who she is becoming. And as mama, perhaps I’m just a little slow to realize that the child I’ve raised is now her own young lady.

She chose seats in the auditorium up close. Waved to a few new friends. I looked around the room, noting the white board with its “SWBAT” objectives scribbled on it. “Swah-bat. Students will be able to…” I said jokingly, nudging her and pointing to the acronym. “Ugh,” she humphed. “It’s not Swah-bat, mom. That’s stupid.” I think I saw her face flush red. Then her classmate, seated in the row ahead of us, agreed, “I think swah-bat is pretty accurate.” Chi, however, rolled her eyes and remained appalled at my commentary. And then, as Ri added her own lecture to that of the Activity Director’s, Chi quietly moved half a dozen seats away from us and avoided my gaze for the remainder of the program. My heart hurt. Was she ashamed or embarrassed of us?
sing flower
She’s certainly concerned about what others think about her. I suspect it’s my fault – my own uncertainty about acceptance and confirmations. I showed her a few things on my FB page, noting the sweet comments of friends and several boutique owners Chi’s modeled for as I flipped through the album. “Why did you put that picture up?” she asked in horror. It was her own posing, simply a playful moment singing into the head of a sunflower. A typical Chi flamboyant act so common during our adventures. Apparently, though, it was a picture meant solely for our private eyes. “Please delete it,” she added with finality and disdain for my obvious lack of judgement.

I sought out a parenting mentor at work. She’d been here, survived this – whatever this is.

Just know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel… right now it’s just a flicker, but soon enough, you’ll see it in full vibrant glow.
An air of wisdom hung in her tone and her mouth formed a broad smiled. She knows – is close enough to these adolescent years to remember – what it’s like to parent a daughter. Specifically, she has survived the tween and teen years. She assures me, with a squelch of a chuckle, that my child will appear human again once she’s passed this point; once she’s “found herself,” as the psych-babbling layperson says. And, she adds, at least when she’s a teen, I’ll be able to really talk with her.

And yet, I’m not so sure.

My child came home late from school Monday in a completely chipper mood – one I’d not seen for some time. She stood in front of me: neon green shorts barely attempting to cover lengthy and toned legs, a matching neon sports bra (that she insisted was absolutely necessary for changing in the locker room for gym and track) peaked out from beneath a multi-color polka doted tank top. “They let you practice in that?” I said. I couldn’t catch myself, couldn’t mask my shock and nervous concern. Her dad would never approve. Those shorts were even outlawed in the house for being too short (and I thought for sure I’d sent them off to charity). “Yes,” she curtly replied, her voice’s octave rising at the end in inquiry.

Egad. Truh-bull truh-bull.

Wardrobe aside, I’m excited for her. She’s on the track team – her first official team sport (besides a single season of half-hearted cheer). Sure, she was a gymnast, but this new endeavor requires her to be good alone and with partners. I wonder if she’ll run relay?

I hope we’ll be able to get beyond our now-frequent superficial conversations. Maybe we’ll even be friends. I so desperately want to be a welcomed part of her world.

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