On June 10th, my daughter will turn eight years old. Normally, the 8th birthday is treated like the one before it or the one after it, holding back the fanfare of a Sweet 16. But Today’s Child has a reason to celebrate year number eight because it marks the moment he or she becomes a tween.
Like a mature woman’s biological clock, a child seems to have a tween instinct. I’ve been seeing hints of this in Ava, as she turns her head when we walk passed Gymboree and Build-A-Bear. But, the part that surprised me the most is what did catch her eye.
Last fall, I got so excited when I found a new station, The Hub, on cable. Old cartoons such as Strawberry Shortcake air during the day, and old family favorites such as Happy Days and Family Ties air at night. One evening, I was late putting the girls to bed and they watched the opening credits of The Wonder Years. The toothy grins and waving hands of Kevin, Paul and Winnie seemed to capture Ava in The Counter Culture’s tweenage haze. Her eyes locked on the screen … and then I knew that she had developed her first crush. And it crushed me.
I tried to explain that Fred Savage wasn’t really a 12-year old boy living in the suburbs, but a married man as old as her mother with children of his own. Oh, and he became the voice of Oswald on Nick Jr., for one year.
Then, I had a flashback to the late 1970s when ‘my heart stood still’ each time Shaun Cassidy sang “Da Doo Ron Ron”. I even slept on a Hardy Boys pillowcase. But I had to have been older, right? 1979…let’s see…that would have made me…six!?
Tween is playfully defined as the age and stage of a girl’s life that is “too old for toys but too young for boys.” (Thank goodness.) Tween is formally defined as “a period of life in which boys and girls first discover their own interests. (Oh crap.)
Tween behavior could be illustrated as a young girl who listens to Justin Bieber on XM’s Disney Radio while flipping her hair over the shoulder of a hoodie from Justice. She uses slang language, like all the time, and she thinks everything is cool! — like a sleepover!
The tweenage clock has triggered another alarm, because in the next hour, my Ava — soon to be eight — will spend the night at her grandmother’s house across town. I know, I know…kids do it all the time these days. Well, not mine. I just left my girls for an overnight getaway with friends this past February, and that was after nearly eight years at home with them.
Eight. There’s that number again.
Before you post a comment on my blog telling me to Please, Mom, get a grip, I need to explain what these past years have meant to me.
I have loved every second of her. I mean that — every second. When she was irritable with colic, feverish with colds, and covered with bug bites; when she was worried about storms, finicky about vegetables, stubborn about bedtime, and tearful about school. I have loved buying matching dresses for both daughters at Christmas and Easter, and I have loved snapping billboard-sized bows in her blonde hair. I have loved belting her into car seats and turbo-boosters…and I have loved tucking her in at night. I have loved knowing that she was right across the hallway — or even better — right across the pillow.
So, I’m grieving a little. I’m getting all caught up in the romance of babyhood and early childhood, and I’m feeling sentimental about the first years that have gone by far too fast.
I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the changes in life that come with having a tween — or God help me — a teen. But as Joe Cocker says, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.