At 10, my daughter B has a trim, elegant little figure with a bust larger than plenty of women I know. And every now and then, she moves in a graceful way I can only think of as maidenly. This growth started at 8, causing me to panic and pack her off to the pediatrician, bleating wildly that my daughter had drunk hormone-free milk most of her life.
Apparently, 8-years-old is within the range of normal for these things to begin. B was, and is, fine.
But I’m still staggering a little. I figured I had years to mother a straight-figured little girl who prefers stuffed animals and drawing big-eyed little animals with colored pencils. And B does like those things. But she is now a curvy little girl who also needs to bathe more often than she is willing to, has the beginnings of acne and who has finally acquiesced to little loose sport-bra things.
Most interestingly, she’s favoring form-fitting clothes. This is a girl who made an emphatic point of dressing like a boy to the point of wearing her father’s ties when I insisted she dress up for events like weddings. Formerly a wearer of baggy bright clothes and funny hats, now B has turned to colorful skinny jeans, leotard tops around the house, cowboy shirts, fitted vests and…funny hats. Everything is worn appropriately, and all relevant body parts are covered, thank heavens, but B is definitely interested in defining her developing self. She has stopped asking me why she’s the first in her class to grow boobs, and has chosen a pink bed canopy for her new room. She has a new way of talking with long sweeping fingers to make a point and and scribbles earnestly in private journals. And she is getting restless with how things are done at home, turning crabby when I won’t let her cook her own dinner when she doesn’t like what’s being served. When teased about doing dishes on her tenth birthday, B informed us that, “Women like me don’t get our hands dirty!”
And as her physical point of balance has changed with her widening hips, her inner point of balance and thought is shifting. She’s quieter, more immersed in thought. You can almost see her processing information, developing her own filing system of thoughts and opinions.
This winter, I took her, her sister L and L’s friend to a park on a warm sunny afternoon. L and friend immediately ran to the playground like puppies. B decided to sit with me in the sun, transfixed by the hilarity of a family have a snowball fight nearby. Each time a snowball hit, the thrower and recipient exploded in giggles and happy vows of revenge, chasing each other in circles. She got up, fingered at some snow, then slowly wandered right up to the edge of their play, staring like an unselfconscious toddler. I watched her graceful, shapely back, her sky-blue hat with earflaps and bright Gatorade-blue jacket, and wondered what she was thinking as she drank in these moments of other people’s lives. Then she started walking, hypnotized, through the fight as if it was her own personal movie and onto the rest of the park.
Long ago at a summer birthday party involving a wading pool, I was suddenly greeted by a delightful line-up of the backs of four little naked girls, two of them my toddlers. Right there, you could see four distinct little figures-in-the-making: little pear and apple shapes, long torsos versus long legs. And now the first of those little figures is being realized – B being the oldest of the group. Since that day in the pediatrician’s office, my mind still battles between desperate longing for my baby and fascinated interest at how hip and interesting B is becoming.
But happily, we’re still at 10. Last night, B used two little stuffed dogs to speak for her as we reviewed fractions, and asked me to stay in her room until she fell asleep. Mom is still here.